Peace Corps Writers

We Wait for You

We Wait for You
Unheard Voices from Post-Communist Romania
by Annabelle Townson (Romania 2001–03)
Hamilton Books
December 2005
180 pages
$ 28.00

Reviewed by Ken Hill (Turkey 1965–67)

“WHILE THERE IS ‘POOR’ and some outright poverty, Romania is not suffering economicPrinter friendly version impoverishment as much as mental and emotional dysfunction; they are recovering more than developing.” In this way the author describes Romania’s condition from her experience there as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2001 to 2003.  Fortunately, some positive governance changes have occurred in Romania since her service, primarily through positive pressures via the EU accession process.
     We Wait For You is an interesting narrative of the author’s experience as a “business” Volunteer in a transitional Romania which — until very recently — was unable to break the hold of the Communists cum Socialists who were responsible for Romania’s devastation for the past 50 years. Dedicated in December, 2004 and printed last year, the book draws heavily from the author’s diary as a Volunteer in her 50s serving without her spouse which provides an unusual and interesting perspective.
My interest stems from my own, limited experience with Romania, first as the Peace Corps Country Director in Bulgaria from 1996 to 1998 benefiting from the tales of my Volunteers who visited Romania and Volunteers from Romania touring Bulgaria. In 2000, I visited Bucharest for a week on business as Peace Corps Chief of Operations for Europe and Asia.  I found Romania fascinating and beautiful in spite of the ravages of its tortured history and unique culture. We Wait For You added to my understanding and appreciation of Romania. It also renewed my appreciation for the challenges of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in that part of the world.
Ms. Townson’s narrative is very personal and emotive, focusing much on relationships between her and her Romanian friends and colleagues. It does not provide a smooth read, however, and I found it difficult to maintain my interest. Self-published, the book could have benefited from professional editing.  The characters might be more robustly developed, the culture more extensively explored and descriptions of the economic and political environment more informative.
There is, in sum, too little about Romania and Romanians for my taste, but there are numerous insights and revelations. For those interested in Romania, the book should prove interesting, as it was for me. For the rest, it will remain a book with much potential, but a work in progress nonetheless.  

In addition to being a PCV, Ken Hill was a Peace Corps staff member who left the agency in 1975 to pursue his own business interests.  In the mid-’90s he returned to Peace Corps to become Country Director first for the Russian Far East, then Bulgaria and Macedonia.  In 1999 he was made Chief of Operations for Peace Corps programs in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and was appointed Chief of Staff of Peace Corps during 2001. Ken is now an independent consultant, semi-retired and Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Peace Corps Association. He and his wife Winnie (Nepal 1966–68) live in Alexandria, Virginia.
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