1. Ecuador Amazon Trek

    “¡Dos días, pura bajada, y sequísimo!” The campesinos assured us that our Amazonian trek would take no more than two days. It would be downhill the entire way and, even though it was the rainy season, completely dry. (If only I could have conjured up that telltale chorus from the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song?!) Well, apparently, either 1) they had never taken the trip themselves or 2) they were giddily seeking Atahualpa’s revenge! It took Mike Wooly and me five long, painful days to rea...

  2. Ecuador Ya Mismo with Mingas

    I felt like I had woken up a half an hour before I had gone to sleep. The sun was still slowly drifting across the Atlantic, and stars from both hemispheres illuminated the Andean sky. I crawled off my paja (straw) mattress, threw on a few layers and began my trek.  I had come up with this elaborate (and somewhat loco) scheme to stock a mountain lake with trucha de arco iris or rainbow trout. It would involve transporting delicate fry from a nursery near Cuenca, Ecuador to a little cloud fore...

  3. Brazil Fruit and Nuts

    The cajú is an edible fruit which also yields one cashew nut per fruit. The nuts need to be roasted and shelled before they can be eaten. Aracajú, the capital of Sergipe, is named for the ara bird and the cajú.

  4. Brazil Precious Rain

    When I served in the Peace Corps in Brazil, I had no running water. The other PCV and I had to pay a neighbor to fetch water from a dam outside of town. Once a week, he strapped four large cans (each held about five gallons) to the sides of his donkey to carry water to us. There were water sources closer to town, but since those small ponds were used by many for washing clothes and watering animals, and we suspected the waste from the back yards of homes without outhouses ended up there, too,...

  5. Brazil Saving Water

    In the sertão ---the hinterland of northeastern Brazil ---there were years when it didn't rain at all. And even if it did, there was no running water, so people either had to carry water from a nearby dam or pay someone to do that or they might build a cisterna in the back yard to save rain water.  The ceramic-tile roofs were perfect for gathering water, for the rain ran to edge of the roof where it dropped into metal gutters that eventually carried the water to the cisterna which might be 12...

  6. Brazil Quadrilha

    For São João (St John's Day) in June, the high school students and other young people performed a quadrilha (square dance) for the citizen's of Glória.  It was a fun event. Everyone dressed up like a Brazilian hillbilly. We took weeks to prepare and practice the moves.   São João was celebrated as the beginning of winter ---the rainy growing season.   My students ranged in age from 12 to 44. The high school had been in existence only 3 years when I arrived. The small girl wearing red tights w...

  7. Brazil Flamed

    When I arrived at my Peace Corps site and discovered I would be living without electricity or running water, it seemed like my life there would be much like a two-year-long camping trip. I had been a Girl Scout. I was prepared ---or so I thought. I admit that it was fun for a while, using my Girl Scout skills and learning new ones to get along in the harsh environment, but after a while, I missed many of the conveniences of home. On one occasion, forgetting that things didn’t work in Glória t...

  8. Brazil Glória 1967 and 1969

      The Praça da Bandeira in the middle of Glória changed significantly over the two years I served there.   In the first photo, less than a month after my arrival, students marched in the 7 de Setembro (Independence Day) parade.  The concrete poles (you can see the ends of them stacked in the town square) were there in anticipation of full-time electricity that would be powered up before I left Brazil.   In the second photo, taken just a few days before my departure, my student Idalecinho sits...

  9. Brazil Overland

      My student Overland (pronounced Oh-ver-láwn-dee) was named for the text his father saw on a truck in an American movie. Overland often rode his horse to the family farm in the countryside to fetch fresh milk for his family. Occasionally, he stopped at the home Brunie (another PCV) and I shared. We boiled the milk and added cocoa powder and sugar, then we lingered over Overland's favorite beverage, hot chocolate. Since our only transportation (except for buses to other cities) was our feet, ...

  10. Brazil The Road to Heaven

    In Brazil, I was stationed in Glória, "heaven" in Portuguese. This scene was my very first view of the small city in the distance on the horizon, when the Peace Corps director for the state of Sergipe delivered me, my suitcase, and my footlocker to the town in the Peace Corps jeep.           The countryside was a lush green indicating recent rain. On the dirt road to Glória, we had negotiated many large puddles that hadn't dried yet from the hot tropical sun ten degrees south of the...

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