1. Costa Rica I Believe Now

    I arrived on May 23, 2010 to a small rural community in Costa Rica and found out that the best integration strategy was to join the women's soccer team.   Although I was a disaster - play better now - I decided to learn and practice soccer with the team more than twice a week until I couldn’t do that anymore. It was a Sunday evening on mid-June of last year and by that time I already had soccer cleats.  I was still new to this sport so I didn't know I was supposed to wear certain gear th...

  2. Ukraine A Ukrainian Spring

    It’s Spring. Warmer weather, longer days. Granted, I wear a sweater and a coat when I go on walks, but! — I go on walks. In Russian, there are two versions of the verb “to go by foot.” “Идти” means to go to a certain place in a particular moment; my Russian teacher translated it as “to head to” somewhere. “Xодите,” on the other hand, lacks that sense of immediacy; it is more general, more leisurely, less tied down to a specific time. This winter, when the ice and cold were brutal, I practice...

  3. Ghana I Am a Mere Person

    Life is sometimes an evanescent state in Ghana. John and I came back to Kumasi in 1974, after we’d been in Ghana for about a year, to find that one of my workers was very sick. I had a crew of men who helped me do a survey of the geology around the city. The man’s name was Awuni Frafra, the surname taken from the northern tribe to which he belonged. He was only 22 years old, at least a head taller than the other workers (common for people from the north) and strong and vigorous. Since he was...

  4. Kenya This is what I shared with my co-workers on March 1st

    I served in Kenya from 1989 to 1991 as a small business advisor in a small village named Sochoi, five miles outside Lessos, Kenya.   I learned so many things from Peace Corps and Kenyans, especially the Nandi people (with whom I lived). These lessons have guided me every day since leaving Sochoi. From Peace Corps, I learned to "leave behind a process, not a product."  Succinctly said, it's more important -- and more difficult -- to empower people than power up a building, generato...

  5. Papua New Guinea Wah-kah

    It was my first week at homestay in Goroka, the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea. I was excited and nervous, and adjusting to all the details of a new life in a village with no electricity or running water. Over the first few days, my homestay papa Lomsea took me around to meet everyone in the village. I was just learning pigeon, so I didn’t understand much of the conversation, but I could follow that each family we met with talked excitedly about “wah-kah,” and confirmed that it would ...

  6. East Timor Fire and Aunger

      Interim service training for the fifth group of volunteers in the small island nation of East Timor.    There is a rumor going around that this training has been rushed through approvals because of the high level of early terminations in our group, nearly a third of our number and only five months in site.  The venue is an idyllic convent high enough in the mountain to get a breeze but close enough to walk to a beach.  The food is sumptuous and the company exquisite.  We have one training a...

  7. Ghana Mind Bloom

    I was teaching science in Asesewa, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, in west Africa. Asesewa was mostly isolated at that time. It had no electricity, running water, or telecommunications. I was teaching core science class. I was explaining the Copernican theory of solar systems. I explained how we lived on a planet that revolved around our sun, and that there were other suns with planets revolving around them. One of my girls, normally quite talkative, went quiet. I went on with the lesson. Se...

  8. The Gambia My Husband

    Bubacarr was the youngest son of the director of the bush hospital where I worked. One day he came to me and said that since he is Muslim, he get's to have 5 wives, and I was going to be his first.  I told him that was fine, as long as I got to have 5 husbands. He was ok with that, as long as he was the one in charge. Then I told him that he had to give me a bride price, a present for being his wife. He thought about it for a minute, then me what he would give me as my bride price "Manda...

  9. Paraguay La Mandarina

      My site is perched on a hill next to the last bit of Paraguay’s Upper Parana jungle.  Twenty-five years ago, it consisted of little more than a handful of indigenous families surrounded by barely-accessible roads and intimidating rainforest, thick as a howler monkey’s beard.  From the air, the forest would have resembled distant ruffled moss, polka-dotted pink and yellow by blooming Tajy trees.  Today, the land is mostly red dirt.  Bald. Deforested.  Over the decades, my site transformed in...

  10. Brazil On the Skids

            On a Monday afternoon after Brunie and I had spent a weekend in the capital city, we caught a two o’clock bus back to Glória, a trip of 126 kilometers, close to 80 miles. At home, that might have been a 90 minute ride, but in Brazil’s interior, frequent stops on the unpaved road stretched the trip to at least four hours.         Brunie had been in Glória a full year before I arrived. I had been there only four months.         Brunie had explained that many people from the interior, u...

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