Mark's Story



A humorous and light story on the recent events...  Kate thinks the AP reference might be a joke, but nobody is sure!


By Mark Shahinian
Associated Press

For a group of Americans trapped by the bloody civil war in this West African nation, life under siege is just fine, thank you very much.

The 30 Americans, including 20 Peace Corps Volunteers and 11 Baptist missionaries, are pinned down in the Torogokaha missionary compound 9.2 Km south of the northern rebel stronghold of Korhogo. But while other foreigners in Cote d'Ivoire are dodging bullets and eating household pets, members of the Korhogo group are "having the time of [their] lives."

"It's just like summer camp," said Michelle Todd, a volunteer from Pittsburgh, Penn. "I mean, we had hot dogs and pop last night and you can watch movies and we talk about which boys are the cutest."

The Torogokaha group spends their days eating pancakes, playing Frisbee, working on their cars and napping. The rebels surrounding the Torogokaha compound profess to love Americans, and have even asked if they could be pen pals.

Indeed, the Americans' biggest concern is the emailed death threats they have received from Peace Corps volunteers across Africa bitter about village life and looking for an excuse to go home.

"We're like a big, happy family," said Peace Corps Volunteer Allison Young. "There's no talking behind each others' back, we're all sensitive to others' needs, and mostly, we're just happy to be together. I'm really glad I'm here instead in Bouake."

Another volunteer described Yung as "unnecessarily perky." Ivory Coast, normally a beacon of stability in West Africa, was ripped apart by a bloody coup last week. Uneducated Muslim guerillas from the north attacked government forces, demanding visas to travel to the United States and an end to the sexually suggestive dance known here as the Mapuka.

French troops are in charge of evacuating all foreigners from Ivory Coast. But they have not yet made a move towards Korhogo. French domestic politics may be playing a role in the delay.

The French press has demanded abandoning all Americans in Ivory Coast. The left-leaning French daily Liberation yesterday called the Americans waiting for rescue "fat and in need of exercise anyway."

Col. Jaques Chlow, the French commander in charge of the evacuation of foreigners could not be reached. "He ees beezy eating whine end cheeeze," said one of the colonel's aides.

Peace Corps volunteers and missionaries normally hold each other at arms' length, but members of both groups say they are getting along fine. The Peace Corps volunteers try to tone down the swearing and the missionaries "bite their tongue," according to one compound resident.

Indeed, the missionaries in the group say they enjoy having people invade their homes and really don't like privacy, anyway.

"I just love having four people in my kitchen, three in my bedroom and six sprawled on my couch watching movies. It's just like college," said Jan Edelman, chief logistician among the missionaries.

For the few members of the group who aren't Peace Corps Volunteers or missionaries, the experience has been less idyllic.

"Yeah, the Peace Corps volunteers sort of smell and the missionaries are far too nice for someone used to life in Washington," said one woman, who would only say she works for the U.S. government.

One member of the group is an attractive 24-year-old woman who periodically drops "my boyfriend" into conversation to "ward off all those smelly guys", the sympathetic government employee said.

Peace Corps administrators say they don't know quite what to do with the Torogokaha group.

All other Peace Corps volunteers in Cote d'Ivoire are on their way to a "schwanky" hotel in Accra, the capital of neighboring Ghana. But administrators are worried that bringing in the well-rested, perky Torogokaha group could upset the other volunteers.

"The Torogokaha group seems happy right where they are - they haven't even called me in a couple of days - so we may leave them there for the foreseeable future," said Peace Corps security officer Julie "J. Edgar" Donahue.

The extended stay of the Torogokaha group may have a political dimension, according to sources in Washington. A top defense department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, but known to his friends as "Rummy" said, "Most of those Peace Corps Volunteers vote Democrat anyway, and with the midterm elections coming up, we might just leave them there."