1. Burkina Faso Of Drumming and Lightning in the Faso

    It wasn’t the drumming that woke me.  This was, after all, “funeral season” in Burkina Faso.  A period well after the harvest that this west African country of mostly subsistence farmers has the time and money to mourn the death – and celebrate the life – of those who passed away in the last year with all night drumming and dancing sessions.  Having lived in this village in southeast Burkina as a Peace Corps volunteer for the past 20 months, I was used to going to bed to the rhythm of the dru...

  2. Malawi Chapati Camaraderie

    Clothes cram up against clothes, up against walls, and people cram up against walls, and stalls, with stalls cramming up against stalls, and baskets, bags, and babies fill in the spaces between. After a venture past baskets, bags, and babies, and a careful avoidance of mysterious most likely toxic puddles, one may happen upon the Chapati Lady in the Mzuzu market. This morning for breakfast I had two chapati, two eggs, shredded cabbage salad with tomato, and chips all pleasantly coated in grea...

  3. Nepal Baglung Pani Miss

    A word of advice: avoid moving to a village where a volunteer preceded you. When I moved to Baglung Pani, Andy Walker was my own personal Freddy Krueger, popping into every conversation, and shredding my every deed. At each “good morning,” people would point to the hostel next to the school and tell me, “Andy Walker built that. What are you going to build?” At noon, the woman who gave me tea would drill me with questions in rapid Nepalese and then announce, “You don’t speak as wel...

  4. Niger A Day in the Life

    (a description of a day in the life of a niger peace corps trainee, from my blog: www.xanga.com/astronomigirl)   “There is one way to understand another culture: Live it.  Move into it, ask to be tolerated as a guest, learn the language.  At some point, understanding may come.  It will always be wordless. The moment you grasp what is foreign, you will lose the urge to explain it.”   The call to prayer sounds every morning at sunrise, wailing “Allaaaaaahu Akbar!” as the men make their way to ...

  5. India A Different Way to Achieve Immortality

    I opened the paper some months ago and came across a funny article about ear hair that transported me back to my Peace Corps days in village India, over half a lifetime ago. The article was by local columnist David Shapiro, who must be about my age – give or take a few summers – because he wrote, quite entertainingly, about a battery-powered ear- and nose-hair trimmer, a gift idea for males, like me, who have started on their second half-century. “Can you imagine if teen-agers had...

  6. Morocco Speaking Up

      “Arabs treat their women terribly…women’s rights in Arab countries are just non-existent…I would hate to be a woman there.” I overheard the gentleman while on a layover at the Chicago O’Hare airport in November 2004. Immediately, my stomach tensed and my blood pressure began to rise. Had I been sitting next to the man a year before, I doubt I would have reacted so adversely. But this year, I was heading home for a vacation from my first year as a Volunteer in Morocco. I had lived and breath...

  7. Tanzania Machine Chickens

    I remember the incubator miracle like it was yesterday.  I was an upper primary school teacher in Monduli, Tanzania in 1966.  Among the projects that I was involved in was the development of a flock of chickens both for eggs and for meat.  The project started with 100 eggs from the area agricultural college and a kerosene incubator provided by Peace Corps. A small room was found for the incubator and the project got underway. As the project progressed, I became aware of not only interest...

  8. Burkina Faso A Woman's Place?

    “Ko ko ko!” I look up from my book while anxiously waiting for students to arrive on the first day of the student-run “kids’ school.” “Ayo. Fofoo. Wariga.” “Yes. Hello. Come in,” I reply to the voice announcing a girl’s arrival at my courtyard gate. I wait in the shade of my straw porch, lazily deciding not to face the brutal Sahelian sun since custom doesn’t require me to rise to greet her. Since moving to Burkina Faso last year, I have found that the temperature seems to intensify...

  9. Moldova Gender Roles

    The Romanian language is split into genders, just like French or Spanish. For example, masă, or table, is feminine while scaun, or chair, is masculine. I introduce myself as a profesoară, not a profesor, because I am a woman. This makes teaching gender roles to my 5th-7th grades this week difficult, as the very words I speak have an assigned gender. Usually, the masculine and feminine versions of a word have the same meaning. I may be an americancă and you may be an american, but we are ...

  10. Ethiopia Peace Corps Pet Vignettes

    I was 22-23 when I was in the Peace Corps and was courted by quite a few Ethiopian gentleman who all knew that I LOVED animals. I received two bunnies from a guy working outside Addis Ababa who lived near a couple who raised bees for honey, which is what we made Tej from, good to drink and yes, you can get tipsy from it. I already had a cat and a dog, and another man saw the bunnies and brought me two big white ducks, thus the need for the duck pond. The Duck Story. Thanksgiving was...

Countdown to Weekly Contest Deadline!

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