Where in the World?

Excerpts from a Life Abroad

My thanks to the scores of people who responded positively when asked, via Facebook, if they’d be interested in reading edits of the journals and letters I wrote home from a lifetime of living and working overseas. I’m going to give it a try. I’d hoped to be able to dig into my extensive archive of photos, but they’re currently in storage. Because of the pandemic shelter-in-place, I can’t get at them. For now, I’ll post some available photos or photos I can create out of whatever I have to illustrate the text. Later on, when I can get into all those boxes, I’ll post additional photos taken during my sojourns abroad.

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Let’s start with an excerpt from my first journal, about a girl from small-town West Virginia who almost bit off more than she could chew. During my Junior year at West Virginia University, I felt a strong need to do something useful. A psych-soc major, I wanted real experience, not more lectures. And I wanted the challenge of trying this somewhere else in the world. I was president of the student YWCA at the time and asked the director, Harriet Shetler, to help me identify some summer programs with those opportunities. She came up with …

That first experience of culture shock during Asian Seminar 1964 pretty much inoculated me for the rest of my life. By the time I applied for Peace Corps training after obtaining my Masters in Television Production at Boston University, I knew what to expect and had some ability to deal with the discombobulation of entering a new culture.  I’d also learned that being busy and productive was critical to having …

I was working for CBS in Los Angeles and sharing an apartment with WVU chum Bettina Altizer when the phone rang one day. Recent calls from men who wanted to inquire if I liked to “swing” had made us cautious. Bettina answered, listened for a few moments, put her hand over the receiver and said, “It’s some guy who says his name is…” she rolled her eyes “…Russell Sunshine.” “Oh …

Let me turn, in this post, from our domestic to my professional life in East Africa. My participation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania film project entailed a lot of red tape with both ELCT and the Tanzanian government. One example of the latter was that any entity hiring a foreign national had to certify there was no Tanzanian qualified for the job. Without that, the foreigner wouldn’t be …

While I was working on the ELCT film, I’d typically be away from home for 3-7 days, then back for days or even weeks, depending on the availability of hosts for my scouting visits, as well as an ELCT driver to take me to potential film sites if I couldn’t get there by rural bus. So life went on — Little Theatre performances, entertaining guests, trips to sights near and …

My work on the documentary film for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania proceeded throughout 1975. I travelled here and there, visiting sites where ELCT was engaged in health, support for women and youth, education and other projects. The plan was to write a script in English, from which the team could film and which would also be translated into Swahili and German. In the end, there would be three …

Our final months in East Africa were as full as the first — safaris with guests, my ELCT film work, one last Little Theatre performance (as the leads in “Butterflies are Free”), plus the complicated and red-tape-full preparations for leaving any overseas post. All interspersed with the sadness of saying goodbye, in more ways than one, to dear friends. Here are relevant excerpts from letters I wrote home. January 2Jane …

When I started Where in the World?, the COVID lockdown prevented me from accessing photos in storage that would have illustrated my posts. Now the lockdown has eased somewhat, and I can get to those albums. In the meantime, many of you have sent feedback sharing your own overseas experiences and/or support for these excerpts from my journals and letters home from overseas. So I’d like to dedicate Post #8 …

We returned to the States as 1975 turned to ’76, discovering that some of our elders were not in good health. More long-term overseas projects didn’t make sense, we thought and decided to stay Stateside until the situations became clearer. Russell took a short-term consulting assignment advising Indonesian Government lawyers at U.C. Berkeley Law School, while I enrolled in a graduate course on Central Asian Nomads. That fall, we moved …

People often ask me what’s my favorite country. Surely one of them is Somalia. These people who have had to endure so many trials are tough and yet gentle, hardened and yet gracious. My days among them were blessed with support and lessons in how to face life’s demands. Let’s continue the story of that first sojourn with excerpts from my journal. Map courtesy of Nations Online Project Baidoa [Baydhabo …

The 1980 project in Somalia was the first of multiple short-term assignments in developing countries during that decade. I went a second time to Somalia, at least five times to Pakistan and once each to Jamaica, The Philippines, Guyana, Egypt and Kenya.   Pakistan Unfortunately, all the journals from my various projects in Pakistan are not to be found anywhere. The only artifacts are a few photos, mostly official pictures …

A year after my first Somali sojourn, I was asked to return and conduct a series of one-week agricultural communication workshops for extension agents in three locations: Janale, Jowhar and Baidoa (Baydhabo on the map). I was keen to go not only because of my love for the country and many friends there, but also  because the second trip would be a chance for what a colleague has called “bamboo.” …

The U.S. Department of Agriculture contacted me about conducting the agricultural communications workshop in Guyana. Because I didn’t speak Spanish, I’d never worked in Central or South America, so this English-speaking country offered an intriguing opportunity. A former British colony, Guyana had a distinctively mixed population with descendants of Amerindians, British colonials, Hindu and Muslim indentured servants from the Subcontinent, as well as African slaves. [Please note: the term “Indian” …

Let’s return to the Guyana story for a bumpy road to a happy ending. Map courtesy of Nations Online Project   August 13Workshop field trip delayed by driving rainstorm, but we managed to leave by 8:15. Up Timehri Road to Linden Hwy, then on dirt/sand track through dense second-growth bush (former timber land) to Mrs. Sharif’s farm where James and MOA staff were to conduct sessions on method-and-result demonstrations. AID …

The 1990s brought big changes to my life overseas. Before we explore that transition, I thought it might be interesting to hear from others who’ve lived and worked abroad. Not counting the military, 8.7 million Americans currently live in over 160 countries. If they all lived in one U.S. state, it would be the 12th most populous — right between New Jersey and Virginia. You may have friends or neighbors …

For years, I’d been operating with the philosophy that, as a consultant, I could focus on the beneficiaries of a project, working around the politics of bureaucracy and the challenge of team mates who were some combination of poorly prepared, racist and/or not focused on empowering participants to be effective in their own milieux. But repeated incidents like those in Somalia, Guyana, Nairobi and Cairo were taking their toll. After …

As we did everywhere, we shared our lives with other creatures in a garden that someone else had already started. Laos was a little different in that some of the creatures were not your basic pets, and the garden was already overflowing with abundance. 1991 March 16 Our family has been expanded by one. Exactly one week after I arrived, we were at the Australian Club for a swim, and …

Looking forward to hearing from you.

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