1. Niger Goodbye Niger

    It was too green. The cows were too fat, the children too clean, the roads too well-paved. I turned to Mariah, my bus buddy on for the two hours from the airport in Casablanca to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. "Are we really still in Africa?" "I'm not really sure of anything anymore," she wearily responded. It had been four sleepless days since Peace Corps had announced that we were leaving Niger. Ten anxious days since terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda had kidnapped two Fr...

  2. Brazil Alegria! Alegria! (Happiness! Happiness!)

              After my Peace Corps service ended in 1969, I wrote to residents of Glória for a while, but many Brazilians took months to respond or didn’t respond at all. Eventually my teaching job, graduate studies, volunteer work, new husband, and hectic lifestyle took over. I lost touch with the wonderful people of Glória.           Once I had access to internet service in the 90’s, I searched for the town of Glória, with no luck. I knew it might take a while for information technology to reac...

  3. Philippines Forming Islands in the Philippines

    One of the Philippine creation myths speaks of a lightning bolt blasting rock and dropping islands from the sky to form the vast archipelago.  Another myth suggests that the Filipino people emerged from a piece bamboo before fanning out across the island chain.  It is no myth that life in the Philippines can feel scattered and vast.  Its history is a tangled mix of native roots and colonial influences.  The cultural and geographic diversity can feel as if each of the thousands of islands is ...

  4. Morocco Moore Cooking With Joy

      Perhaps good food and Peace Corps seem antithetical, but in Morocco, a cultural crossroads, it was everywhere.  Whether fruit, vegetables or a plucked chicken from the market, most things were fresh and seasonally available in towns such as Taza or Essaouira.  And lacking such distractions as a telephone or TV, we had an incentive to imitate Julia Child's joie de la cuisine.   Those of us who were teachers in Morocco had the summer months off to work on special projects. My friend Joy and I...

  5. Cameroon Short, Dark, Handsome Stranger

    My Peace Corps training period took place in Dang – a small village of around 80 in Cameroon’s Centre Province. Although only five people lived at my host family’s home, there was a crowd of 10-15 gathered around in our living room most evenings to watch the new American guy eat couscous de maïs (thick corn mush with a doughy consistency) and hear him attempt to communicate with his broken French and hilarious accent. As no one in my village, other than the other trainees, spoke more than two...

  6. Cameroon In the Dark

    A darkness known only to those who have set eyes on a midnight sky in Africa.  A single flame from an ordinary kerosene lamp spilled dancing, tribal-like silhouettes on the walls of my living room.  The crankshaft of the shortwave radio produced a machine-like hum, but did not interfere with the French play-by-play commentary.  Huddled around the cross-section of an oak tree turned coffee table we resembled primitive people eavesdropping on the modern world.  The smell of fresh popcorn was go...

  7. Thailand I have become a dharma bum

    “Hopping a freight train out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara.” Jack Kerouac ruined my life – or saved it.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  At the completely ignorant age of 18, Anoka-Ramsey Community College had the audacity to ask me what I’d like to study.  “They tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years ...

  8. Thailand Thai-napped

    Volunteers were warned about how different the concept of time is in Thailand.  We were told things moved slower and at a more easy-going pace.  They didn’t tell us this also pertains to Thai notification. Many volunteers are finding out Thais aren’t keen on letting volunteers know when they’re about to go somewhere.  I’ve heard countless stories of a volunteer happily sitting in their room enjoying the quiet when a member of their host family will come in and say, “C’mon, it’s time to go,” ...

  9. Thailand Mai Pen Rai means "Never Mind"

    Mai Pen Rai means “Never Mind” Tim Hartigan TEFL/X, Thailand Group 95 (1989-1991) Questions borne of tragedy define generations of Americans. “Where were you when…Kennedy was shot?” was followed by “…the Challenger blew up?” and then “9/11 happened?” Buffalonians of a certain age also define ourselves by a much smaller traumatic question: “Where were you when the Bills lost their first Super Bowl?” I got to my Peace Corps site in rural northeastern Thailand in 1989. Part of my...

  10. Bangladesh Momentum

    I go back in time, to a surreal memory. The Peace Corps experience was nearly 6 years ago, but the experience still feels close. When I receive e-mails from friends and colleagues, I feel like I’m no longer the Adam they once knew.  After returning to the States – returning to the chaotic hum of other people’s lives -- I never fully reflected on my time in Bangladesh.  I can do that now. Walking down the street in Bangladesh workers yelled from behind, pushing large carts down unpave...

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.