Rebecca Cramer looks back fondly on something that many people would find unpleasant: living in a Third-World country.
"I had a two-room house. I did not have electricity; I did not have running water. I took bucket baths, and I went to the well to get water and everything," says Cramer, now the president of the Peace Corps Fellows at UA, about her Peace Corps volunteer stint in Chad. "It was wonderful, actually. My host family ... really took care of me."
Though her living conditions in the central African country were "pretty harsh, even by Peace Corps standards," and she had to be evacuated due to the dangerous political environment, Cramer says she thoroughly enjoyed her time teaching English there. She says she plans to return to the Peace Corps and Africa after she earns her master's degree--with tuition paid by the Peace Corps--in May.
Recruiters will be at the UA's Peace Corps Fair this Wednesday to discuss the application process (which takes between six months and a year), requirements (a college degree or extensive experience in a particular field) and benefits of joining the Peace Corps.
"There are the intangible things, like growing as a person, learning different skills and becoming more patient," Cramer says of the benefits the Peace Corps offers. There are also more concrete benefits, like being fully submerged in another language, custom and culture; doing rewarding, life-changing work; and the opportunity to get your graduate-school tuition paid.
If the Peace Corps sounds interesting, but bucket baths really aren't your thing, you can still hear stories from about 100 other Peace Corps volunteers who have returned from their stations around the world with artifacts, music, traditional clothing, unforgettable experiences and answers to all your questions. --H.S.
And the golden little man goes to ...
This year, you can enjoy Oscar-related conversations about all the overpriced handbags and glitzy dresses in an up-close-and-personal way at the Fox Tucson Theatre's Oscar Night America party. As event coordinator Julie Ragland explains, "It is an event where the general public can come and celebrate the Oscars the way the stars do."
At this fundraiser for the financially struggling Fox, attendees will be able to enjoy the Oscars in style. "We want our guests to feel as if they are really there," Ragland explains. "There will be a red carpet, with the Oscars live on our big screen."
The beautifully restored Fox will be one of the evening's co-stars, along with all of the Oscar nominees. "We want to raise awareness for the Fox Theatre's programming and history," Ragland says.
Oscar Night America is a series of fundraisers around the country sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In previous years, Oscar Night America has raised a lot of money for good causes--more than $3.3 million was raised in 2008 for various charities, and more than $23.7 million has been raised since the program's start.
Therefore, come and support the Fox; after all, money from ticket sales and concessions only cover 45 percent of the theater's expenses, theater managers say.
Along with the red carpet, Oscar Night America will include a silent auction benefiting the theater. Hosting the event will be Bobby Rich from KMXZ FM 94.9, aka MIXfm, and Tammy Vo from KGUN Channel 9 news.
So, grab your sequenced dress or your tuxedo, and get ready for the red-carpet treatment. Tickets for the general public start at $25 and can be purchased at the Fox Web site. --L.L.
Spring is approaching, and in many cities around the world, that means parades and masquerades. It is the season of rebirth--and the season of Carnaval.
To catch a fine Carnaval celebration, you need not fly to Brazil's Rio Carnaval, or take the train to Mardi Gras in New Orleans; you can just walk down to Armory Park for Tucson's second-annual Carnaval.
"It should be a fun event, whether you like the music or the food," says Cliff Berrien, the event organizer and artistic director for Batucaxé, a local drum and dance group who will perform throughout the day. "There will be a mini craft fair and things like that--things that should be fun for the whole family."
Tucson's Carnaval celebration will feature a parade at noon, lots of dancing and drumming, and performances from some of Tucson's most notable performance artists, including pyrotechnics-theater troupe Flam Chen, and Japanese ensemble-drumming group Odaiko Sonora.
Berrien cites other Tucson festivals, like Tucson Meet Yourself, while speaking about his hopes for the future of Tucson Carnaval.
"For me, it was a wakeup call in that I didn't realize Tucson was as diverse as it is until I went to that. ... That was cool. We want our event to be something like that, except our focus is on the celebration and on the fact that almost all cultures have a spring celebration."
The family-friendly Carnaval kicked off last year in front of an "awesome but very, very small" audience, Berrien says, adding that he hopes the event will grow into a must-do event marking the arrival of spring in the Sonoran Desert, like the Dia de los Muertos festival marks the arrival of autumn.
"It's part of our heritage as human beings on this planet," Berrien says about spring. "For a long time, there have been spring celebrations of some type, something like carnival." --H.S.
Mardi Gras is practically a synonym for "splurge"--and you can splurge to your heart's content on behalf of a good cause, thanks to the annual KXCI Mardi Gras Party.
Black Leather Zydeco will kick off the party with live music that event coordinator Randy Peterson describes as "fun dance music with a traditional New Orleans sound." Peterson says the local band has performed for various KXCI events and "always starts the show on the right foot."
Explains Peterson: "Zydeco music is extremely popular in New Orleans, and with Black Leather Zydeco, we hope to provide our guests with an authentic Mardi Gras experience."
Taking the stage next will be the Carnivaleros, "another local group that mixes Cajun and zydeco music while also incorporating a border-type feel to it," says Peterson.
Of course, a night of dancing would not be complete without great food and drinks (available for purchase), which will also take center stage at KCXI's Mardi Gras Party.
All proceeds from the event will go directly to KXCI FM 91.3.
"KXCI is community radio, which is commercial-free and completely listener-supported," Peterson says.
For this year's party, Peterson says, ticket prices have been cut in half compared to previous years: They're only $8 in advance, or $10 at the door.
"We are aware of the economic squeeze, and we still want people to go out and have fun, so we are trying to make it an affordable event," Peterson says.
Party-goers can purchase advance tickets for the 21-and-older event at KXCI (220 S. Fourth Ave.) or at the KXCI Web site. --L.L.