I'll never forget the day my friend Andy came over soon after he'd returned from two years spent in Ghana with the Peace Corps. He sheepishly told us that after grappling with an insatiable hunger all morning, he'd grabbed his mother's box of tapioca and cooked up a big pot of it for breakfast--the closest thing to the starchy fufu (made from cassava root, like tapioca is) he'd been eating three times daily for two years.
I think I said something like, "Foofoo? They actually call it that with a straight face? Foofoo?"
"Yeah, I'll make you some. Takes some getting used to, but it's good with stew."
He did make us fufu one night for dinner, along with a peanut stew. We scooped it out of a communal bowl with our hands (okay, I eventually bailed on the communal bowl and dished myself a plateful) and he told us stories about the Ghanaians and Peace Corps volunteers who had been his neighbors and friends. Afterwards he thanked us heartily for letting him share a little bit of Ghana, but it's been nearly twenty years since that night and I've never forgotten it. Thank you, Andy.
Reading First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is a similar gift--like having a friend return from abroad and give you the real scoop on the wider world. Brown-Waite manages the tricky business of communicating homesickness and culture shock while respecting different approaches to life, without coming across as a whiner. The contrast between her reactions to things and her "Peace Corps poster boy" husband's reactions adds humor and perspective.
The Soundtrack: This was a tough one. I couldn't find anything on Playlist. Found a video of Philly Lutaaya, a Ugandan singer who did a lot towards publicizing the AIDS situation in Africa. Almost perfect (Brown-Waite worked on AIDS education while in Uganda), but long, and I'm not crazy about the quality of the video. So I went with the upbeat song instead. This is Ragga Dee, with Ndigida.