February 19, 2003: Headlines: COS - Gabon: PCVs in the Field - Gabon: Personal Web Site: Leslie Sheppard's Gabon Web Site (Part 2)
Peace Corps Online:
Peace Corps Gabon :
The Peace Corps in Gabon:
February 19, 2003: Headlines: COS - Gabon: PCVs in the Field - Gabon: Personal Web Site: Leslie Sheppard's Gabon Web Site (Part 2)
Leslie Sheppard's Gabon Web Site (Part 2)
Leslie Sheppard's Gabon Web Site (Part 2)
Dear Mom and all the ships at see,
Weird paper, huh? When I run out of typing paper, this'll be what I'll be writing on all the time. I'm using it right now because I'm at Julie Silva's house in Bitam. She's an English as a foreign language teacher here at the catholic mission. Still Peace Corps, just not so backwards as some. She's dating another construction volunteer in the area named Tom. I'm watching the rain thunder down in the last hours of the day. My chatier's 15km outside of Bitam, normally not a long distance, but oweing to the recent events, I'm not chancing the road in the rain. Wanna hear my story?
Oct. 3, 1996
Well, thing's have calmed down a lot since then. Pasta, a little pig whom we kept along with another during stage, is cautiously exploring a bowl of old rice we put out for her. She was supposed to be part of the end of stage fete, along with her pen-mate, but since Joe was gone, it wasn't until the day before the fete that we realized she belonged to someone else. So, due to the chaos, she escaped uneaten. Now she hangs out on the site, reminiscing about the good old days of lots of leftovers, and we feed her a bit when we can, because we like her company.
The night before I wrote that introduction up top, I had also been in Bitam, I'd bought some bread, some fruit, an avacado, and a very preety raku ashtray with elephants with entwined trunks atop it, as a housewarming gift for J.J., who had that day moved into the tool storage house (hereafter - the magasin). It was raining as usual, not hard, as it had been earlier, just a medium drizzle. I'd had dinner with a couple of the volunteers, so it was dark as I put on my headphones. Bruce Springsteen started to sing "Thunder Road" and I took off toward home. I drove very carefully, as the roads turn to sluices and slurries of water and mud in the rains. On a downhill about halfway home, all the careful driving in the world couldn't have stopped that truck. Neither brakes nor steering mattered as the wheels tracked along a frictionless rut towards the left shoulder, which for obvious reasons, is actually a meter deep ditch along both sides to hopefully channel some of the water. I counter-steered, disengaged the clutch, and feathered the brake. The wheels caught the edge of the rut and began to climb back onto the road surface! Then, quicker than I could even swear, they found a new rut and slid smoothly into the far wall of the ditch on the right side of the road. Bread, avacados, ashtray, headphones and driver were sent at a considerable rate of speed forward. Luckily, Land Cruisers have almost vertical steering wheels, so I met plastic, not glass.
The start-up lights of the now stopped engine shown back at me. The windshield wiper had somehow been knocked too high, so I switched them off. Amidst the ringing in my ears and the screams of my left shoulder, I could hear Springsteen, faintly, singing "Born to run." For a minute, I just sat there, figuring my shoulder was broken, waiting to collect my wits enough to try and get back on the road. Then a face appeared in my side window. Ca va? he asked, and asked if I needed any help. I thanked him and said I thought I was ok. Well then, he said. Do you think you could give me and my kids a ride up yonder? !!? Only in Gabon would a man have the BALLS to ask someone who'd just careened off the road into a ditch, for a ride! What could I say? Yeah, sure, whatthafuck. A minute later, 12 ADULTS, not kids, had materialized and were singing in the back of my pickup as I drove the same treacherous road toward home. Guess it's hard to catch a cab that time of night on a sunday.
So, like my story? Well how could you? I haven't told it yet! That's just the prelude!
When I arrived home after depositing my cargo, who all said "Thanks you meester" (folks love to practice their English on you), so I pulled into the chantier, stiffly pulled myself out from behind the wheel, and gathered my scattered belongings. Miraculously, the ashtray was intact! I went into the magasin, and caught up with J.J.. He was telling me about Daniel, our oldest and most level-headed worker, havign had come in earlier and ranting to J.J. to what end of which J.J. of course ahd no idea, as he speaks no French so far. As luck would have it, I got to hear the story first hand, for at that moment Daniel came in, tailed by Mayen Mbn, another worker.
In an Oscar-winning dramatic performance Daniel recounted having chased away 3 intruders on friday night, while we were all in Oyem for the swear-in. (we had left him to sleep in the magasin to guard everything.) By pointing a flashlight and a stick at them, and yelling for help, he had put them to flight, helped no doubt by the appearances of the school director, who came out with his shotgun. At this point Moyenemba, who was obviously drunk, interrupted to ask for a light for his cigarette. Daniel turned and SCREAMED at him in Fang, until Mba slunk into the shadows again. After this, nothing occured 'til sunday, Daniel told me, when as he was sitting at after mass lunch with his family and friends, an occasion stopped in front of his house, and TEN men got out, armed with knives, machettes (later he added spears) and clubs. They promised to kill him, and left.... MmmHmmm...., came my response. Pity, they voice of reason in our group has taken a half-gainer off the 12ft end of the pool. Flustered, but undaunted, Daniel launched into his 2nd retelling of the story, even more animated and furious than before -- Eh, excuse me, Leslie. Can I... Moyenemba, oblivious, interrupted again, but this time, along with the royal thrashing out, Daniel reared back and decked Mba, with all his strngth, across the face. Mba staggered into the hallway and crouched, cradling his now resonating cranium in his hands. Daniel now had my undivided attention. He repeated his story once again for clarity, and I very politely listened, nodding at the appropriate junctures.
Now came the request for a favor. This seems to be the only time a villager wants to spend any time around you. 'Course they spend alot of time around you, if that's any clue. Since he was threatened for defending our chantier, we (actually I, 'cuz I know the lingo) had to take him to the gendarmes (police) up the road on the Camerounion border, to file a report. This I did monday. The officer listened blandly to Daniel's tale, which by now was getting old, and gave him a convocation, or subpoena, for a hearing the next morning. This brings us to when I first started the letter, Monday night in Bitam, after trying in vain to radio Libreville, in order to tell them, and now you as well, that we were both going to be living in the magasin, and when work was over for the day, the chantier was closed, and nobody, but nobody, was allowed in, under penalty of being snuck up on and clubbed by us. J.J. and I made a big production about this, as it made Daniel happy (who in turn keeps the workers happy) and also promised us a modicum of privacy for a while. neat how things work out! Course, I've lost a whole house in the village in favor of a single room in the magasin, amongst tools and bags of cement. But it's quiet here, and in the village there's a commotion, and kids standing in your doorway staring at you, ALL the time. That's how Gabon is, especially if you're not the same color as the rest of humanity. Only through quick thinking upon weird circumstances did we accomplish this modicum of tranquility.
Tuesday came. The workers came. Daniel did not. I was dressed up for my first Gabonsese trial, on enquete (inquest). So, as it was approaching the hour of our enquete, I went searching for Daniel. I found him two villages down, trying to get either the chef du village, or the 3 lads in question, to go with us to the gendarmerie! Seems in Gabon you serve summons yourself. I don't want to say I figured, but the 3 kids were less than willing to accept a ride from their accuser to jail. Therefore, we had to go back to the chantier, where Daniel worked a half day, in his dress clothes, while we waitied for the 3 to pass by in an occasion. Apparently it's hard to get a cab on tuesday mornings, too, because an hour and a half later the three came trudging by on foot, bound for the gendarmerie, in Meyo-kye, 14 kilometers away! As I rolled my eyes heavenward, God took pity and sent a occasion to pick them up. We waited another half hour for them to have a head start, then took off.
When we had all gathered in the Gendarmes office, (which is indistinguishable from any other Gabonese room, dirty concrete walls and wooden slatted windows, except for the presence of 4 tables and a like number of chairs, plus two for visitors, a typewriter, a daybed propped against the wall, and the whines and distorted voices of the radio room beyond.) Daniel began his deposition to the same gendarme, only now instead of his official french looking uniform, he sported a red/white striped t-shirt, jeans and flip flops. The three youths sat politely then each told their side of the story... all this was in french, as opposed to fang, for my benefit. Pointless, but a nice gesture. The gendarme, during all this, shredded a piece of paper and tossed the bits at a trash box, and at no time ever giving the impression that he gave a rat's ass. As the 3rd youth finished, the gendarme asked "Is that all?" and preceded to blast into the three kids! "Are you seriously trying to say you walked 3km at 2am, just to take a walk? Do you WANT to go to prison?" He laid into 'em for a good 20 minutes, while Daniel quietly beamed, pressed my hand and whispered "Everything's okay, now."
The youths were given orders to return thursday. Daniel was asked to summon the two other witnesses from the first night, and we were free to go! Speedy 3rd-world justice! Who would've thought? Daniel bought me a soda at the bar afterwards and we talked a bit (I don't drink much beer anymore here, hot 20oz'ers cure you quick) then we caught up to the three little 'bandits' on the road, and gave them a ride home. Daniel was happy. First test.... first test passed. Today, thursday, J.J. took Daniel et al (including Moyemba, whose one eye is sowllen almost shut) back to finish up in Meyoteye. I promised him he wouldn't have to talk.
With all the problems this chantichas had, between the fiasco at the first constructor here, the robbery and attack, and other various and sundry that have become so matter of fact.... [EDITOR'S NOTE: I can read this to type it in]
....to make it into print, I feel like this is our place, and we're the guys for the job. Our workers seem to respect us, and between my language, J.J.'s technical, and our combined management, we ought to be able to pull a decent school out of this. Of course you won't hold me to what I just said, will you?
Things are definitely different and weird here, but it's not so bad. Fact is, the only thing that really sets me off-balance is thinking of home, and those left behind. You're probably thinking "Remember, Leslie, the grass is always greener on the other side," but I think you know how good you all are, and how much you mean to me. I had it really good in the states, between those I loved and my footloose lifestyle. I think the thing that made me journey to Africa, to take on this task, the only thing I didn't like about my life then was me. I thought I needed to have something big, something major, so I could point to it and say, "I did this! I accomplished something!" That's just silly though. I know I didn't need to prove anything to you all. it's funny how our longest journey's, to the most unfamiliar territores, are right here between our ears. Africa's just more folks, just like everyone else, plus a lot of bugs and trees and cool stuff, but it's just a place I came to reflect on what I do have, and who I am, and how content I could be if I only let myself.
I've come to many realizations here. It's truly the reason I came. I could leave right now happy with the me I am, but I gave my word to stay, and I always keep my word. Or well at least unless there's a really good reason not to. No, when I look at that little enameled Peace Corps pin I got last friday, I feel proud to be part of this. We're a lot cooler than the Marines, you know.
Oct 4th, 1996
Told you I'd change my mind, fuckers. After work today we threw a little party. Beer, popcorn, and a 200F a dayr aise. The workers loved the beer and popcorn, but they stared stonily at me when I announced the raise. Seems instead of a piddly 10% raise they were figuring on 75%! or at least 50% more. Now I've got to spend my saturday morning argueing with, yes, Daniel again over why we aren't going to give them any more, and how we're actually being nice, because the raise wasn't scheduled until all the walls were up in the school, a good month away! This is, coupled with the fact that I have to take Daniel to the gendarmes AGAIN tomorrow morning (this is the fifth time) because J.J. can't speak enough french, and the gendarmes are threatening to throw one of the kids in prison in Oyem for a simple, first-time, gonna get whupped by his dad anyway, trespassing and harassment charge! I hope Daniel's proud now, after his hystionic retelling of "The great chantier break-in" (which incidentally, even Gabriel, who came running to his aid with a gun, doesn't believe.) Fortunately for the kid, who I'm sure has learned his lesson 6 times over (I sure have, and I didn't even do anything!) they asked us, the 'patrons' of the chantier, what they should do - freedom or prison. So thank god I got my french down in time! Tomorrow I go give my opinion on the fate of the little bandit, which will of course be to let his faimly handle it, and if it happens again, I'm going to call a pre-emptive napalm strike on the whole area! I am also in the process of not paying Daniel any more money, going to politely tell this rspected old wise man that I'm finished being his ride and his token white guy/authority figure, to the cops! Ingrateful bastards! I left my loved ones to help THESE people?
O.K. That was just to give you the flip side of the great coin of African life here. In two years, we will never make connections anywhere near the power of our people at home. We're always outsiders, even from each other, I find. People, I guess, naturally take from strangers, and give to family. Folks here always take stuff back to their wives and kids, even their salaries! Today both Daniel and Moyenmba took their 2nd beer back to their wives. We'll never ne like them here, no matter how 'grass roots' we try to be. Too much is too different. I have always thrived on the love of those close to me. It being so far away, and there being no local source (save J.J. and Julia) makes it hard.
Now I'm going to try to be more uplifting, because by the time you read this I'll be a month further into this and hopefully wiser and more content for the experience. Pasta's still hanging around. She'll eat from our hands now, and we've made it known (and it's a big joke now) that she's our buddy, so Xmas dinner better be turkey. I know he'll stick for me for all I've got, but if Pasta and I are dog/person buddies by the time this is over (this chantier) I'm going to ask Gabriel if I can buy her from him, and take her to my next chantier. Hell, people have pets here, why not a pig?
The road in front of our chantier, with it's head in Bitam and tail at the Camerounian border, is probably older than this country. It was not made for motor vehicles (I've made that abundantly clear, I'm sure. (By the way, shoulder's much better) The road winds, dips and rises past more than a dozen villages, most of whom have only existed in their present location since the government, in order to better count it's constituents in the different regions of Gabon, moved all villages from their age-old locations, far back in the forest, to the side of the road. This was called regroupment. I've seen a couple of old villages down south, which are still occupied from tmie to time, due to the village plantation being nearby.
Even though these villages are kilometers apart from one another, foot traffic abounds. As soon as day breaks, as we're rolling out our wheelbarrows, somwen with huge baskets strapped to their backs, or basins of laundry, are making their way down the road. Men follow with machettes, or chainsaws, or the odd shotgun (held together with pipe clamps invariably) to harvest, or cut lumber, or hunt. The women return in the evenings, their packs loaded down with wood or produce from the plantation. The men return too, empty handed save the chainsaws balanced perfectly on their heads as they stroll home. Always in groups of two or three, or alone. No corporations here. Next day when buisness calls us down the road, we see the products of the men's labor: stacks of beautifully sawn, straight, chain-saw cut lumber. This is the efficency of a people left to their own devices, and I ask myself, what is it we expect to teach these people? Since when has progress improved their lives? Between the love/hate relationship I have with the people amongst whom I live, this is a question I wrestle with almost daily, as I sit and reflect on the day's madness,or magic. What is it that has possessed man, especially white european or american manm to wander to the far places of the earth, whether for conquest or simply exploration. Seems everywhere we go we find folks who have been there for eons, and happy for it, or folks who were happy 'till others like us came and tried to improve upon something we didn't understand.
---Well, J.J. came to the rescue. I posed the above question to him, and he handed me a xeroxed portion from a book about Gabon we'd been given at the swear-in, but I hadn't read it. In it, it described the birth of the construction program in Gabon, how peace corps had gotten involved, and, more importantly, why. I won't go into details (for once in my life) but suffice it to say it reminded me that I, who am loved and have friends at home, I am over here to be me. Maybe I won't make connections as strong and as lasting as the ones I have with you, but I will make connections. I'm a simple, decent fellow from America. I'm not rich, powerful, or glamorous. I'm just folk. Maybe folks here won't have to travel halfway 'round the world to learn what I am coming to know.
Lordy, all that bitching for one uplifting message! Sorry, guess that's the price for a free-association thought process letter, to be turned into a best-selling self help book at some future date.
I just today received 3 letters from Libreville, from another constructor who'd been there. They were dated the 27th of August. One month + 6 days. Not too good.
Don't let the most negative parts of your life become the biggest thing in it. It really is a matter of perspective. If I fumed about the workers or the roads or the food (or the lack thereof) or the lack of running water, lights, music, cold drinks, conversations in english, or a thousand other things, I would be sick constantly, or worse, I'd quit. But I write my compaints and my fears in these letters. I vent, I fume, and I work things out. And then I reflect on how beautiful this place is, and how amongst all the birds and insects you hear at night, I also hear monkeys, and things 99% of the world will never see, let alone hear, as I am.
I can do this not because of where I am, but because I, from sheer necessity, have to leave my fears and bad feelings behind, break 'em off a bit at a time, work through them, and let them go away, or I could not survice... anywhere.
Sunday, Oct 6, 1996
Can you see, even in my complaining, from my little bursts of inspiration, that I'm becoming better? When I can pull back from the day to day foolishness, I see me, dealing with situations I could've never approached before, and striding over problems that would've stumped me before. Ha! Should Carolyn see me now!
Also, I told you about that letter from Ellen. That was so wonderful it almost stunned me. I know how different Ellen and I are, and that I had done something to make her truly proud of me makes anything this place can throw at me worth it. I do have the best sister a brother could have, don't I?
Some random observations before I say goodnight. I found a piece of sheet metal perfect for my sidecar here. If I can haul it around for two years, do you think customs'll let me through?
There is a big spider in the outhouse behind the magasin, one of those ones who spins the web with the zigzag-y thing in the middle. Herb & Jenny had em in the haystacks. Anyways, at certain times of the day, I find time to reflect on this spider, due to her convenient position. I've seen her go for flies now three times, running up on em, grabbing them with her forelegs, running back to her kitchen and wrapping it up, all in the blink of an eye. Watched another spider spinning her web one night. When you go to bed, sometimes you'll throw your shirt over the nail driven into the wall, and by the next morning it'll be ATTACHED to the wall, the bookshelf, the ceiling (roof) and a dozen other things. With all the buggies here, spiders have to be VERY industrious.
Slowly but surely, I'm trying to get into a routine here, so I'm slowly able to write people. I wrote Byron tonight, and I hope to get a letter out to aunt Dot soon (next time I get to a mailbox). She's sent me 3 letters! Please thank her for me and give her my love! And anyone expecting letters, tell them to write me and remind me! Or is that a too obvious trick to get mail? Oh I probably mentioned it allready, but I got the "Barrytown Trilogy" from Penguin Books. It's great! You should read that other copy. Start with "The Snapper" because it's the first complete story. I think you'll like it.
Tomorrow starts another letter. I LOVE YOU! Let that be a bright point to focus on. Your son is fine, and he's doing something really good. Let that be another. Stay strong. Talk to you next week. (like this, of course.)
Oct 12, 1996
Saturday, 5pm AST (I made that up)
Dearest My Jeffy-boy
I think my pig gave me fleas. Actually, I'm not sure. She's been itching alot, and I've got fleas, but it could be just because we're both sorry sons-o-bitches. (well, not actually, she's a 'daughter-o-sow) Her name is Pasta, and although she was pen-mates with Erika, the pig we ate for the end of stage fete, Pasta ain't gonna be eaten. She's this guy in the village's pig, but she hangs out up here with us all the time. Pigs here are free-range critters. She's preety cool, you'd like here. It's amazing the vocabulary something that only grunts can have.
Mail just doesn't seem to find it's way to us. I'm going to have everyone just mail shit to Libreville, so at least it get's somewhere, even if it sits until I come in to pick it up. In other words, I haven't heard from anyone in a long time. Last letter was from my mom. It was dated Aug 27.
The big thing that's happened since I last wrote is that now I'm officially a volunteer! Whoo-hoo! I've even got a little cloisonee button that says so. Making the big bucks now, boyee!
Oct 13, 1996
I finally got to sleep a bit today! Yesterday eom dumb-shit politician came through drumming up support at 1am on a saturday morning! God was trying to tell him what a bad idea that was and made his battery go flat. Of course being a dumbshit he didn't get the message, but instead sent Daniel (always Danliel) up to wake us up to give him a jump. Daniel refused at 1am, and again at 4am, saying that due to security problems, the chantier was tight shut at night, and it was a well-known fact that we would take out anyone trespassing (see Mom's letters of a couple weeks back) Anyway, he didn't start calling for us until 6am that morning SATURDAY morning, and we ignored him until 8:30. of course I had to go, because J.J. again could claim ignorance on the basis of not knowing the language. I spent an hour learning how profoundly ignorant the assembled party was about basic mechanic, like positive is + and negative is - on a battery. We finally got his car started with a length of lamp cord. having a truck here is sometimes not so free-ing as you would think, especially when you're sharing with another volunteer and you're preety much stuck in your village, due to the nature of the work, and the fact that in a very real sense, the quality and quantity of work depends on you! Construction-freeest, and most chained down, of Peace Corps jobs.
Oh, I found out why I haven't been getting mail. Due to the elections here, slated for sometime in the future (Nov. 17 at the moment, but who knows) there is a postal strike. I wonder if you're going to get this letter before January! At the moment, no one knows how long, or even if, the strike will continue. This merely adds to the fucked up quality of this place. Already, due jointly to the elections, and the fact that the govt promised raises and wouldn't deliver, the teachers are on strike, too, so there's no school 'til.... There are two teaching volunteers in Bitam (our closest town) who are at the mother of all loose ends. They have nothing to do except read and wait. Doesn't sound too bad to me actually, but I'll bet the days just DRAG. All in all though, it's preety cool to experience the true 3rd-world political process. Unbelievably, it's even more of a farce than U.S. campaigning! Keep you updated as the shit nears the fan.
Just made a break-through! Pasta is now officially a pet! She let me give her a scritch behind the ears then lay down on her side and let me rub her belly. Didn't even try to bite... much. Life's so much cooler when ya got a animal pal. By the way, say hi to Jack and Scooter, and Jill (that's your folks cat, right?)
Just dropped a fizzy vitiamin-c alka-seltzery thing in a cup of water. Boy, I treat myself on Sundays!
Found a tape recently that a volunteer left behind when he/she left. TAD-INHALER! Listening to it right now. Ees good, yes? Yes. Power chord city! Only wish it was "4-Way Santa" so I could blast "Help Me, Jack Pepsi" on my headphones as I careen off what fucked-uppedly passes for the road here.
We're going to be a BAD-ASS rallying team by the time I get back. Start a rally-of-the-future fund when you can, and I'll chunk in some of my re-adjustment allowance. The road here is a 17 km. to Bitam, and it's abounding with steep ass hills which hook to the left or right, sluices where the road is merely a series of fast running gullies, several places you gotta ford in the rain, and no less than 6 almost non-existant plank bridges. Oh yeah, the road surface is loose clay. Ever felt wet clay? You should see the 'occasion' or bush-taxi, drivers burn down these roads. Nuts they are, and drunk, too. If I can get up to half their speed and stay on the road, we'll WIN rallies! Running off these roads is not good, because with all the rain we get, the shoulders are drainage trenches, about 3x3 feet, which run like rivers during a good downpoor. My wheels got stuck in a rut/gully on a downhill about a week and a half ago, and it sent the truck into one of these trenches in a micro-second, and me into the steering wheel (fortunately not through the windshield) Almost jerked my shoulder out of joint. I have repsect for these roads.
Tad sounds a little like White Zombie, if I remember them correctly. Holy shit! I am out of touch! Maybe White Zombie vocals with Helmet guitars? Good stuff nonetheless.
I've told lots of folks about your web site, so hopefully you'll be getting some traffic. Say Hi from me to all the cyber punks. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Hi everybody!]
I'm being a porch monkey right now. Waiting for J.J. to get back from Bitam so we can go to lumch at Moyen Mba's house. He's one of our school building team; an odd little guy, strong as an ox, with a certifiable look in his eyes. He's from Equatorial Guinea, so he speaks no french. I think he's a pygmy from all the evidence. He's good folk though, as strange as he is.
Well, writing you has goven me a hearty case of homesickies. I know life goes on there for the two years I'm away, but I hope I can jump back in it when I get back. That's why we gotta keep each other up to date, n'est-ce pas? Never forget what a good friend you are to me. It's tough having you so far away. Be a good boy. Call my mom and maybe send her a copy of this letter, and give Kim a big smooch for me. Also, if you talk to him, see if Chris Bauer willwrite me. It's been a long time, and I'm sure we have loads in common now. Say hey to Tom, if you're corresponding. Go for lots of rides. Make a little voodoo doll of me and take it on rides with you so I can enjoy them, too. Have fun. Love life. Drink Pepsi.
Oct 13, 1996
Thought you could get rid of me that easily, huh?
Just got back from our meal with MoyenMba. Had a wonderful time. True Gabonese experience. When we arrived, an hour late, we were met by the chief of the village, an old one-eyed guy who reeks of classic Fang history: warrior, leader, cannibal. He told us Mba was at the river having a bath, and set us down in his salon. After a couple shots of Spanish Brandy, Mba showed up (there were allready about 10 people in and about the house, and several kids looking on). Everyone watched, and talked while we ate our meal: apparently they'd eaten earlier. We had a marvelous lunch of manioc, rat meat, papaya and bananas, washed down with the ever present room-temperature Regab beer. Before you cringe too much, rats here live in the jungle, not the sewer. They're also much bigger and have a good bit of meat on 'em. Besides, the sauce was tasty. MoyenMba insisted we take the remaining bananas anda large ripe papaya home with us. We in turn gave him two cartons of Spanish wine (wine here comes in juice boxes; 1 litre capacity) and gave the chief a can of Nescage, mostly cuz we can't stand it ourselves. All was smiles and mercis all around. It's good to exercise diplomacy and get fed in the process! Times are sure to get harder at some point, and there will be misunderstandings, but I can't see, at least right now, becoming as jaded or as unhappy as I've seen some of the other volunteers here. Most people here genuinely want to be friendly, have an experience with the boy from America, just as we want to have experiences with people here. I'm beginning to see how much a matter of perspective it all really is. Yes, the Gabonese ask for a lot, soemtimes inappropriatly, but give them half a chance, and they give twice that! Against all my previous inclinations, I am going to try my utmost to see things in their positive aspect, and enjoy the moment I am in, rather than being maudlin about the past, or impatient for the future. I truly believe it is the only way to survive this experience, and become better for it, rather than bitter.
Of course that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to several more lackadasical years in the states ocne I return! What am I sayign? Several more years? I think I meant, LIFE.
Evolution has made the lowly filaria fly superintelligent and very survival prone. They can hover out of sight or reach for eaons, until you cease to pay attention, then they land and start feeding. most times, if you slap one early, he might fall, twitch a couple of times, then pick himself up and be off before you have a chance to stomp his ass. The only time you can consistently kill them is when they're nearly finished feeding, at which tiem you leave a bloody palm-print from the half pint he's just taken out of you. This is why every week, religiously, we take three pills, guaranteed to make you queasy and sick feeling, but also the only thing keeping us from developing firarin worms. Heartworm, they call it in animals. Ah, but I fell close to my critters now.
Oh hey now, what am I bitching about? I've got it preety damn good here. Afternoons off, books to read, coca-cola at my elbow (albeit a warm one). J.J. and I are great room-mates. lots of respect both ways, + it almost halfs the food bills. Things are decidedly different, but they certainly aren't bad. I can't wait to get the chance to write one of those letters that suckers like me read before we came. I got my solar shwoer finally set up right and took an orgasmic, luxurious HOT shower this afternoon, while my piggy tried to chomp the backs of my calves. Ah, but the world smells better when you're clean.
Hmm. Flipside of that Tad cassette is Dinasoar Jr. I'll give them a chance. Everything sounds better with good headphones and the `extra bass' buttun on my walkman. I bought another walkman and earbuds from Doug, who's our of here, just in case I fry my present player. I gave him $20 american, and although the walkman is OK, the earbuds are NICE! Great sounds, heavy duty, and one of those cool wind up thingys to tore 'em in. So far Dinasoar Jr is passable, only middly annoying, kind of just homogenous alternative pop stuff with a whiney head man. I'll keep it until I find something to take over it. Tom, another constructor, has a double cassette player/recorder. Goddamn, we're set up! Ain't life fun?
When I was moving out of Doug's house, after all the ruckus, I found a slingshot behind his bed. Two things Gabonese village kids do WELL is build little wooden trucks, and slingshots. The trucks they make with the soft, balsa wood like core of the palm trees tha folks make hooch out of. Theys ee Peace Corps trucks and occasions all the time, and their little (about a foot long) models are super detailed, with gauges, stick shifts, roll bars, innertube rubber suspension, the works. They walk around pushing them with these long sticks stuck in a sucket behind the cab, and terminating in a steering wheel for the kid. They make 'em like this all over Gabon! I've seen them as far south as Tchibanga and as far north as, well, here. Slingshots are made with the same innertube rubber and look just like their American cousins. Wicked things they are. Excuse me, I'm gonna shoot mine a little before dark.
Hey, I just had a craving. When you're out CD shopping in the used CD places or pawn shops, do you ever see any copies of "The Beavis and Butthead Experience?" I know it's corny, but I miss those guys. Maybe amongst the other 150 thousand tapes I asked for, you could find that, too? Maybe, actually you could see if any of those web-walkers who are reading of my exploits might want to join the "SAVE LESLIE'S SANITY" fund, and send some tapes over. Just tell them to label them "Educational Materials" or the like, and send them to B.P 2098, Libreville, because there things can actually get to you. Thank you thank you thank you! I love you big'uns.
Food coping mechanisms - Part 1. Reeses peanut butter cups. Remember those old ads where the guy eating peanut butter collides with the other guy eating chocolate? Same principal. We can get milk chocolate bars from Cameroon in Bitam , and we have Moroccan peanut butter. Voila! Right now I'm making garlic toast in the oven without a rack. Don't have one. Do have empty metal cans though. balance is tricky, but it works gangbusters. Weevils. Can't keep 'em out of the flour or the rice, so... them boogers sure are high in protein, and that satisfying crunch!
Whew! Just finished humping 56 bags of cement (50 kg a piece) into the magasin. The truck arrived today and we were down to 1 and a half bags! It also brought Jildas, who was a homologue (Gabonese counterpart) candidate during stage. THE snottiest, most full of himself candidate. In lieu of canning him, Libreville has given him to us (JOY!) for a three month trial period, to see if he mellows at all when there isn't crazy stage stuff happening all around. I know I have. It rained hard today, and soaked a bunch of those bags, so a couple of tmies we'd hoist 'em up on our shoulders, and they'd explode all over us! This necessitated a full fledged trip to the river before it rained again and we hardened into little white lawn jockeys, or Leroys as I've heard 'em called.
Made Lentil and rice soup for lunch, and had a avacado and itongas for dinner tonight. Definitely NOT starving here! Itongas, as I tried to explain to my mom, are dark purple egg shaped fruits/vegetables. They look a little like small egg plants. You soak 'em for about ten minutes in water you get to boiling and turn off. They've got a big pit, so you just bite through the skin and scrape/suck the meat off it. Both J.J. and I have trouble deciding the words to describe their taste or texture, but it could be sort of like pumpkin pie texture, but a sour, almost dill-like flavor. An acquired taste, but boy, they're good! They go great with beer! Maybe we can market em! I'm out of room! Bye-bye!
Well Jeff, Here I go again.
Greetings from the edge of the known world. I am not exaggerating. People here pop up like startled prarie dogs when they hear a car, which so far in my first three days has been twice; once when I got dropped off (terror!), and today when my independent Gabonese partner, Johnis, arrived.
It is beautiful here. Aside from Pride Rock, it looks just like the setting for the 'Lion King'. Long expanses of savannah, broken by groves of trees and taller grasses, and ringed with tall hills covered with forest.
The Local language is Bapanu, which I know absolutely none of. Actually, if I think hard, I can sometimes respond to "Meramboue'", or Good Day, by saying "Aadedjuwah." Twice I've fucked up and said Alajuwan, as in Akim Alajuwan, the basketball player. Maybe he's from around here. When people speak to me, it's in what french they know, but when they speak to one another, it's Bapunu. Makes casual conversation somewhat of a trick.
So here I am, in a village, in the south, just like I wanted. Of course there's still no money, no materials, no way to work except for clearing brush, and I've got the added advantage of having no other english (or good french, for that matter) speaker for a 150-200k walk! Scared? Yup. Sure am. At least I'm a little hopeful about this, and the folks here seem ready to work, hospitable (I have no kitchen, so I've been fed morning and night by the chef's sister, and tonight by Johnis' wife) and I have yet to put a lock on my door!
Johnis came with his wife, his brother and his wife, and four kids between them. All of them speak Bapanu, too. I feel decidedely the freak here.
Remember the Peter Gabriel song "Wallflower"? "Six by six, from wall to wall, shutters on the window, no light at all." Well, I think of that song far too often in my new pad. I'm getting scared to try anything new! Just when you think it couldn't get any worse... my room, a 9x12 lean-to built on the side of a house, and formerly home to several cases of beer and a sizeable crop of mushrooms, is not exactly up to code. Where the thatch roof has not rotted through, termites have eaten the wood hollow, so much so I first thought it was bamboo, and even the dew runs through, and turns my dirt floor into black mud, and all my stuff into mildew gardens. I look at it as incentive to get one of these damn teacher's houses knocked up, if I have to pay for cement myself!! Ironic, that the villagers are willing and happy to work 'cadeau', or free, to build the house, before we assemble the paid team for the school, but now it's the damn Peace Corps who won't cooperate! I'm going to make a bare-bones request list for them, and hope ardently they respond. If not, I've got someplace to go for a little vacation! Oh yeah, one last thing about my room. I can't stand up straight in it! And that's at the tall end. I remembered that when I stood up just now and CRACK! Ooch!
[EDITOR'S NOTE - At this point Leslie tells me about a girl he met and asked that I keep it off the web site, which I will. Nothing to get all excited wanting to read about, it's just personal. Tee hee!]
Had the meeting today with the villagers about where to locate the school even though we already have a site and have no plans to move it. Now I feel decidedly the freak verbally, too.
There is a little French spoken here, but any and all business conducted is in Bapanu. The entire meeting, save my introduction, was the local patois, and voices were raised, tempers flared that are still smoldering, and I have no idea why. My partner, Johnis, is Bapanu also but his translation to me was somewhat grudging. Fuck it. If it works it works. Nah... That's not true. I really want things to work out! I'm so jealous of Kat, because she seems to be enjoying her post. She's got a nice house, with running water, and a big salon, plus she is in the same town, and close by, our mutual friend Michelle. Shit. I just can't get used to this loneliness! I'm tired of being a freak (in Africa). What I'm doing is the hardest of hard-core Peace Corps, and I always try for the hardest stuff, whether at the Grand Canyon, or going "Thai Hot" in restaurants. Guess I got what I wished for. It's such a bitch though, not being able to share, save in letters, what's going on with me, my feelings and observations. Worst of all, I am utterly unable to crack a joke here! Sure I get laughs, but ones you cause inadvertantly don't count.
Just got back from working clearing the site. If we get some money, materials, I believe things are going to start happening. When we work together we can get past the language thing. You'll be getting this letter probably sometime late January, early February. Bet it's cold there. I personally am sweating like a Jeff on a Bright Angel Trail!
[EDITOR'S NOTE - That is a reference to when Leslie and I hiked down from the rim of the Grand Canyon about halfway to the floor before turning back, Leslie trotting along happily and me dragging my ass an inch an hour up to the top. I think I died that day and just haven't caught my breath enough to actually decompose yet.]
Whew. This is Africa. Temperature fluctuates about 10 degrees during the year. This is the dry season, when it's not so hot. I'm not looking forward to March. I'm gonna roast.
I like when we can actually work. Cuts through the bullshit, y'know? We've got to get some materials here. Re-read your letters from Thanksgiving/Xmas a little while ago, but first, a quick lesson on African, or at least Bamba Mambian, etiquette. Just got fed again. When offered my choice of antelope bits, I chose the best looking stuff in the bowl. Under normal circumstances, I would resign myself to a lesser piece, so as to not hog the good stuff, but last night I did that at Johnis' house (he's got a family, so he gets a house!), and I ended up with the lower jaw of a porcupine on my plate. The bits of brain were tender, but the rest was kind of stringy. MORAL: If you can't recognize it, and there's something else better looking in the plate, leave it for the joker who cooked it!
....I want you to share this letter with mom. I haven't had the opportunity to write her yet, and if my pen dies, I won't have a way of writing ANYBODY! I'm going into Tchibanga tomorrow (sunday) and I'll mail this while there. I'm allowed/behooved to make the 4 (give or take, depending if one of the 11 bridges I have to cross is down) journey into my provincial capital, to report to Libreville, get supplies, check mail/pay, and of course, visit with Americans. This means my letters will be less regular, so don't freak if I seem to stop writing for a bit. Incidentally, speaking of writing, I mentioned above that I'd re-read your last two letters, and I think it's great that you and your parents, your dad especially, are coming around to some mutual understanding! I hope it continues. Just goes to show that profound occurences can happen in your own home. You don't need to go on some kind of external quest, like I felt I had to. That's not to say, thought, that I DIDN'T have to do this. Every path is unique, and mine took me to Africa. Yours has taken you closed to your father. We're both richer as a result.
Later - Did I mention that my roof leaks? Allow me to stress that point! The dry season is nearly over and by way of introduction, mama nature's treating all my stuff to a shower tonight! Water is coming in in a regular stream in at least three large spots, so far as I can find with my lantern, and the chair I'm sitting on is heeling to the right as my dirt floor becomes mud. I'm happy here, I'm happy here, I'm happy here, I'm happy here, Ommmmmmm.... Geez! Give a guy a break! Tonight the termintes chose to swarm as well, and my desk, my paper, and my dinner are covered with discarded wings, and the bodies of frantic dying, mindless bugs. Overhead a family of tarantulas takes advantage of their good fortune and feasts on the termites, while under my feet, a very exotic-looking frog takes a breather from the rain outside.
Perhaps I am happy.
Sunday - trying to get ready to go to Tchibanga. The village shopping list is mounting one full page already. When you get this letter, listen to some Steely Dan of Donald Fagan, sit back and close your eyes. Do it for me. Ah, urbane, civilized, genteel.
Later on sunday - 4pm. Tchibanga. I'm an alien here, too. Seems all the other volunteers are constantly zipping about; visiting, partying, staying in the bop! I came in this afternoon, with Johnis and our truck bed of villagers and various barrels, jugs, sacks and boxes of stuff, and I felt like I was coming home; like I'd be welcomesd as, if not a prodigal son, at least a long-lost friend. Instead I felt like Robinson Crusoe, after a long experience of solitude and introspection, returning to the bustle and superficiality of Europe. Gossip, hangovers, dinner with friends, were all discussed, but I had no place in them. Will it be that I have to give up this world to slip into the one I've pledged to serve? What then? Where do I turn to alleviate my lonliness? Who will understand? I've got hopes, but as I sit in this, a Peace Corps volunteer's house, with electricity, running water, soft furniture and painted walls, and know that this is not.... Fuck this, I'm bringing myself down again. I just want camraderie! The three construction volunteers down here are a clique; a roving party. They are from the same stage group and stick together like glue. FUCK! Why won't it come together? I'm so tired of not belonging. The more I'm alone, the more I think, the more I think the less I am like those who remain always in the company of their peers. It's an excape, I know. A groups sticks together, party, talk nonsense (which would bore me to tears) say nothing of worth, just so they don't have to face only themselves, and what lurks in their minds, alone. And here I am trying to find ways to keep my mind from thoughts of escape, and having to deal with my own fears and weaknesses, all by myself, everyday. We're all doing the same job, so why do we have such different experiences? Ah, I had such a good time that time with Kat. We talked so freely, about people, books, the regular stuff, but also real stuff that was on our minds. It was serious, in that we had to recognize a mutual respect in order to lay bare matters below the surface, but it was light, and easy, and fun. We ;aughed so much. Now I'm afraid that it won't come again. It's so hard to come in, even to Tchibanga, and our experiences are so different, that next time I see her where we can really talk, we may no longer have that same connection. That's the risk with any two people, I know, but I have so few HERE to turn to for real soul-sharing (for want of a less new-age term) that it worries me. You're there, aren't you Jeff? We both change, you and I, but we have such a broad connection, I don't think we'll ever grow apart. I REALLY HOPE we won't. You're the truest friend a boy could have. OK, enough bitching. We all have our destinies to fullfill, and bitching about them won't change them, just make them harder to achieve.
Monday - Here's a theory; Mefloquine, our native anti-malarial medicine, is behind a lot of my emotional problems here. I've talked to several volunteers, and found that mood swings, exhaustion due to the inability to attain sufficiently deep sleep, irratability, all because, or due in part, to mefloquine! Talk about making a hard job harder! Anyway, last night my mood swung north again, and I had a good evening talking to Bill Buethel, who is my "regional co-ordinator", and with whom I discussed getting tools, etc, for starting up our chantier. If I can keep in perspective these dips into despair, and realize that they are artificial, maybe things will go a little smoother. Now if I could only make a plan, and have it come to fruition! Any plan! It sounds zen or something equally eastern, but to stay happy and sane here, you have to literally live without expectations. They will either not work out, or they will be born into reality horribly mutated. Think about how hard it is to achieve non-expectatant-ness. Everything in life is flavored by hope, yearning, looking forward to; but here SO OFTEN this leads to disappointment. To be a successfull simple volunteer, a person has to deny so many instincts, and thought patterns we've learned since childhood. I hope I may get mail here someday, perhaps even my packages, but I don't expect anything. That's hard even to say! This is a strange thing I have found myself in.
My love to everyone. Give mom a copy of this letter, and tell her I'll write her for next time.
Keep the faith
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Leslie wrote this letter to me in response to a rather lengthy diatribe I sent him while breaking up with my girlfriend and in VERY low spirits. Knowing that will explain some of the things he says to me in the letter.]
In light of your 17 page letter, and much important things to discuss, you have successfully bumped ahead of several other letters I need to write.
So let's get down to it.
At the moment I'm in Moabi taking a small unofficial vacation. This started friday when Johnis and I had to come into Tchibanga to buy diesel fuel, before we stranded ourselves. There was a party I hoped to go to, and many people expected me to somehow attend, some 300 km north o' Tchibanga, celebrating Kevin Anglin's 31st (see, I'm not the oldest) birthday. In short, by many lucky coinkidinks, I made it up there, and had a blast. On the way back riding with Bill, my "regional co-ordinator", we met Aaron Fairchild, a former construction volunteer who has taken the office job in Libreville. He royally chewed my ass out about being out of province during a workday (monday), after he'd only left me on the chantier 3 weeks earlier, and blah blah blah yakkity shmackity.... I listened politely to his tirade, and when he finished I just grinned at him. "Are you gonna take my truck away?" I asked, in oh-so-much fear and loathing (not). "Oops, forgot... I don't have a truck." "Oh no, you're going to dock my pay, then, huh? Oh wait, I haven't BEEN paid since November!" "Gosh, does that mean you're gonna yell at me some more?" I basically told him I'd been busting my ass, the job is getting done, I'm having a little harmless fun, and I couldn't care less if I really wanted to what he had to say, especially in light of his own dubious track record. "Trust me", I said.
You'll read mom's letter. I'm sending it same time as this one. It explains in detail my situation in Bada Mamba. [SPELLING? -ED] I'm doing all I can, and that means whatever it means, but I'm trying my best to create a role where the one I was to have had is already taken by one imminently more qualified. I am hanging on Jeff. You hang on too. I know it's not the same, but Kim isn't the only person who's ever loved you. Loved you in THAT WAY, maybe. But I'm there for you, my friend. Til death changes the venue.
I still hit some preety low, low spots, especially isolated in Bapuna-burg, but I'm concentrating on work, and keeping up my health, and making a long-awaited dream come true for a little village that doesn't get a lot of breaks. Besides, 7 months in, 20 months left. Not quite a third. I'm getting to go through "new-Post-shock-syndrome" yet again, and this time preety intense, but it'll pass. I've got good people down here, too. Kat has, almost since the VERY beginning, been one of my best friends here. We're going to try to get together at least once a month, and that gives me a nice bite-sized chunk of time in which to look forward to seeing her. And cold beer. Regab with lime, not bad at all.
By the way, tell your buddy Bill Martin, late of Mauritania, that Tabitha is doing well, and although I haven't seen her for a while, we've written a few times. Also, I know two volunteers here in gabon now who were in Mauritania serving up until a few months ago. They are a married couple - Andy Richardson and Lisa Thompson. Betcha he knows 'em. Tell him they're buddies of mone, and also tell him hi, and not to worry about my weeping and wailing too much. Psychotropic effects of our anti-malarial medicine, Mefloquinine. Bad stuff. Agent orange, LSD 25, Gulf War Syndrome, Mefloquine. We take care of our boys overseas, yassuh!
One last thing about you, me, Kim, and just about anybody else who's ever experienced a major emotional whack on the skull. No great insights, just find it interesting that you used the term "emotionally vulnerable" to describe yourself. Two people, one being Kat, said that I wear my heart on my sleeve, thus making myself "emotionally vulnerabe". A lot of times I feel so tired of constantly trying to maintain a cheerful outlook, or at least facade, out in my village, that I don't have the strength to maintain the facade among people I care about, and promptly spill my guts, necessitating a complicated apology/retraction/explanation clean-up effort. It's slowly penetrating my thick head that this is not so good, as people jump back to avoid the splatter of spilled guts. It's better, I'm finding, when I can jump back myself, look at the situation as coldly as possible, and see what answers I can come up with. Even if it's only "I have 5 possible options here - A is this, B is that..." and figure out the advantages of each. That way I stand a better chance of weathering the buffeting it is giving me. In my friend Kevin's words, "This is NOT so bad." Granted, we were well fed and drunk at the time, but I took it to mean that things could be a lot worse. When I'm in the village, everyone seems so far away, so long ago, but when I'm with my friends, that life fades away just as quickly. I don't know how, but I'm going to try hard to bring my two universes closer together here, and me on a more even keel as a result. Digressed as usual, I know, but I guess my point is - I know where you're coming from, bro. Like it or not, emotions are preety fragile things. I'm just trying to share a couple of ways I've been trying out to slow the roller-coaster, and keep myself on the up-and-up. Just remember that you are an American, and our motto is: Everything's my fault, nothing's my fault. Also remember that that is utter BULLSHIT, but it creeps into ever one of our little emotional, anti-logical dilemmas. Fight it dude! I am still your support, even over here. Vent all you want. You need it, and I need the toilet paper! HAA!!!!
I sent you an E-mail from Lambarine. I'm back on decent terms with Julia. She's dating Bill Buethel, the guy driving me back yesterday. Weird scene. Still, I'm glad everything's cool. GOT YOUR PACKAGE! It didn't take long even to get the Libreville! It was undamaged, unmolested, and sticky. The lemonheads got a little warm on the way. Still tasted good though. Thanks so much! I think you can send packages to my address in Tchibanga now, as the mail's not so abd. That size of envelope you sent the magazine in works well. Hope maybe to talk to you again next month as we have a big conference in Libreville Feb 24-28.
Be you good to yourself.
Thanks for being there for me, my porcine beee-ooty!
Couldn't just leave you with a measly two pager, could I? I'm on my way back to post, and my friend Renee's gonna mail this from Libreville.
So, you know by now that chaos, not Omer Bongo, rules this land. That's my new way of looking at stuff. I can't trust even my own opinion of events, people, etc... because my mind changes, and people ACT different, especially volunteers, from one moment to the next. I've been out of college too long. I'm totally out of step with the mindset of most other PCV's here. Tangent - that was a tangent. My point is, take what I say with a grain of salt, because it could be influenced by any number of things; drugs, isolation, hope, dogma, whether I just got laid, anything. CHAOS.... What a fucked-up concept. I'm so used to having some measure of control over my life, and the ability to make things happen, I'm not at all happy in a place where I have no say. But I won't quit either. Therefore, I've got to revise my way of thinking. I'm trying a new experiment now; Don't PLAN on seeing anyone, resign myself to getting NO mail, learn to associate with people with whom I can barely communicate, and regard the construction of 3 houses and a school as my raison d'ettre for the next 20 months. Period. No expectations. I have faith that my life awaits me at home. I have faith that my many true and beloved friends will be there when I get back. Here I can't guarantee that I'll EVER see any specific volunteer again. Too damn sketchy. So I assume I won't. This way when or if something cool does go down, I'll be pleasantly surprised, but if not, then I'm still doing what I came to do. Right now it seems the only way.
It's gonna be tough. Philosophies of denial are not my forte'. I will continue to write, and hopefully I'll hear from you too, but if not, I have your past letters to prove to me that you do exist.
For your part, take good care of yourself. Thanks so much for keeping up with mom. She really likes you.
Also, Tom is in transition. His life, he is now realizing, is not working in the present situation, so he's going through a lot of head-trips trying to find the future. See if you can lure him away for a weekend, or visit him, call him whatever.
I hope you and Kim can find a balance. Don't say I don't approve of her. Your take on that was based on one fucked-up evening years (it seems) ago. She's been really good for you, and if things ultimately don't work out between you two, what you've learned will make you so much more able to find, and conduct, the next relationship that comes your way. You done good, my son.
May we both find the strength to keep pushin till we see each other again.
Far in body, close in soul.
When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:
| Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview|
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.
Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
| Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention|
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
Read the stories and leave your comments.
Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.
Story Source: Personal Web Site
This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Gabon; PCVs in the Field - Gabon