1. East Timor Concerning Poop

    Let me first address the smelly elephant in the room, our good friend poop.  In America poop is a private thing.  We take it to another room and modulate its thickness and or frequency with a variety of pills and powders.  People who have trouble with their poop will take a day off work complaining of a cold or some other, less embarrassing, trouble.  And in return our stable American poop agrees to keep to a normal range of colors and consistencies. Not so in Timor.  Poop, its frequ...

  2. El Salvador Leaving for America

    What an incredible 24 hours of my life. Probably one of the most surreal 24 hours ever. Yesterday I went down to Miguel’s house ready to leave for San Salvador. I never gave it any thought about how it was going to be…and I’m glad I didn’t.Adriana wailed and cried as Miguel prepared to leave. Just like any other day Miguel was up early to milk the cows-one last time. He brought his big bag out and hugged his mom. She cried and so did he. Adelmo continued on with the days chores. Get the milk ...

  3. Ukraine Journalism Club

    I started a journalism club at my school. As a journalist, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But I had to teach the damn thing mostly in another language. In Russian, as a matter of fact. Something I'd overlooked. And it wasn't easy. Eight students showed up to the first meeting. When discussing investigative journalism I told them anything that doesn’t piss someone off isn’t worth writing. Then I tried saying – in Russian – “You’ve got to light a fire under their ass.” Unfortunatel...

  4. Ukraine Host Mom Dynamo

    My best memory of my host-mom is how hard-working and industrious she was. She would be up every morning at dawn or earlier to cook the family breakfast. She had to send her daughter and me off with coffee and a very good meal. After that, she busied herself in her very productive garden for most of the day. She turned the soil, planted, weeded, watered and coaxed an abundance out of her garden. There was nothing she wouldn't tackle.  In the evening, dinner was a delicious meal. Many times th...

  5. East Timor Evacuation

    I sat, silent, amazed at the beauty.  I have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of this island nation, the beaches and the mountains and the sky.  I have been shocked by the contrast between rich and poor and with the rush of hunger and anger.  But this… Last night.  54 volunteers were told that they are going home.  That we are going home. That the plane is coming at 5 am.  They yelled and sobbed and laughed and drank and danced.  I wanted to be sober, untired for each moment.  It has been l...

  6. Morocco A Humble Gift That Meant So Much

    We lived in Marrakesh, Morocco, a centuries old phantasmagorical city on the edge of the Sahara Desert in North Africa. Because of its snow-capped peaks from the High Atlas Mountains on the horizon,  the ubiquitous palm trees, and all the buildings painted the same shade of dusty pink, this town looked like a Hollywood movie set.   It was spring, 1972. We were Peace Corps English language teachers in local high schools. The singing group, Crosby Stills and Nash, of Woodstock fame, had made t...

  7. Philippines Beergin Coke

    “Beergin Coke”   It was, I don’t remember how many, but not many days after I arrived in country, that my co-newbie & I were invited to go out for drink by a local.   Tom, (10 years my younger but partner in mischief) and I had been known to have a drink.   We were in training at a mold-loving hot springs spa in a college town about an hour south of Manila. We were to be housed, in pairs, for a week, with local families.   I also don’t remember the Baranguy Captain’s name, to my great re...

  8. Ecuador ¡El Gringo Va a Morir!

    It was the last race I ever ran. I had only been at my site for a few months when I decided to enter a 10K in Cuenca, Ecuador. In retrospect, it was a huge mistake. I hadn’t trained since college; my New Orleans lungs were still ill-equipped to extract oxygen from the thin mountain air; and my flatlander muscles could hardly summit a curb less clamber up steep cobblestone mountain roads. Nonetheless, I was, well, Peace Corps confident. Like so many new volunteers, I had set my sights on sav...

  9. Madagascar Will the Real Santa Claus Please Stand Up

    Typically when you think of Santa Claus, you think immediately of a jolly, older, plump man with rosy cheeks and a long white beard. Of course this image is universal, even for the students and teachers of the private École Française (French School) in my town of Betroka where I served as a TEFL Volunteer. And wouldn’t you know, a couple of the teachers at the École Française had the great idea to bring an authentic “vazaha” (white foreigner) Santa Claus to their students. Where could they po...

  10. Brazil Losing It in Brazil

    When I was in Brazil, there was a joke among Peace Corps Volunteers: Why did male volunteers lose weight? Because they cooked for themselves. Why did female Volunteers gain weight? Because they cooked for themselves. But, against odds, I lost approximately 30 pounds over the two years I lived in Brazil. I have several explanations for this. 1. First, I walked everywhere. I had no car or bike in Glória. In larger cities, I caught a bus only when I had to travel more than a few miles....

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