A laugh-out-loud debut about humanitarian work in Ecuador and Uganda during the 1980s and ’90s.
Eager to be “surrounded by happy, grateful villagers,” Brown-Waite decided to join the Peace Corps after graduating from college. During her interview, she fell in love with her recruiter, John. Suddenly more interested in snaring him than in spending two years saving the world, Browne-Waite reluctantly embarked for Ecuador to prove to John, an Irish Catholic, that she, a New York Jew, was both Peace Corps and marriage material. At a shelter in “the Armpit of Ecuador,” she helped homeless boys reunite with their families. The rape of another volunteer stirred memories of the sexual abuse in her past, and she had to be evacuated because of panic attacks. Since her therapy required more than the 40 days allotted for a Peace Corps “medevac,” she abandoned her post and spent the next two years getting an advanced degree in public health and trying to convince John to marry her. He finally did, and they moved to Uganda so he could manage a microlending project for the humanitarian organization CARE. Browne-Waite hoped to continue her work in AIDS education. Her hardships in Uganda included catching malaria when she was pregnant, defending the house from flying white termites and braving minor rebel bombings. She relates these stories with the cheery nonchalance of a seasoned expat willing to find the humor in everything, and her refusal to approach her experiences with self-congratulatory solemnity makes for a refreshing voice. The book’s hilarity is grounded by the author’s serious commitment to aid work, her reflections on raising her daughter in a third-world country and her informed, balanced portrayal of the Ugandan people.
As revealing as it is entertaining.