1. Yemen The World is a Funny Place

    We were invited to a celebration luncheon at a tiny village in Northern Yemen near the Saudi Arabian border. It was 1976, and some civil engineer Peace Corps volunteers had just completed building a concrete rain water catch basin to improve this village’s clean water supply. There were 30 people lounging on pillows in a circle on the floor of the village sheikh’s sumptuous living room in this expansive mud and stone home. He wanted to show us his gratitude, and a feast of roasted lamb, ...

  2. Romania Legacy of a Generation: The Peace Corps at Fifty

      Where were you in 1961?  It was such a long time ago and many of you weren’t even born yet.  But I was.  And so were many others of us who answered the call to service with the US Peace Corps.  Now, we are some of us grandparents, wanting to leave our own legacies to children and grandchildren.  This life has given us reason to be proud.  When our American president back then, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, spoke at his inauguration to the world, he asked us to look at who we were as Americans ...

  3. Ukraine "That Movement"

    @font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } My birthday celebration was in full swing. We were sitting in a bar, had ordered the first red beers most of us had come across in the country and smiles were all around. We had gone to this bar...

  4. Georgia A Typical Day in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia

    American Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia   Volunteering in a developing country for two years is probably exactly what you expect it to be -- a sparse water supply, gravel roads and an inordinate amount of farm animals.  Living in Georgia might bring out the inner hitchhiker or even the inner vegetarian in you. I wake up at six in the morning with the cocks.  At every hour of the day the cocks can be heard from any corner of my house, but they grow especially noisy at six in the morning, ju...

  5. Mexico Dress for Success

    On my first day of service at my new site, I reported to the SEMARNAT office in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico.  SEMARNAT is the Mexican equivalent of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and my assignment was to contribute my experience as a Coastal Engineer to a large wetland restoration project.  SEMARNAT wanted me to help design hydraulics, erosion, and water quality projects. Now I don't mean to brag, but I am a professional Engineer.  The work sounded very similar to projects I had worked on...

  6. Bulgaria A Tale of Two Minorities

    Suddenly, the music began to blare.  I turned to Katia, my counterpart, for an explanation.  “All the mehani (taverns) turn into discos at midnight.”  My glass of rakia (strong Bulgarian brandy) started teetering precariously close to the edge of our table as my fellow diners leapt to their feet and onto chairs, booths and, particularly impressive in stilettos, bar stools. Welcome to Bansko, Bulgaria.  As the pre-recorded music subsided, a group of Roma musicians took command of the rest...

  7. Venezuela Slick work

    Peace Corps volunteers are by nature creative, independent folks who frequently expend energy to delay or avoid altogether aspects of living in the host country that they find distasteful. One such aspect was the required gamma globulin shots that we as Peace Corps physicians were mandated to give to each of them at regular intervals to lessen the risk of acquiring viral hepatitis. Many would dutifully arrive at the medical office in Caracas. Others had to be hunted in their rural...

  8. Nicaragua Shat on by a Chicken in a Mango Tree

    I've mentioned before that the chickens in my host family's yard like to climb the ladder of the mango tree to chill up there all evening/night. So the other night, while unsuspectingly walking back from the latrine, I was struck by what felt like a falling baggie of water – which would not be entirely surprising, considering sometimes they have water fights here with baggies of water en vez de (instead of) balloons. To my dismay however, it was not one of the local kids hanging out in the t...

  9. Togo Becoming Abla

    A man does what he must to provide for his family. But in the small West African nation of Togo, it goes much deeper than that: each man is assigned a name based on the things he does, and is constantly judged by it. When I began my service as Peace Corps Volunteer in the village of Amegnran more than 15 years ago, I quickly learned that the predominant ethnic group in the area — the Ouatchi — classified every man by his character, work ethic and worth to his neighbors. According to the ...

  10. Malawi Eweyes (kids)

    How do you describe the experience of children living in a developing county? It's hard. Do you describe them physically? The fungal sores on their heads and bulging bellies with stick-like arms due to malnutrition? Do you describe their clothes? Often dirty, torn, ill-fitting or useless? How can you fit in the hardships, lost opportunites, hope, joy, their sense of family, the fact that children no more than babies themselves carry around baby siblings on their backs? I think the best w...

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