1. East Timor Talk to a peace corps trainer: Giving up.

    It seems like my whole life was about sitting in training, itching and wishing I had something to eat.  This was a mixed blessing because the rash and the starving were the only things keeping the afternoon swelter from putting me to sleep.  Every so often I would tune back in to our shocks and sandal training coordinator to make sure I didn’t miss something I thought was relevant.  I was excited when I heard his normally hopeful voice drop an octave and become brittle.   I wait on these ...

  2. Ukraine September 11th Across the Ocean

    The word for terrorist sounds the same in the three languages of my daily life -- English, Russian and Ukrainian. But I didn't want to write about the attacks on America in any language. There has been enough in the news, I wrote to one friend. I am in Ukraine, what do I know, I e-mailed another. The truth? I was scared I couldn't find the right words. Turns out, I didn't have to. A little girl in the fifth form at School Number 37 in Poltava found them for me. As we flipped though a copy o...

  3. Burkina Faso A Wonderful African Success Story

    A Wonderful African Success Story  Richard P. Phelps   Two decades ago, I traveled to Burkina Faso, in the African Sahel region, to teach mathematics. There, I would enjoy the company of extraordinarily friendly people and cooperative students, improve my woeful French, and travel across the gorgeous and historically significant West Africa some as a tourist. Also, I would experience dust storms, heat rashes, a scorpion sting, and several illnesses, some of which I could identify and...

  4. Cameroon Last Day au village

    I woke up after a restful sleep around 8am, without an alarm, of course, and put on my running shoes for one last jog down my favorite path. The crisp air made for a comfortable jog. I took noticed of each house that I ran by and took in each rolling hill that I passed. I will unlikely to have a regular running path this beautiful for years to come. I waved at villagers along the way that I often see; likely the last time I would see those faces again. Returned home and heated water in...

  5. South Africa Communication is Dead

        "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." ~George Bernard Shaw   A few weeks ago, Woody went to into our host mom's house to “top up” electricity on our meter box. The conversation that proceeded went a bit like the old vaudeville joke by Abbott and Costello “Who's on First?” Here is the conversation that occurred between Woody and our host mom:   Host mom: Do you have film? “Ni vone kamareni” I saw it in the bedroom. Woody: “U lav...

  6. Guatemala This Little Piggy...

    For Christmas my family decided to slaughter their pig. They got the pig as a tiny piglet just as I moved in so I have watched it grow and fatten over the past few months. A pig for Christmas is very special for them... Last night they told me they would be inviting the entire family over early in the morning to begin cooking and preparing to make tamales. While I couldn't help but feel for the doomed porker, I remained as culturally objective as possible on the matter and crawled into bed....

  7. Colombia Thoughts on returning to Colombia

    Authors Note: Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Colombia were invited to return to Colombia in 2008 to visit their sites and to witness how Colombia was overcoming the violence and civil discord prevalent during the 1980s. This essay expresses my thoughts at that time.   Traveling back to Colombia, more than forty years later, I recall my first plane ride. It was to Peace Corps training.  Just graduated from college, the whole world was awaiting me and was mine to experience or was it?  In...

  8. Togo Returning to Togo 20 years later

    I served in Togo from 1991 to 1993 as a Guinea Worm Eradication volunteer. I was in an endemic area; almost everywhere there were people with worms emerging from their arms, legs, and other body parts. This was incapacitating for farmers; they were not able to work in the fields. Now twenty years later I was assigned by the CDC, my current employer, to serve as a temporary international consultant for the World Health Organization to certify the eradication of Guinea Worm disease in Togo. Twe...

  9. Nigeria POEMS FROM NIGERIA (1963 – 1965)

    Author’s Note: I wrote these poems at different times during my Peace Corps tour.  I was a teacher at the University of Ibadan in Western Nigeria. We were in that lucky two-year window, right after Independence and right before the Revolution: Everything seemed possible, democracy was in the air. We weathered the shattering of being very far away from home during the assassination of President Kennedy, and we continued working. I’m a writer now—short stories and plays—but these poems are, so...

  10. Sierra Leone Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT)

    I was an Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1984-1986, assigned to Rogbesseh in Tonkolili District in the Northern Province....not too far from Masanga Leprosy Hospital and Magburaka. I was hoping to be the Great White Hope Teacher...I'm not sure how much impact I made as a Primary Workshop Coordinator, teaching English, Maths, and Science...but if I made any impact at all, it might have been with a Health concept that Volunteers were taught for their OWN survival... One da...

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