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AFRICA

NINE HILLS TO NAMBONKAHA:
Two Years in the Heart of an African Village

Author: Sarah Erdman

When Erdman, a Peace Corps volunteer, arrived in Nambonkaha, she became the first Caucasian to venture there since the French colonialists. But even though she was thousands of miles away from the United States, completely on her own in this tiny village in the West African nation of Côte d'Ivoire, she did not feel like a stranger for long.

As her vivid narrative unfolds, Erdman draws us into the changing world of the village that became her home. Here is a place where electricity is expected but never arrives, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women grinding corn with pestles rings out in the mornings like church bells. Rare rains provoke bathing in the streets and the most coveted fashion trend is fabric with illustrations of Western cell phones. Yet Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and poverty is constant, where women suffer the indignities of patriarchal customs, where children work like adults while still managing to dream.

Lyrical and topical, Erdman captures the astonishing spirit of an unforgettable community.

From Publishers Weekly
Erdman, who now works for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., spent two years in Nambonkaha, a northern Ivory Coast village, starting in 1998. As a culturally sensitive community development volunteer, she took her time finding her niche. She started working on maternal and child health by introducing the regular weighing of babies, as a means of monitoring malnutrition and as a way of opening the door to a wider range of health-care interventions. Without funds or equipment, this boiled down to rudimentary first aid: cleaning and bandaging wounds, cooling down a fever or recognizing malaria and going to the nurse for pills. By the end of Erdman's stay, with the support of the village, she'd moved on, very successfully, to birth control and AIDS prevention education. Happily, Erdman focuses on the story behind the story: how she learned local ways, how she gained the confidence and friendship of assorted villagers and even how she couldn't do anything about some atrocities, like female genital mutilation. In the end, she understands the village world view so well, she can imagine better ways to deal with certain issues, like promoting condom usage: what if international health organizations had depicted AIDS as a sorcery problem and "introduced condoms, with the help of chiefs and fetisheurs, as the only fetish that can stave off" the disease? This is an engrossing, well-told tale certain to appeal to armchair travelers and to anyone-especially women-considering international volunteer work.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
$23.00 (hardcover)
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