Practicing a New Language

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Mary (Mariama) studying Mankinda

 

From: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

Although it was supposed to be the rainy season, it didn’t last. We’d had a few “frog stranglers” as Bruce called them, but not nearly enough to get many of the local crops toward healthy growth.

After work one afternoon, as I made my way home I came across a man, also walking toward his village. We exchanged greetings and walked together.

The dirt path wound through a field of thin, withering millet. Although this staple grain towered above our heads, it wouldn’t produce much this year.

“This field is dry,” I commented in Mandinka. My walking companion nodded, his black face glistening with sweat. “Yes, we need more rain.”

Although the nights had been cool, daytime temperatures were again climbing. I tried not to think about the heat, now soaring close to 100 degrees. My dress stuck to my back, the long skirt caught at my legs. “It’s too bad we can’t get … water …” I groped for the correct word.

He prompted the Mandinka word for irrigation. “It is too far from the river to irrigate, Mariama.”

We stopped at a snake’s twisting track, its thick impression in the sandy soil still fresh. The Gambian held out his arm, holding me back until he determined we were out of harm’s way.

We resumed our trek. The trail narrowed and I automatically stepped behind my companion. “Couldn’t water from the river be piped in?”

“But how? Irrigation systems need motors and fuel and they are expensive.”

We reached a fork in the footpath. From the village to the right, pungent smoke from cooking fires greeted us. Voices and laughter drifted from behind woven fences.

My new friend gestured to the right. “I will go this way now.”

“Yes. Thank you for walking with me.”

“Mariama,” he called over his shoulder. “Your Mandinka is very good.”

Highly complimented, it was only then I realized my entire conversation had been in Mandinka; his had been in English. Without my realizing it, we had been practicing each other’s language.

 

 

Market Day in The Gambia

Ch-26-RGB 2From: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

 

 
Waves of 100-degree heat shimmered off the rice fields as I walked the two miles to market. Carrying my small back pack, a few recycled plastic bags, a quart-size porcelain bowl, and a small glass jar, I slowly passed a tired donkey plodding along, his head hung low, as he pulled a heavy cart loaded with sacks of millet. With each step I took, puffs of red dust settled on my legs and sandaled feet.

Market day in West Africa is a far cry from a quick run to Safeway in Seattle. It’s an adventure.

As Peace Corps volunteers serving in The Gambia, a small West African country, my husband Bruce and I lived as our hosts lived. We hauled our own water from the well, swept our mud-brick hut with a short locally-made straw broom, cooked our own meals, and bought our supplies at the open market and small stores. We didn’t have personal transportation, so we did as the local people and walked every place we went.

I heard my name called as I trudged along.

“Mariama! Salaam Malekum!” The name, Mariama, is the African version of my real name, Mary. The traditional Arabic greeting, Salaam Malekum, is heard throughout West Africa. It means “May peace be with you.”

“Malekum Salaam, Naba,” I answered the friendly African woman. She fell in step with me and we conversed in Mandinka, one of five local languages and the one Bruce and I learned during Peace Corps training.

I found Gambian women to be extraordinary. Their lives were not easy–they worked hard under very difficult conditions. Their strong bodies and graceful bearing impressed me. Typically, Naba carried a baby straddled across her back. Her wide-awake little son observed his world while held close to his mother’s warm body. When he became hungry, the woman simply switched him around to her breast. At the market, Naba and I parted, each to her own errands.

I’ll go to the meat market first, I decided with dread. The butcher’s shop, a small mud-brick building with a corrugated tin roof, was somewhat removed from the regular market. A large concrete counter separated the butcher from his customers. Goat, sheep, and beef carcasses hung from the ceiling. I tried to ignore the dead-animal smell.

The meat market crowd pushed their way to the counter. I, too, elbowed my way through the crowd. Whack! A hunk of beef fell off the carcass, severed with a mighty machete blow. Splat! Bits of meat and bone splattered on my dress and neck. Cringing, I held fast to my hard-fought place. Several flies left the main event, the beef carcass, and landed on me.

The butcher spoke a little English. “What you want?”

“Biff stek, please,” I answered. In The Gambia, previously a British-held colony, many words sound English but are pronounced with a local dialect. Whacking off a piece of meat for me, he placed it in my porcelain bowl. Then, as a treat, he dropped in a little pile of wrinkled tripe (cow’s stomach). Trying to show gratitude, I smiled, but knew I wouldn’t eat it, but I’d give it to our neighbor. As I left the meat market, my personal flies came too. I considered the benefits of becoming a vegetarian.

Fragrances bombarded me as I entered the main market, a large open-sided structure. Spices, sold by the bulk, were lined up in little bins. Large flat baskets displayed fresh roasted peanuts. The peanut vendor tore a scrap of paper–any type of paper–and folded a little package to hold the peanuts, still warm from an earthen oven. We briefly haggled over the price, an expected exchange, and I dropped the equivalent of a dime into his hand.

A baker sold piles of fresh baguettes. The earthy aroma of yeast permeated the air. Pankettas, flat yeast dough deep-fried in palm oil, quickly disappeared, breakfast for many shoppers.

I skirted around unpleasant smelling, fly-covered dried fish. We never bought it, though we’d eaten it in Gambian cooking and found it tasted as bad as it smelled. The fresh fish was lovely though and the catfish appeared to still be breathing. Anything that’s still breathing must be fresh. I bought a catfish, slipping it into one of my plastic bags.

Chickens roamed freely, pecking at the ground. Some weren’t so lucky and hung upside down, feet tied to a rod. They never seemed to struggle, awaiting their fate. As I shopped, I saw many women carrying live chickens in the crook of their arms as they conducted their shopping business.

Noise rose to an astonishing level when a bush taxi’s horn beeped as riders were dropped off. Donkeys brayed as they arrived with their heavy loads. Gambians often talked in a loud boisterous manner and now they shouted to be heard. Children darted about, squealing with their games.

Treadle sewing machines click-clacked in the background. There were no ready-made clothing shops in the village where we lived. When the need arose for a new dress or shirt, one bought the material and described to the tailor the style desired. Because of the heat, clothing was generally loose-fitting so exact measurements weren’t required, but these skillful tailors created an amazing variety of garments on their treadle machines.

I eagerly learned what vegetables were available that day. With no cold storage, the availability of most vegetables depended on the season. Tomatoes were available five months of the year, lettuce only about two months. One of our favorite vegetables, okra, was sold about nine months of the year. All year long squash was available as well as imported onions and potatoes.

Friendly women called my name, urging me to come to their attractive displays and buy the vegetables they had grown. Some men sold items too, usually businessmen who bought imported food to sell at the market.

Approaching one of my regular vendors, I admired her tomato display. Most fruits and vegetables sold by the pile, not by the pound. Each pile of five tomatoes displayed a similar assortment, perhaps one large, two medium, and two small tomatoes, in various stages of ripeness. One selects an entire pile, not one from this pile, one from that. I purchased two piles and a piece of squash.

A large rat streaked by my sandaled feet with a cat hot on its trail. Cats fend for themselves so catching that rat was serious business.

I spotted oranges, also arranged in piles of five. Although ripe, the oranges were green. Their tough skins required a sharp knife to peel. Once I counted fifty-two seeds in a single orange.

I remembered I needed rice and crossed to the other side of the market where a vendor sat next to a burlap bag. The man measured rice into my plastic bag, using a tomato paste can as his measuring device. Rice was grown locally, thanks to the Chinese who taught Gambians to cultivate this essential product. It was good rice but didn’t keep well. After a week or so it turned wormy and then it became chicken fodder. Our chickens loved it.

I needed flour. A warning stenciled on the side of the 50-pound flour sack read, “This is a gift from the United States of America. Not to be sold.” I purchased two scoops and moved on.

I had the feeling of being watched. Now I looked around quickly and sure enough, there she was, peeking out from behind a post. It was a game we played, the peanut-butter lady and I. Either she would sneak up on me, or I tried to come up behind her. We giggled like little girls at our joke. This delightful, tiny woman, beamed a huge smile showing beautiful white teeth. Her family grew peanuts and stored them for use during the year. Before going to market, she pressed fresh-roasted peanuts into a paste.

There was nothing more delicious than this fresh peanut butter, which they called peanut paste. Gambians prepare a sauce with it, called domoda, adding tomato paste and perhaps a bit of meat, spiced with hot peppers, and served on rice. Scrumptious! They couldn’t believe we spread peanut paste on bread, nor could they believe how much we bought! I held out my jar into which she plopped five two-inch balls, plus one more as a gift.

The market loomed bigger than life. The smells, noise, heat, and activity, seemed
to be the essence of these people. I considered the market to be The Gambia boiled down to the essentials. One struggled to conduct business, haggling over prices, jostling crowds, suffering with the heat and flies, but this ritual highlighted my week. While buying provisions, I’d visited with friends and shared with them their ancient marketing tradition.

 

Working in Sub-Saharan Africa

Tubob-at-Clinic

From: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

 

The heat in The Gambia, in Sub-Saharan Africa, made life difficult.

When my husband Bruce and I first arrived in our village of Mansajang, where we lived for two years, women often asked me where my “hat” was, meaning head-scarf. I couldn’t imagine wearing one more thing in that heat. The African women artfully wrapped a length of cloth around their heads. Binta, a woman in our compound, tried to put one on me. With my slippery hair, a scarf wouldn’t stay on, but the effort gave us a good laugh. I had a scrap of material left over from having a dress made and I fashioned a triangular piece of cloth into a scarf that I could tie in the back. I couldn’t believe how much cooler I felt not to have the sun beating down on my head. On extremely hot days, I sometimes soaked the scarf in water before wearing it and that cooled me even more, though it quickly evaporated.

I understood why so much didn’t get done. It was difficult to work in that heat. If it wasn’t the heat, we still couldn’t do what we wanted to accomplish due to lack of supplies. At the UN shop where Bruce worked, shortages prevented projects from completion. At the Health Centre, I often couldn’t visit villages because they only had enough fuel to go on scheduled clinic treks.

At times I felt overwhelmed with the little I could do. I expressed my discouragement to Bruce. His job was actually far more frustrating than mine. Between the heat and lack of supplies, our tasks sometimes seemed overwhelming. Talking about it helped and each time we came to the same conclusion: all we could do was give it our best. We both knew our best wasn’t enough.

Desperate for Rain

umbrellaFrom: TUBOB: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

 

The Gambia was desperate for rain. Flashes of heat lightning and thunderclaps teased us with promises, but other than a few scattered raindrops, no real rain. Even Africans complained of the heat and the thirsty crop’s need for rain.

Our Peace Corps friend Nathaniel invited his colleague Norman to Basse for a work related meeting and invited us to join them for dinner afterward at Jobot’s All Necessary Foods. The walk into Basse was especially humid, hot and sticky. I could almost feel rain in the air.

I grumbled to Bruce. “I couldn’t feel any wetter if it actually rained.”

He agreed. “I’ll bet before the end of this evening, we’ll have rain.”

It couldn’t be too soon for us. We had our usual great dinner at Jobot’s, making a big effort to ignore the heat. We headed over to Pa Peacock’s White House Fuladu East Bar for a cold drink. We’d been there for only a few minutes when it finally came, a few tentative drops, and then a deluge.

Bruce and I stepped outside and stood in the rain, laughing and getting soaked to the skin.

Most Gambians don’t like to get wet and will take great steps to avoid it. Nathaniel and Norman stood in the doorway watching us, amused. An African fellow watched with them and said to Nathaniel, “What’s wrong with those people?”

“They’re from Seattle,” Nathaniel replied.

An African Encounter with Hippopotamus

HippoFrom: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

One of our big goals while serving with the Peace Corps in The Gambia was to visit Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal. We were able to take the 3-day trip with two other couples, US AID people who had a vehicle at their disposal.

The drive getting to the park was long, hot and dusty. After some viewing, we were ready to call it a day and make the next day our main viewing day.

Camping was allowed only in designated areas and we found the camps spartan but adequate. On our first night, the riverside camp had a round grass-roof hut and a cooking hut with a bench. The hut nicely held four people so Bruce and I elected to pitch our borrowed tent outside.

After getting that hot work done, we couldn’t wait to cool off in the river. The six of us rushed into the river and gave a collective sigh of relief. I heard yelling and looked up to see the park ranger frantically waving for us to get out. “What? Get out? We just got here!”

We didn’t want to get into trouble, so we reluctantly climbed out of the river and up the bank, not yet really cooled off. Once he saw us safely out of the water, he pointed upriver. There, we saw a family of hippos, their tiny ears and eyes reflecting red showing just above the surface of the water. Oops. Guess it was the wrong time of day to be cooling off in the river.

As we climbed into our tent later that night, I said to my husband Bruce, “I don’t suppose this little tent is much protection from those hippos.”

“There isn’t room for two more in the hut.”

“I suppose we could set the tent up in the cooking hut.”

“Forget it. I don’t have the steam.” With that, he fell sound asleep.

Oh, well, I thought, and immediately drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, we saw dozens of big, flat hippo footprints leading from the river through the campground. Those huge animals had walked within two feet of our little tent, leaving footprints the size of turkey platters.

 

Fly-Day in The Gambia

There were always flies. We never got used to them, but in Africa flies are a fact of life. Over the two years we served with the Peace Corps, I spoke to many an African while a fly ran along the rim of an eye and the person barely flinched. We never acquired that acceptance.

When my husband Bruce and I drank anything out of a bottle, we automatically kept our hand over the opening to keep out flies. Woven straw fans were as much for batting away flies and mosquitoes as for stirring up a breeze.

But the day we forever after called “fly-day” was unbelievably awful. It happened on a Sunday and we were home all day. Conditions must have been just right, or just wrong, to create the “perfect storm” of flies. Our screened, thatched-roof hut remained relatively fly free, other than those that sneaked in when we entered, but we could control those few. On that day, the small mud-brick house where we cooked was another story. Flies and other flying critters could enter through the gap between the wall and corrugated tin roof. Flies were on every surface. There must have been three hundred flies on the overhead electrical wire that reached between the kitchen and the dining/living room, where we ate breakfast. We couldn’t bring a bite of food to our mouths without flies landing on it. In the old days we might have thrown out the food, but you’d starve if you did that every time a fly landed on your food in Africa. But this day that scenario was magnified a thousand times.

A video of us would have revealed people who appeared to have delusions with arm waving, hands suddenly going to our ears, nose and eyes. It was a nightmare.

“Whose idea was this?” Bruce asked, using Newsweek as a fly swatter, nailing three at one time.

I laughed. “Not mine! I think coming here was your idea.”

As soon as we could after eating breakfast we retreated to our hut, to spend the day hiding out, reading, and writing letters.

We had to brace ourselves to leave the hut to prepare meals. We worked like a well-oiled team, swatting and carrying on, then making a dash for the hut with our prepared food.
Fly-day lasted only the one day, to be followed by lots of flies, but not at that level.

 

Making Lists Isn’t Always the Answer

Worker preparing to be lowered into a well site.

From Tubob: Two Years in Africa with the Peace Corps

My husband Bruce’s job with the UN well-digging unit continued to be one frustration after another. He described it as “running a business on promises.” Getting supplies in a timely fashion was challenging. Many trips downriver could have been avoided if the upriver crew could have depended on routine supplies, such as motor oil, fuel and spark plugs. As it happened, they had been unable to change oil in the vehicles for some time because they couldn’t get enough oil to perform this task. They could only top up the oil when it was desperately needed. The disregard for vehicle maintenance grated on Bruce.

Sometimes equipment would go into the bush, only to break down and have to be rescued. Bruce knew many of these breakdowns could have been avoided with consistent maintenance. It was expensive for yet another vehicle to go into the bush to rescue the first, change a tire because there was no spare, take fuel which should have been filled before they left. The wasted time and resources slowed down the operation and raised expenses.

To help alleviate needless trips, Bruce made an itemized list of things that needed to be checked off before the Land Rovers and trucks left for the bush. Bruce instructed the lead mechanic to check off the items on the list as they were performed.

__ Tires checked
__ Spare tire checked
__ Radiator Level Checked
__ Oil changed, if needed (see schedule)
__ Check battery
__ Check brakes

A truck was about to depart and Karafa, the head mechanic, handed the to-do list to Bruce, with all items dutifully checked.

Bruce looked over the form. “Karafa, you’ve checked off ‘Oil Changed.’”

“Yes.”

“But we’re out of oil.”

“Yes.”

“How could you check this off then, if we don’t have oil?”

“We must check this off before truck can go to bush.”

“But you couldn’t change the oil.”

And on it went. Bruce then realized that Karafa, as well as most of the other men at the shop, couldn’t read nor write. Yet Karafa managed to maintain a fleet of trucks under very difficult conditions. Until you’re faced with situations like this, it’s hard to realize the advantages of education that we take for granted.

Dodging Longhorns in The Gambia

From: TUBOB: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

After work one day I walked to the farmers’ market with a long list of items we needed. Heading home, I tried not to think about the heat and the heavy pack on my back. Instead I planned our Easter dinner. Absorbed in my thoughts, I trudged along the winding path. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks. A large herd, maybe fifty head or so of longhorn cattle, grazed on the scrub grass, completely blocking the path.

To turn around and go back to take the road home would add at least a mile to my walk, not appealing in that heat. I looked around for a Fula herdsman, but didn’t see him, though I was sure a herd this size wouldn’t be here on its own. Most cattle, especially this many, were owned by the Serahule tribe, but herded by a Fula tribesman. Well, I’d just take my chances. I walked down the dusty path, talking softly so I wouldn’t startle them.

“Hi, guys,” I murmured. “I’m just going to slide right by you here.” I kept watching out for those long horns, hoping one wouldn’t stick me. Almost as worrisome was being swished by a shitty tail.

“Okay, here I am, just step aside.” I kept my voice low key, almost a whisper. A few of the cows mooed at me, some sort of grunted. None were alarmed, though they rolled their huge eyes at me. A few stepped out of my way; others let me step around them. Flies from the cattle landed on me, but I concentrated on not waving them off, trying not to make sudden moves. Churned-up dust settled on my shoulders and hair. I walked perhaps a quarter of a mile through the scattered herd before reaching the other side of them.

At one point along the path, a small hill rose on one side. From the hill I heard, “Abete ata bake, Mariama!” Well done, Mariama!

I looked up and saw the herdsman sitting in the shade. He waved. I waved back. The poor guy probably had held his breath the whole time I wove my way through the cattle, expecting to have to pry me off one of those long horns.

For weeks afterward, I heard about that incident. Word spread like locusts in a maize field. Woman couldn’t imagine why I would do such a thing. Men thought I was probably just ignorant of what could have happened to me. I kept telling everyone who questioned me that it was just too hot to turn around and go home the long way.

What Did That Drum Just Say?

From: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps

Woman at traditional well

The UN well in front of our compound was a popular watering hole for all of Mansajang. Although the village proper did have a water spigot, it often didn’t work and when it did, people complained of the water’s taste. All day long, women and girls came to the UN well to fill their tubs and pails of water, carrying the heavy loads on their heads as they returned to their compounds.

Because washing clothes has such a high demand for water, many women washed clothes right there at the well, then carried their clean wet clothes home to hang on their compound fencing. They used the local soap, OMA, made from peanut by-products. My husband Bruce became concerned about soap residue filtering through the soil into the well water.

He made a circle of rocks around the well a safe distance away and asked the women to wash clothes outside the circle and explained that this would keep the well water clean. It made more work for them, having to haul their heavy tubs farther from the water source, but they obliged him when he was there, and promptly went back to their former habits when he wasn’t. Bruce patiently reminded them with good natured banter. The problem, of course, was that the women didn’t understand they were jeopardizing their own water supply.

One evening a man from Mansajang called on us and asked Bruce to talk to the village about safe water. Probably, this particular man was sent because he could speak English. Apparently the village elders had gotten wind of a problem with the well and wanted everyone to understand. Delighted, Bruce accepted his invitation.

“What time should we be there?” I asked.

Surprised with the question, the fellow answered, “After evening prayers. You’ll hear the drum.” Gambians had a different sense of time than we did. Watches or even clocks were rare. Activities centered around Muslim call of prayers five times a day. When it was time, people, mostly men, stopped what they were doing, brought out their prayer mats, faced Mecca to the east, and prayed.

A word about the drums. Three basic types of drums are common in The Gambia: the rhythm drum, used for dancing; the ceremonial drum, used for more serious things such as funerals or other somber events; and the talking drum. The talking drum has a sort of “boink, boink” sound to it with varying pitches. People understand the talking drum, as they understand their language, whether it be Mandinka, Wolof, or any of the tribal languages. The talking drums provide tremendously efficient communication, especially in areas where there are no telephones

Knowing that we would hear the drum, we agreed to be at the village meeting place.
Sure enough, we heard the drum soon after we’d finished our dinner. We walked to the center of Mansajang, perhaps a half mile away. The meeting place, a raised platform under a giant baobob tree, was devoid of people. One lone person walked by. In Mandinka, I greeted the man, then said, “Where are the people?”

“The people aren’t here.” Such a typical response. I never got used to it. The man resumed his walk.

“But we heard the drum. We are here for the meeting,” I called after him.

He turned to look at me, shook his head and tsked. “The drum said there was no meeting.”

Apparently one of the village’s important people couldn’t attend so the meeting had been postponed.

Gambians found it hard to believe that we could understand, or “hear,” Mandinka, but we couldn’t “hear” the drums. I’m sure in their eyes we were so hopeless.

Writing TUBOB: A Dream Fulfilled

Well, it’s about time. What I had fantasized about for so many years–writing about our two years in West Africa–has at last become a reality. What took me so long? I wonder that myself. I guess in my mind it was such an overwhelming experience, so personal and heart-felt, I wasn’t sure I could put it adequately into words.

For me, it’s easy to make up a story. I’ve done it since I was a little kid. My older sister taught me. I’d beg her to tell me a story and she finally said, “Mary, make up your own story. Think of something you’d like to hear or read, and tell yourself a story.” That first time, she gave me an opening sentence and I took off from there.

Along the way my need to tell stories became three novels, all contemporary western, all well received: Tenderfoot, McClellan’s Bluff, and Rosemount.

But to tell something that’s true, that represents our own heart-felt and hard-won experiences, is different. For some reason I couldn’t get past the idea that it wasn’t a “story,” it was true to life, sometimes painfully so.

Sure, I could write little snippets and I did write about a few experiences on my blog with favorable results and encouragement to write a book. But these were usually positive experiences, and our two years in Africa were not all positive. They were often grueling, discouraging, even scary. But are we glad we did it? Absolutely!

Finally, I decided I would have no peace until I at least tried to write the story about our Peace Corps experience in The Gambia. We had asked our families to save our letters to them. I couldn’t stand the duplication of effort to keep a journal and write home. This was before email, so all our letters were either hand written or typed (I had sacrificed space and weight to take a manual typewriter).

I sorted through all the letters written by both of us, putting them in date order. I began to see I needed to have some sort of index so that I could avoid volumes of data entry, so I created a computer index with various subjects: names, Bruce’s work, my work, animals, etc., and referred to a coded recipient and the date. Soon, I had 42 pages of categorized key words. And I had my inspiration. I relived those years, remembered the sweat and tears, and the joys. Despite the elapsed years, thanks to our letters home, I could recount details that would make the story real to readers.

It took me two months to go through and annotate all the stacks of letters. In January, 2012, I began to write my memoir and wrote straight through to May. Editing and proofing is another matter, but I enjoyed that part, too.

I had worried that I might offend some people we knew in Africa. In most instances, I use actual names for real people. But in a few cases, I have changed the names to avoid hurt feelings or embarrassment. In a couple of instances, in the interest of clarity, I have combined characters.

Bruce took hundreds of 35 mm pictures while in The Gambia. We had mounted the slides in trays and every once in awhile we viewed them or shared the pictures and stories with others. Once I could see an actual memoir in the making, we invested in the equipment necessary to convert the slides into digital form. Bruce spent countless hours selecting and editing the pictures so that we would have meaningful images for the beginning of each chapter. Bruce also designed the book’s cover, using his artistic talent to make a cover representative of the story.

So, finally, we have produced an honest recounting of our two years in The Gambia with the Peace Corps. I have made every effort to be objective, and to fairly and honestly tell the story of our time in a third-world country.

Perhaps I needed to wait 30 years so that I could be more objective. Surely, I have gained in wisdom and global awareness in that time. We have never been back to The Gambia, but I hear from people who have and they report not much has changed. Electricity does not reach many homes, people still haul water from a well, many of the struggles remain the same. Education is more available. With the Internet, Peace Corps volunteers now have better communication with family and friends back home. That would be a huge improvement and eliminate many of the anxieties we felt.

Some lessons I learned remain. You take the bad with the good. You live in the moment. And in the bad times, remember that “this too shall pass.”

TUBOB: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps is available at local bookstores, Amazon.com, or through my website, www.MaryTrimbleBooks.com