A Morocco XII volunteer, John Paulas, recently passed away. I think he might have worked in forestry. If I am wrong, please use the Contact page to write and I will correct any error.
John was stationed in Boured, usually transliterated Bourd, a small hamlet north of Taza. One might say Boured was nowhere. Or one could say it was two or three hours from the nearest city, Taza or Al Hoceima, neither of which were very large at the time. Bourd was a day’s journey from Rabat or Casa or Tangier. The nearest big cities were Fes and Meknes. So after everything is said, Bourd was relatively isolated. It was certainly more isolated than Sefrou, where I could commute to Fes by grand taxi or bus in a half hour or so. And Sefrou was itself a city, if a small one.
The remoteness of Bourd probably pleased John, who had graduated from Paul Smith’s College, a small institution located in the northern Adirondack Mountains of New York State, another isolated spot. The landscape around Bourd is hilly. The Ouergha River has its origins nearby. The spine of the Rif mountains is not far off, and in the winter the higher peaks are clad with snow.
Bourd was also small. I have tried to find an old population figure. I suspect that in 1968 Bourd had only few thousand souls, and certainly far fewer than the 10,000 plus inhabitants that it has today.
I met John in 1969. We both were eager to hike Morocco’s mountains, and we had both met the young Peace Corps doctor, Louden Kiracofe, who had developed a love of the outdoors and mountaineering in Colorado. Louden organized a trip to climb Jbel Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak, and John, fellow Morocco X volunteer Tony Singleton, and myself accompanied Louden and his wife, Ginny. For all of us it was our first trip to the trails of the High Atlas. The trip is partly documented elsewhere in this blog.
John had wanted to serve in Nepal and, on his initial Peace Corps travel to Morocco, he mentioned that preference to another new volunteer who was seated next to him on the PanAm flight. The latter replied that he was being sent to Nepal, but that he had wanted to go to Morocco! Such is life and such is the Peace Corps. I had wanted to go to Morocco, and was given a slot in a program to Senegal. I turned it down, and later was offered a slot in Morocco X.
Had John gone to Nepal, his relative isolation in Morocco might not have compared to what he would have found in Nepal.
In my junior or senior year of college, I sat in a dorm room of Cutter Hall listening to a returned Peace Corps volunteer who had served in Nepal in one of the earliest Peace Corps programs. He flew out of Katmandu to his assignment, and, as the plane passed over the village he would serve in, the pilot pointed it out. The volunteer asked how long before they would arrive. The pilot answered that the plane would land in twenty minutes—but the volunteer would then face a three-day walk! The mountains of Nepal are a different order of magnitude.
John and I hiked together one other time. If one lives anywhere between Fes and Taza, from most high points the mountains of Bouiblane and Moussa ou Salah, snow capped for more than half the year, dominate the southern horizon. There was a striking view of Bouiblane from the roof of my house in Sefrou.
Along with Bou Naceur and Tichoukt, their summits represent the culminating points of the eastern Middle Atlas. John and I wanted to climb Bouiblane. The opportunity presented itself when Louden organized a trip which included Don Brown, Gaylord Barr and, of course, John and myself. That trip is discussed in another blog post. Suffice it to say, la montagne n’a pas voulu, but Louden and John later climbed it on a moonlit night, and I on a bright and fine May morning.
I hardly ever saw John after that, and we never became close friends, though he did read this blog. His passing saddens me and is a reminder that though in time one can conquer many mountains, in the end it is time which is the ultimate conqueror.
Here is a link to John’s obituary. May he rest in peace among the mountains of Oregon that he loved.
13 thoughts on “John Paulas”
Dave, John Paulas was in Morocco XII. Thank you for the photos and entry on John, which I forwarded to his daughter, sister, and everyone I could find from Morocco XII. I greatly enjoy your writing and memories and photos, Kinza
Thanks, Kinza. I will change Morocco XI to Morocco XII.
A great tribute. I am not sure that it is appropriate to like such a post, but a thought-provoking piece.
Fascinating story and great pictures of the mountains, thank you.
( I was about to complain about the lack of cars but then I spotted the Jeep! )
Thank you for this nice remembrance of John, and the vibrance of the life we all discovered in Morocco. The 2016 “Peace Corps Community Directory” lists John’s volunteer service in Morocco as 1969-71, as well as a second Peace Corps tour of duty in Mauritania in 1989. North Africa must have become a rich and indelible part of John’s life and memory, which your handsomely illustrated account celebrates so well.
Thanks, Reed. I will correct the service dates.
Is there a way to access the contents of the 2016 peace corps directory on line? I’m curious about John Paulas being in PC Mauretania. I know he worked for USAID in Mauretania for 3 years, but not in PC.
I have not used it, but perhaps Reed can answer your question. I’d like to track down more volunteers from those early years. I have not been able to find lists of volunteers by programs, either. Don Brown sent me a list for Morocco I, and I have the Facebook for Morocco X courtesy of Marc Miller.
Dave, I have the Peace Corps trainee handbook for Morocco XII which was given to us when we were in training. It lists all 40 in the initial training.
It’s not on-line. It was published by PCI (not the big company), a family business out of Dallas, TX that started with alumnae directories and metastasized into Publishing Concepts Inc. They collect data on memberships of all kinds, and advance-sell subscriptions to members for a tidy sum. I forked over and forgot the whole thing for a few years, finally calling PC Headquarters to find out what happened. PC was clueless as well, but got PCI to crank out a fat volume of pretty incomplete volunteer lists for all programs in all countries. The info on the early Morocco programs was spotty and incomplete. I have no idea how it is for more recent programs. The volume is impressively heavy, and makes an excellent doorstop.
I was a PC volunteer in Morocco XII with John, and luckily, our friendship continued. During a Zoom meeting after his death, our group decided to write a book for John’s daughter. We wanted to introduce her to that period of John’s life. Would you mind if I included your pictures from this blogpost? They will make a more complete “picture” of John. I would be happy to give you credit for the great photos. Thanks in advance.
Of course you can use any picture you would like. I think that it’s wonderful that John’s friends would remember him with a book for his daughter.
Kinza sent me her facebook for Morocco XII and eventually I will post it along with that of Morocco X, and any other facebooks that I can get my hands on.
Good luck with your project, and if I can help in any other way, just let me know.
I just received this email. Friends of John may be interested in a new book about his life.
———- Forwarded message ———
From: Karla Green
Date: Mon, Aug 23, 2021 at 2:52 PM
Subject: The memoir of John Paulas
Kinza, Leigh and I have finished the book about John!!!! Kinza compiled and wrote the text, Leigh helped with editing and I did the layout.
Firstly, thank you all for your contributions – written and photographs. We had a lot to work with and appreciate your time and effort.
We will give hardcover books to Latisha and Judy. If you would like a hardcover, softcover, pdf, or ebook, please let me know in the next few days.
At this moment, I am not sure if we want to put together a single order (a discount is offered at 10+ books) and then ship them, or send you a link to order/buy your own.
Here is the breakdown of costs from blurb.com:
(Ooops, I hit “send” by mistake!!)
You can take a look at the book at the link below – BUT, if we order 10 – 19 copies we get a 30% discount; 20 or more we get a 40% discount. (I am checking to see if they all have to be the same kind – hardcover, etc.) Let me know if you would like a copy.
“Africa John” His life in pictures and memories. It’s a 140 page photo book, 8″x10″. Chapters on John’s early life, in Peace Corps training, in country and other countries; Beads and Barter Faires; Peace Corps Morocco XII in training and in country.
Hardcover, Image wrap – $91.39
Softcover (same cover) – $75.39
PDF – $4.99
Ebook – $9.99
I am very happy that we were able to put together such a comprehensive book. We hope you like it.
Karla, Kinza and Leigh