Carolyn Wilhelm reviews I Miss the Rain in Africa

Enlightening, emotional, eye-opening, extraordinary book

The author was first offered Belize for her Peace Corps Volunteer work, but ended up going to the north of Uganda at the mere age of sixty-four. Brave is an understatement, and I cannot imagine a more difficult assignment (although there are many war-torn areas in the world which would be tough). After the 20 year war which created millions of orphans and a generation of people who lost their way of life. HIV/AIDS was weaponized under Kony who also mutilated and killed thousands of people. How would it be possible to help the dire situation? So many needed so much help. Of the group of 46, 14 understandably left.

Yet, this amazing woman helped organize Peace Corps offices, libraries, project pillowcase for dresses, helping people get hearing aids, sponsoring a boy to attend school (and even remaining longer than two years as part of helping him), and sharing books in many situations. She accomplished so much more.

One story is about trying to buy one egg one day – a real trial. Going to the dentist required travel, leaving and returning through mud in the dark. Nothing was easy or routine. Every day there was a new challenge. Returning home also was rough as she returned to changing technology and had no house at that time.

I have always wondered about the Peace Corps and I Miss the Rain in Africa tells the truth about this person’s experience.

I was provided an ARC copy and my opinions are my own

Discussion questions for book clubs and secondary teachers

  1. Why did Wesson end up in Uganda? Where was she supposed to go at first? Do you think she realized how Peace Corps Volunteers would be housed? What is the name of chapter one, and why?
  2. How did the most recent war led by Kony leave the citizens with almost insurmountable problems? What were his weapons? Where is he now? Can you imagine living through such an ordeal?
  3. Given the situation of most of the people in northern Uganda, how do you think the Peace Corps Volunteers felt about how effective they could be at first? How did Wesson’s thoughts change near the end of the book as she reflected on her projects?
  4. Explain travel difficulties from the point of view of a Westerner in Uganda.
  5. Why was the southern part of Uganda so different from the north?
  6. Of the 46 volunteers, 34 remained after about a year. What do you think caused some people to leave? Was it understandable or not?
  7. How did the pillowcases project begin and develop? Did it surprise you that Wesson had to design her projects, such as the children’s library? Were you expecting the Peace Corps would have had job descriptions and just sent people to locations to fit into predetermined roles?
  8. How was time different in Africa? How were schedules for travel different?
  9. Discuss the story Wesson shared about getting dental help, traveling in the mud and dark on the way to and from the bus station.
  10. Why was returning home also a challenge? How had things changed? How had the author changed?

Honor the Earth

SKU 978-1-61599625-4
$22.95
Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes, 2nd Ed.
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The Great Lakes Basin is under severe ecological threat from fracking, bursting pipelines, sulfide mining, abandonment of government environmental regulation, invasive species, warming and lowering of the lakes, etc. This book presents essays on Traditional Knowledge, Indigenous Responsibility, and how Indigenous people, governments, and NGOs are responding to the environmental degradation which threatens the Great Lakes. This volume grew out of a conference that was held on the campus of Michigan State University on Earth Day, 2007.

All of the essays have been updated and revised for this book. Among the presenters were Ward Churchill (author and activist), Joyce Tekahnawiiaks King (Director, Akwesasne Justice Department), Frank Ettawageshik, (Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan), Aaron Payment (Chair of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), and Dean Sayers (Chief of the Batchewana First Nation). Winona LaDuke (author, activist, twice Green Party VP candidate) also contributed to this volume.

Adapted from the Introduction by Dr. Phil Bellfy:

"The elements of the relationship that the Great Lakes' ancient peoples had with their environment, developed over the millennia, was based on respect for the natural landscape, pure and simple. The "original people" of this area not only maintained their lives, they thrived within the natural boundaries established by their relationship with the natural world. In today's vocabulary, it may be something as simple as an understanding that if human beings take care of the environment, the environment will take care of them. The entire relationship can be summarized as "harmony and balance, based on respect."
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