1. Niger Washing machine

    Each evening in Niger I had dinner with Chatou, the wife of the schoolteacher.  One night, her eyes grew very big as she asked me: "Maimouna, I heard... that in America, you have a machine that washes clothes!"  I confirmed this for her, and she asked me how it worked.  In my best Zarma, I described a large metal box, with a tube to connect to the water pump outside, and with basket with holes in it on the inside.  The basket fills up with water ("How does it fill up, if there ...

  2. Cameroon Only in Africa

    This was a story that as it was happening, I just kept thinking, “only in Africa, only in Africa”.  Here’s the back-story first.  So normally the rainy season ends at the end of September or the first few weeks of October (it might rain from time to time but for the most part the dry season has started to set in), but here we are into November and it’s still raining almost every day.  As a result of this nonstop precipitation the roads are in TERRIBLE shape.  It’s gotten so bad that if it rai...

  3. Burkina Faso Bintou

    Some things are universal – like children’s distaste for baths.  Every evening Adama, the mother of the family with which I shared a courtyard, would try to convince Bintou, the family’s 3 year-old, to cooperate while an older sister gave her a bucket bath.  Sometimes the promise of a photo would help.  

  4. The Gambia Joankunda

    Joankunda was the head wife of my host family. She was the one who understood me before anyone else did. After twenty-five years away from each other, we still had a strong bond.

  5. The Gambia Joankunda

    She sits in the shade on a worn pink silky cloth laid on the raised cement slab that is a resting place in the late afternoon. Joankunda and three of her grandchildren gather under the sloping grass roof while the children’s mothers sweat over simmering pots of spicy stew that will be the evening meal for the family. Now that her two oldest sons are married, Joankunda no longer has to cook. The daughters-in-law take turns preparing the food. This is a well-deserved break for Joankunda, a...

  6. The Gambia A Lovely Parting Gift

    A Lovely Parting Gift Twenty-one is a certain age, at least it was for me. I was certain that I understood how the world should work and disdainful of how people had so thoroughly messed it up. I left school certain that I was armed with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world. I thought I knew what lay ahead for me when I got on that plane for Peace Corps. I didn’t have a clue. Twenty-five years later I still don’t know what difference I made in that little mud-hut...

  7. Kenya Basket ladies

    Local craft in my village

  8. Kenya Philosopher King in a mud hut.

    Sept 15 2004 I found the Philosopher King in a mud hut. At the end of his or her service, most volunteers have a wish for their departure. That is, that , although, he leaves the village, his legacy and good efforts will stay. I trusted John; he had that kind of determination to turn a mud house into a marble palace. The DDC. the African Inland church, the people in Ikutha, and even those in Ikutha were unsure of his capabilities. ‘He is a young man,” they thought. As if all ...

  9. Ivory Coast Unexpected pleasures of travel

    Traveling by Peugeot station wagon bush taxi from Abidjan to a small town just inside Liberia, in the iron-rich area around Mount Nimba, upon arriving at the frontier, a small river, the customs agent pointed out that I couldn't enter Liberia -- I should have had my passport stamped at the last town through which I had passed, twenty some kilometers back - and only one last taxi-brousse would make the trip that particular evening. As the Peugeot finally headed back for Danané, where I had not...

  10. Madagascar Vingt-Six Dance

    In celebration of Madagascar's Independence, the 26th of June ("vingt-six"), communities throw a large party.  In the South-East region, dances are performed in order to raise money for local groups.  Here men dance in a train as villagers come forward to contribute money at their feet. 

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