Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Ray Leki (page 3)
Talking with
Ray Leki
page 1
page 2
page 3

What do you hope readers will get from your travel book?

I hope readers will develop a sense of smart confidence, based on a better understanding of themselves, the challenges they face, and on some concrete strategies for success as individual travelers and as professionals whose duties include larger organizational responsibilities and challenges as well. It is a book that brings together many component competencies into a realistic and useable framework: cross-cultural skills, security awareness, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and a clear understanding and appreciation of motivation and mission, so that risks can be intelligently mitigated.

Based on your travel experience — and all your work in the field — how has overseas travel for Americans changes since your were a PCV?

I believe travel has become a bit more dangerous for Americans — not just because of the current unpopularity of our foreign policy, but because of the widening gap between the rich and poor, the increased urbanization of the world, the lowering of social inhibitions regarding victimizing people of any ilk, and the high degree of distance and frustration that unemployed people around the world see between their aspirations and their economic realities. After Peace Corps I traveled for 6 months throughout South and Southeast Asia, and rarely thought of my personal security. That just wouldn’t be the case now.

What would you advise RPCVs to do first if they decide to go “home” to their host country for a visit?

Pay attention to travel warnings published by the U.S. Department of State as well as by the Canadian and British foreign ministries. RPCVs will remember the level of comfort and familiarity that they achieved AT THE END of their tenures, and assume, unconsciously, that their revisiting experience will proceed accordingly. That’s just not realistic. Older, wealthier, paunchier Americans made good targets, whether or not they had once served as PCVs. And the (typically) young fellows who will be looking for prey at the airports and back alleys in the capital will neither know nor care of the RPCV’s service.

Who are some of the RPCV travel writers whose work you read and enjoy?

I don’t get a chance to do much pleasure reading, so my exposure to RPCV authors is lamentably narrow. I love to read Craig Storti’s work and have been greatly encouraged and pleased by how his career and writing style have developed over the years. And, of course, I am a sucker for the “vignette” books that Peace Corps has published over the years that consist of brief snippets of various Volunteer experiences written by the Volunteers themselves. The essay books you started and edited, John, when you worked at the Peace Corps back in the ’90s.

Thank you. What are you thinking about writing next?
I’d like to write a book that explores and demonstrates how cross cultural competence — gained through Peace Corps experience or elsewhere — becomes a vital element in a wide range of applied international business and interpersonal arenas. I teach a class at American University called Intercultural Training & Facilitation, and it is the facilitation part that really needs more documentation, examination, and rigor. My recent experience as a senior executive student at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business made me painfully aware of how little exposure most business people have with fundamentals of intercultural communication and effectiveness.
Ray, thank you for all your time on this interview.
Hey, it’s my pleasure.
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