1. Samoa To Sua Trench: Samoa

    My volunteer friend, Erica, had biked over to my village, Lotofaga in the Aleipata district of Samoa, for the weekend and I decided to take her to see Tō Sua Ocean Trench, an under-appreciated tourist attraction on the outskirts of the village. I’d been living in Samoa for nearly a year at that time, and Tō Sua was one of the first places my Samoan host family took me when I arrived at Lotofaga village – and I’d wanted to go back ever since. About a 15-minute walk from my house, the trench is...

  2. 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.  

  3. 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...

  4. 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...

  5. 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...

  6. Solomon Islands Verandah!

    We waited for a few months for our house to be built; during that time we felt isolated because the temporary digs were not equipped with a verandah, which we noticed quickly was important to every house. All social activity, communication, news-telling and decision-making took place there. When the house was complete and the full-length verandah went into use, Rachel and began our Peace Corps service in earnest.

  7. Niger Homemade Holidays

    (Taken from my blog: http://laballard.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/homemade-holidays/) This past weekend our region of volunteers celebrated Thanksgiving together.  It was a potluck style dinner that was fashioned from random findings in the city or from treasures shipped from home.  There was even stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, deviled eggs, cookies, salad, turkey, cheese ball, gravy, and rolls to be had.  The dilemma comes when everything takes just a little longer than it normally would to pr...

  8. Niger Troublemaker

    I spent a few days at the village kindergarten and, with the permission of the teacher, decided to take picutres of the kids to hang around the classroom.  This little stinker would be my next door neighbor who, with the help of his younger twin brothers, has been known to thow things into my concession.

  9. Niger Fishing in the Desert

    A few young boys used nets to catch the remaining fish in the seasonal lake before it dried up completely.

  10. Niger Plunder

    While walking 12k to a bush village for a naming ceremony, we came across a seasonal lake where a group of young boys were scouring the pond for fish.  This young boy was proud to show us his plunder.

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