Friday, June 26, 2009
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria
In all of the reviews that I read about this book, it wasn’t until I read Ali’s that it really sunk in that this was a non-fiction book. A few days later, I bought it. And I read it that night.
I love travel memoirs. I know I’ve said that before, but I’m saying it again. I love to travel, and since I’m neither retired nor independently wealthy, I just don’t have the time or the money to feed my compulsion. So I travel vicariously through others by reading about their adventures. 2007 was a big travel memoir year for me (actually, since that was the year I went to Italy, it was a big travel year period). Last year, however, I slacked off on the travel books.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria made me fall in love with the genre all over again. This is the story of Eve who has always believed she would join the Peace Corps, because, well, it’s the right thing to do. With self-deprecating humor, she tells of the application process, how she fell in love with her recruiter, her posting to Ecuador, her return and marriage, and finally, her move overseas with her husband to Uganda. Eve shares her struggles to find purpose in working overseas, as well as her cultural struggles. In the process, the reader learns a small bit about life in Ecuador and Uganda.
The beauty of this book is that it neither glorifies life as a foreign relief/aid worker, nor does it paint it as all bad. Eve is honest with the conditions, and her reactions to them (although I’m sure her sense of humor helped quite a bit).
Joanne (aka Book Zombie) asked me, “Did the descriptions of the Peace Corps experience make you think it is something you would find fulfilling?”
Ummm, to be honest? No. But that’s because I don’t like camping and I’m not afraid to admit it. I think that living here as a child pretty much cured me of any longing to join the Peace Corps.
Oh wait…that doesn’t quite answer the question, does it? But see, it’s a factor. I think I’d be so uncomfortable that I would be miserable, which would pretty much ensure there would be no fulfillment. Plus, yes, Eve’s experiences don’t exactly paint the experience as save-the-world fulfilling. While in Ecuador she searched for quite awhile before finding a post…for a time, it was more like a bare-bones vacation than the Peace Corps. And her descriptions of her and her husband’s experiences in Uganda were a bit grim at times (and I’m not referring to the living conditions, in this case). There were people who took advantage of them and the overseas companies trying to institute change. And there were times when it all seemed like just a drop in the bucket. But I think the overriding message is still it is what you make of it. I don’t think she’s down on the Peace Corps or other relief/aid/change agencies…just upfront about her experiences. It was neither all bad, nor all good.