1. Madagascar American Canvas and Malagasy Yarn Or Malagasy Yarn and American Canvas (It depends how you look at it.)

      I wanted to bring back to America something I could show my family and friends. I knew that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ stories ware out quickly with those who have not had similar experiences so I wanted something people could see that would, perhaps, lead them to ask me questions.  I had a piece of American needlepoint canvas with me. I remembered the amounts of free time I had had when I was a volunteer in Iran long before I went to Madagascar. Not having a TV really gives you lots...

  2. Madagascar Five Squiggly Lines

    My January 14, 1997 journal entry is an award winner.   I like it because of the five squiggly lines that cascade down the page from the middle of words.   I shouldn’t be able to remember writing it but I have a vivid memory of laughing myself awake at the end of every squiggle.  The entries just before 1-14-97 were a little arbitrary when it came to writing a date.  I had a fixed date to write when I wrote the last entry in Washington, D.C.  The fourth group of Peace Corps Trainees bound fo...

  3. Senegal Running for the Rain, or to Find Love

    As part of the traditional start to the Rainy Season in my area, Thiura Pethie is an enormous festival involving storytelling, throwing millet and yogurt mixtures, traditional Serere wrestling, and running around sacred baobab trees.  A type of fertility ceremony, the youth of the community run around the tree, at least 3 times, in hopes of having good fortune and finding their soul mate over the course of the following year.  There is joy and anticipation in the celebration, praying for a bo...

  4. Senegal Let's Meet Under the Mango Tree

    This picture was taken the day before the naming ceremony of my village namesake, James Diouf, named after my father in the US.  The women of the village are all gathered under one of the largest village mango trees, taking turns pounding millet for the porridge and big meal the next day.  The women are sitting around, making tea, dancing, gossiping, and egging each other on as they pound.  The images from this day will forever be imprinted in my memories.  Thank you, ladies.

  5. Senegal Ndeye

    This is my sister Ndeye right before Tabaski during my second year at site (November 2009).  Everyone else was just sitting around, braiding hair or shelling peanuts.  Ndeye is extra special to me because when her son Ibou was born (her first child), he was extremely malnourished and Ndeye didn't know how to properly breastfeed.  I worked with her on it and coached her about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and Ibou started gaining weight!  He is now a healthy, active, and precocious...

  6. Senegal Lost in the woods

    This photo was taken on my third day at my site. I was terrified of these crazed, machete and stick-wielding tree-men (called gangurans in Mandinka), who run around the village threatening to beat children as they scream and run away. My host family egged me on to get this photo.   

  7. Madagascar My Driver the Hallmark Card

    I am not necessarily one for the Hallmark-ey things of the world. I do not watch Lifetime specials; I did not cry at the end of Titanic; Valentine’s Day makes me borderline nauseous. The last familial birthday card I sent was addressed, “From one deeply emotive heart to another.”But occasionally one encounters in life a person so delightfully cheesy and wonderful that even the least emotive heart cannot help but be swept away by their joy and charisma. It is as if one is suddenly and all at o...

  8. Madagascar Mango Season, A Metaphor for all Things Wonderful in Life

    On November 1st, it was though someone had flipped a switch and the rains began to fall. Six long months and many a fruitless rain-dance had produced hardly a drop, now, the opening of the sky is a daily event, one that requires due consideration for the afternoon schedule. For these are torrential downpours and venturing out in them is much akin in my my opinion to snorkeling: extreme difficulty breathing, high likelihood of drowning, thus high risk to low reward. Fortunately for the captive...

  9. South Africa I Spy a Waterbuck

    The boundaries of Kruger National Park in South Africa were just 2 km from our house in our village, so we had plenty of opportunities to visit and track down the wildlife there, trying to find at least one of everything that lives in the area.  Here's a particularly intimate photo (taken through the lens of a binocular) of a waterbuck relaxing in the shade during the heat of the day.

  10. South Africa Leapin' Lizards!

    This large lizard with crazy eyes fell off the rafters on our porch ("stoep") and our brother from our host family picked it up to show it to me.  Our home for 2 1/2 years can also be seen in the background.

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