1. Rwanda Another Side of Kigali

    When I leave my site and head to Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali, it’s a rare chance to catch up with fellow Volunteers, enjoy Western food, stock up on things I can’t get in other places, and frequent muzungu hang-outs where I can be somewhat anonymous.  As such, most of my time in Kigali has been spent in the wealthier neighborhoods.  But, I recently had an opportunity to see another side of the capital, and it was fascinating. While waiting for my boyfriend, who was coming from the States ...

  2. Malawi Africa's Fallen Angels

    Their crumpled, lifeless bodieslitter the cold cement floorAn unlikely graveyardRemnants of a long, overnight battle,a struggle to survivea fight for fooda buzzing debacle of sorts.Fallen soldiers,ripped limb from limbSilent, sleeping amputees,With no more song left to sing.The casualties were highon every side.Each army’s dismembered comradescreating a eery obstaclefor their gods to tip-toe by.No one gives a second glanceto their twitching,spazzing appendages.We cannot entertain the thoughto...

  3. Malawi Third World Super Women

    You haven’t seen a silent strength like this beforeThe long hours of physical labor“women’s work”I wonder if their necks aren’t made of steel orTheir hands of thick, soft kevlar.I’ve seen these women accomplish impossible featscarrying so much water atop their heads, a friend must help to hoist it up there.I’ve seen them grab angry, red coals with bare handsand hold the edges of cooking pots with no complaintsThese women come complete with night-visionas they walk calmly with ease besidemy st...

  4. Zambia Weaving Reed Mats

    When I first got to my Peace Corps village, I made friends with the oldest and most crotchety man in the village.  I made friends with him because he wove these beautiful reed mats and I wanted to learn how to make them.  At that point in my service, I didn't know that only men who were "retired" (old enough to do nothing else) wove these reed mats.  My language skills were rudimentary and he spoke no English.  I figured this would be a good way to improve my language skills and lea...

  5. Botswana Xi and I: Tales from the Kalahari

    In the semi-blockbuster movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, the protagonist, Xi, a bushman from Botswana, finds a Coca-Cola bottle in the Kalahari Desert. The bottle, dropped from a plane, is hitherto unknown to Xi and his people. As the story unfolds the mystery and newfound significance of this “gift from God” turns Xi’s uncomplicated world upside down. Separate characters appear and plotlines evolve–most affecting emotions and encounters Xi never had before–but the central theme is that the bott...

  6. Democratic Republic of Congo Celebrating MLK Day

    I remember tuning in the shortwave radio to pull the celebration of the first nationally recognized holiday in Dr. King's memory.  The battery was taken from the moto for this day.  We sat under the little lemon tree in my parcel and I was awestruck - half a world away, in the land of my ancestors, on the day the United States finally honored him.  Tears streamed down my face as I began to explain in Tshiluba what this meant to me and millions of other African Americans.  My kids, who all cal...

  7. Guatemala La Gringa

    The heat rising from the pavement was visible as I made my way along the winding road. The smell of kerosene hung like a cloud around my head in the stagnant air. Breathe in, breathe out. One, two, one, two; all of my efforts focused on the common goal of putting one foot down in front of the other as I made my way up a rise. At the top, salvation awaited me in purple shorts and a dingy Comunicaciones fútbol jersey. Don’t stop now. Almost there. The muscles in my calves winced as I begged the...

  8. Tonga Why the old King's village is famous for its pigs

    Mark dug the knife into the side of the pig, it's golden roasted skin crackling as he drew it down to its foreleg, carving out a generous haunch for the guest of honour sitting to his right: a pastor that would, at 10PM later that night, be one of the dozen preachers to give consecutive messages until bell rang 2011 in at midnight. We were sitting at a long table, looking out across green Tongan fields from the airy porch where the feast was set, red flowered cloths tacked up in horizo...

  9. India Postscript to history

    All the attention to the 40th anniversary in 2009 of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, reminded me of my own peculiar little footnote to this historic event. At the time, I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in the north-central Indian village of Rajnagar (rough translation: Kingston) where I was working, together with my colleague Jagdish Prasad Mishra, a "village level worker" (i.e., an agricultural extension agent), to help the local farmers increase their wheat...

  10. Mongolia Finding Christmas in Mongolia

    I woke up to another day in a village called Uliastai in western Mongolia. Wrapped in the warmth of my sleeping bag, I shimmied over to my wood-burning stove in the icy dark pre-dawn hours and gingerly lit a fire with the kindling I’d set aside the night before. Lying back down with my stocking cap on, I watched the flames dance around the circular walls of my tiny felt tent (ger). I thought about my family on the other side of the world, preparing a pot roast for our traditional Christmas Ev...

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