As the new editor of The Herald (and a librarian of over 30 years), I hope to continue the fine tradition of thoughtful reviews of books written by our fellow Volunteers and books about Ethiopia and Eritrea. I am in need of volunteers among the Volunteers to step up and assist with these reviews. If possible, I will supply the prospective reviewer with a review copy, yours to keep, annotate, and dog-ear. Please contact me and state your preference for type of book (fiction, biography, history, or politics). To start us off, I will give a brief overview of a recently published title celebrating 50 years of Peace Corps. — Janet

Five Volunteers included in 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories — Africa

One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo: 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories: Volume One: Africa
Edited by Aaron Barlow (Togo 88–90)
Palo Alto: Traveler’s Tales, 2011

Reviewed by Janet Lee (Emdeber 74–76)

“Africa steals hearts then returns them, forever changed.” (Back Cover) These words could not ring more true; and what better way to share this truth than through a compilation of stories from fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo is the first volume in a four-volume series edited by Jane Albritton (India 67–69), celebrating 50 years of Peace Corps. The remaining volumes include: The Americas — Gather The Fruit One By One, edited by Barnie Alter (Paraguary 70–72) and Pat Alter (India 67–69 & Paraguary 70-72); The Heart of Eurasia — A Small Key Opens Big Doors, edited by Jay Chen (Kazakhstan 05–08); and Asia and the Pacific — Even The Smallest Crab Has Teeth, edited by Jane Albritton .

Winner of a Silver Medal in the category of Travel Essay for the Independent Publisher Book Award, One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, captures the varied experiences Peace Corps Volunteers shared from the joyful to the tragic. Of the 76 stories from all over Africa, five stories are from our fellow Volunteers in Ethiopia. The early Volunteers among us will probably recognize their names: Solveig Nilsen (Maichew, Sodo 67–69), Donald Holm (Emdeber, Mekele 65–67), Kathleen Moore (Emdeber 64–66), Carol Beddo (Bahr Dar 64–66), and Tom Gallagher (Agordat 62–64).

Come take a trip through memory lane as your overloaded bus navigates the switchbacks of the Simian Mountains. Tilt at windmills in the shadows of the great castles in Mekele. Do you, don’t you make that urgent run to the shintabet in the middle of the night, the hyenas whooping nearby. Her village of Emdeber; my village of Emdeber. So little has changed.

H.I.M. visits Itegue Menen Hospital in Asmara (photo by Marianne Arieux 65–67)

The presence of H.I.M. (His Imperial Majesty) was everywhere: the names of the schools in which we taught, the coins and bills that we carried. Occasionally, we were graced by his presence, a diminutive figure that was somehow larger than life. Then there was the ever presence of the military; each of us making a personal decision on how we respond to the politics of it all. Only a Peace Corps Volunteer could find the humor in the most frightening decisions; duck and cover as three F-85 fighter bombers fly over his school at close range during a lesson. Just an ordinary day in the life of a Volunteer.

These five stories will draw the reader back into his or her own memories. Well worth the price of admission . . . or better yet a visit to the library.

Stories that are as relevant today as they were decades ago

Our friends and fellow Volunteers share their stories of long ago.

Eritrea Remembered: Recollections & Photos by Peace Corps Volunteers
Edited by Marian Haley Beil
Peace Corps Writers, 2011
$10.00 (paperback); $2.99 (Kindle ebook)

Reviewed by Bryan Cramer (Adi Gudem 2009–11)

I WAS ASKED TO WRITE a review of Eritrea Remembered, a collection of stories, letters, and photos from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Eritrea from the earliest days of the Peace Corps to the brief years when PCVs served in an independent Eritrea in the 1990s.

First a bit about myself.  I’m a recent RPCV from Adi Gudem, a small town south of Mekele, where I was a Community HIV/AIDS Volunteer. Even though I served in Ethiopia, I spoke Tigrinya not Amharic, drank sewa not tella, and whenever I travelled south to Addis or anywhere south of Tigray for that matter, the rest of Ethiopia felt like some other country to me. So maybe by proxy I am an Eritrean RPCV too.

While reading Eritrea Remembered I marveled at how, despite the years, things really do stay the same. Volunteers share stories of meeting wonderful friends and families. Finding that one person who, after all these years they still manage to keep in contact with. People still get sick from the food, yet for the rest of their lives still crave injera and a good zigini or wot. Invitations to people’s homes still provide some of the best stories like Harold Freeman’s account of his invitation from a student named Yemane to visit his family’s village. There are still projects that succeed and some that don’t.  The book contains some wonderful pictures of PCVs and their Eritrean friends. Plus, even after 50 years the clothing styles have remained the same for Eritreans. It is the PCVs fashions that have changed over the years.

Yet there are differences now too. I couldn’t help but be amazed by Tom Cutler’s story of borrowing a PC Land Rover and taking it on vacation! That certainly would never happen today. Reading through the stories I was also struck by the variety of experiences that were shared, from Judy Smith describing the birth of her daughter at Kagnew Station, to Cynthia Tse Kimberlin sharing a beautiful story of life as an Asian-American volunteer in Eritrea.

What I truly enjoyed most about this book, especially being a new RPCV, was the sense of continuity I got from it. My own experiences as a volunteer are not really different from the experiences shared in this book. I will never forget my two years of service in Adi Gudem. It has shaped my life in ways I never expected and after reading the stories and experiences in Eritrea Remembered I know the RPCVs who shared their stories feel the same way.

NOTE: All royalties from the sale of Eritrea Remembered support the RPCV Legacy Program project “Healthcare Books for Rural Communities.”

Bryan Cramer is a recently returned volunteer who served in Adi Gudom, Tigray Region from 2009-2011.  He hails from Seattle and currently resides in Edmonds, Washington.

2 responses to “Books

  1. Hi, Janet–

    Sign me up!

    Mike O’Brien
    Ethiopia 67-69

  2. Did you know that Where There Is No Doctor (published by Hesperian Health Guides, distributor of “Health Care Books for Rural Communities” project ) is available in Tigrynia? See Hesperian’s website:
    Lee Gallery, volunteer, Hesperian
    Ethiopia 64-66

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