1. St. Lucia Contemplating Coconuts

    Why is he putting coconuts on his roof? Ah, it must have a leak. Yes, that is it. The roof has a leak and people know how to use resources here to their advantage. But how will he fasten them to the roof? Humm. Maybe he will poor cement on top of them. Builders use cement for everything. But why didn’t he put a layer of cement down before carefully laying the coconuts onto the roof? And, why does he need coconuts and cement? Why not just cement? I don’t see any cement bags.Maybe he is an arti...

  2. Uganda The Cinderella Next Door

    As I walk past six-year old Paulina who is bent over the sink in the middle of her second load of dish washing, she smiles pleasantly and replies quietly, “I’m fine,” when I greet her. Her ebony skin glistens in the splashes of sun-lit soapy water and her small hands work methodically as she meticulously scrub each dish caked with remnants of the previous meal. When I stop to ask her why she isn’t attending school today, she cheerfully answers that she would attend the next day. C...

  3. Honduras When I spit on children I cure diseases

    I have come to realize that my idea of normal has changed significantly. Things never seem that strange to me at the time… and then I think about explaining it to folks back home. So, here’s one such experience: I’m hanging out at my cousin's house, enjoying the mango juice we just made (from pre-ripened mangos…which are also quite delicious to eat dipped in sugar). Yola, the woman who goes house to house selling Ropa Americana had just finished showing us the stock she just brought back...

  4. Haiti A Tale of Two Countries: Father and Son in the Peace Corps

    A Tale of Two Countries Father and Son in the Peace Corps By Mason Robbins, RPCV, Haiti 1999-2001, and Joel Robbins, RPCV, Azerbaijan, 2007-2009 Mason--We like to be able to boast to others, “Been there, done that.” Saying it makes us feel older, more experienced, wiser, more proud and condescending, maybe, when we are young. Saying it to my 63-year-old father makes me proud. Not proud of me, proud of him. My father served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan from 2007 ...

  5. Paraguay What Have I Gotten Myself Into

    It was the end of our 2nd month in training, and time to go out to our current site to meet our counterparts, find a place to live, check the place out. We got off the bus in our little town, looked around, and saw a small sign on the little tienda: Se alquila cuartos (We rent rooms.) So, we checked inside and the owner was more than happy to kick her numerous children out of the one bedroom, with a large double bed and a bare light bulb, to give it to us. I noted that there was no mosqu...

  6. Bulgaria The Commute Forward

    “Vasilena?” “She travels, Gospozha!” “Djunait?  He doesn’t travel, does he?” “No, he lives in town.  He should be here!” 10A and I enacted this little ritual every time I took roll call, every day for my first three months as an English teacher at Gimnazia Tzar Simeon. “Ivanka?” “She travels!” “Kristina?” “Travels!” “Lyudmila?” “Travels!” Ms. Dunn’s Professional English Class tends to fall near the first or the last class period of the day.  Ro...

  7. Senegal "White person, your hair is so pretty. But, your body is dirty."

    For eighteen months, I lived in Senegal, West Africa.  For eighteen months, I listened to strangers, acquaintances and, at times, my closest friends refer to me as “toubab.” Toubab is the name given to white foreigners. Sometimes it’s used as an identifier.  I would hear my sister say over the phone, “You know, Bienta Toubab.”  Which was important because I was living in a family that had four women named Bienta. But it was still hard.  It was never, “Bienta Voluteer,” since I ...

  8. Botswana Ke a Leboga (Thank you in Setswana)

    It is uncommon to hear the words "Thank you" from a Motswana. It is not because Batswana are rude people; it is because they show their gratitude in different manners other than words. My friend Mabe (Mah-bee) serves as a good example. He is the driver for our District AIDS Coordinator’s Office. Mabe is more like a brother to me today. We joke about anything and everything and he is always happy to see me every morning at the office. When I first got to Tsabong he helped me greatl...

  9. Ukraine Celebrating freedom a backbreaker

    Monday, September 24, 2001 By Christie Appelhanz SELESHCHINA, Ukraine -- The fall of the Soviet Union changed the way the world works from Beijing to the Beltway. It didn't, however, change the way Luda works in this quiet village of 5,000, where the cows still walk down the main street unescorted every morning to graze. Well, maybe things are a little worse, she says, since they lifted price controls and the cost of food soared. Luda survived the economic collapse of the ...

  10. Thailand A Taste of Thailand

    I probably bike a good hour and a half each day -- which is good, getting some exercise in with all the food I'm eating. I take a shower when I get home, maybe wash my clothes by hand (not the most enjoyable of pastimes, and not intrinsically rewarding in some kind of hokey, sweat-and-blood sort of way, in case anyone idealizes that whole Wordsworthian "common man" mystique), and then wait around for dinner and by the time that's done I'm pretty spent so I usually jot a coup...

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