Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village
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Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village

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by Sarah Erdman
     
 

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The village of Nambonkaha in the Ivory Coast is a place where electricity hasn't yet arrived, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women pounding corn fills the morning air like a drumbeat. As Sarah Erdman enters the social fold of the village as a Peace Corps volunteer, she finds that Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and

Overview

The village of Nambonkaha in the Ivory Coast is a place where electricity hasn't yet arrived, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women pounding corn fills the morning air like a drumbeat. As Sarah Erdman enters the social fold of the village as a Peace Corps volunteer, she finds that Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and poverty is constant, where women suffer the indignities of patriarchal customs, and where children work like adults while still managing to dream. Lyrical and topical, Erdman's beautiful debut captures the astonishing spirit of an unforgettable community.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Sarah Erdman's voice rings with a distinct and refreshing intimacy....This book is simply about people and their stories. In the joys and failures of daily routines in a small African village, she finds life itself.” —Peter Hessler, author of Rivertown

“Exemplary...The writing has the narrative pulse of good fiction, and is as absorbing.” —Norman Rush, author of Mortals

“Sarah Erdman has been blessed with these gifts: a fervent curiosity, a generous heart, a lightly self-mocking manner, and a fluent and poetic language...A vivid, at turns hilarious, at turns terrifying, important, and beautiful book.” —Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock

“It is rare to be so completely transported to another land....[Erdman's] powers of observation, her prose, and her daring are truly Orwellian.” —Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country

bn.com
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
You've heard the drill before: A young American travels to Africa to spend two years in the Peace Corps. But this is not the same old story, and Sarah Erdman is not your average writer. Everything about this book rises above its predecessors. Everything.

Erdman fully absorbed the complex culture of the West African village to which she was assigned, and in Nine Hills to Nambonkaha, she shares the gift of her experience, enfolding readers in the place that challenged her, provoked her, and transformed her in memorable ways. Erdman's prose is lucid and rhythmic, her voice comfortable and insightful. Her storytelling? Poetic and superb.

Assigned to a village in northern Côte d'Ivoire, Erdman longs to help the residents overcome the blight of AIDS and poverty, to protect their women from female circumcision, and to promote education to the suffering populace. But the villagers' culture stands outside of time; the same word is used both for "today" and "tomorrow." Into this place, Erdman injects a humble confidence, both passionate yet teachable. With inner strength and honesty, her relationships grow and deepen, and as the villagers struggle to adapt to an ever-encroaching modernity, true friendship seeps warmly onto the page.

Having read this book, it's safe to say that Sarah Erdman is probably a great example of a Peace Corps volunteer. She is certainly a great new writer. (Fall 2003 Selection)

The Washington Post
Erdman sets about her incremental work—wheedling mothers to weigh their babies, gently broaching the scandalous topic of AIDS—with the eye of a social scientist and the ear of a poet. It was a long and fascinating trip, and her delightful telling of it has me hoping she'll be packing for another one soon.—Steve Hendrix
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. Agent, William Clark. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this complex debut, Peace Corps worker Erdman, who lived in eight countries growing up, takes the reader on a vivid and compelling journey into the colorful world of a small village in the Ivory Coast. Arriving in early 1998, she faced extraordinary challenges as she taught children how to read and women about nutrition and birth control, overcoming superstition, language barriers, ignorance, diseases, lack of funding, and her own personal fears. The lecherous gendarme; the many children; the old women of the village, who raise money to begin building a clinic; and Erdman's friends, local nurse Sideb and his wife, Abi, are all wonderful, three-dimensional characters that liven up the narrative. Erdman's eloquent descriptions allow the reader to appreciate the scenes of cautious yet excited village women who show up each month for the healthy-baby contest and then to desperation at the description of a baby dying of AIDS. The author's sensitivity to the traditions of the villagers, the unique ways she found to overcome and incorporate those traditions in her work, and the despair she sometimes felt over the intrusion of the modern world make this a complicated but also contemplative book. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful memoir of Peace Corps service in West Africa, with all the hallmarks of the subgenre. First-time author Erdman brings a large heart and a sense of humor to her account of her two-year stint in the interior of the Ivory Coast, providing healthcare in a market town in which nothing is quite as it seems. Though Islamic, for instance, the residents of the town were not inclined to take their religion with the grim determination of some of their fellow faithful: "For a small minority of Nambonkaha residents," Erdman writes, "Ramadan is a time of fasting and atonement. For the rest it means a month of talking about fasting that ends in a big party." Like many another Peace Corps memoir, Erdman's tale follows a trajectory that begins with cultural misunderstandings, with an appropriate level of self-pity ("Too much is foreign; too much is missing. I'm all alone surrounded by people"), and that arcs into understanding, acceptance, and friendship. Erdman steers away from the usual pieties, though, and delivers some sharp observations on rural life in Africa while poking fun at herself, e.g., as she confronts a plate of bushrat stew prepared by a local trickster who enjoys her squeamishness: "Ahhhh! La tête! My favorite part! Look, there are its little teeth!" There are plenty of serious moments, though, as when Erdman ponders the astonishing corruption that keeps the Côte d'Ivoire, with an economy that is the third largest in sub-Saharan Africa, impoverished and struggling; the upper class has plenty of money, she notes, but it "never seems to seep through to the rest." By the end of her memoir, Erdman has taken to a more or less relativistic view of such things, and even if theycontinue to bother her, she is fierce in defending the people of the Ivoirian interior from Western misperceptions and stereotypes. Sometimes treacly, but mostly charming. A worthy debut. Agent: William Clark

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312423124
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
08/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
1,247,835
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 8.16(h) x 0.91(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha

Two Years in the Heart of an African Village


By Sarah Erdman

Picador

Copyright © 2003 Sarah Erdman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5005-7



CHAPTER 1

A MEMORY


A single lantern filled the room with flickering light, throwing Fanta's shadow toward the door. The glow bronzed her tight cheekbone, her deflated breast, her moving stomach. There was not a cushion in sight, not a sheet, not a bar of soap, not a bucket of water. There was just the hard mud floor to support this woman struggling through labor. I could only think of the blinding fluorescence of the American delivery ward: the blankets, pink or blue, the menu of painkillers, doctors in white coats, white gloves, the hard white hospital light. How much different it was here in the hushed, dark tension of the hut.

From the start of my two years as a health worker in rural Côte d'Ivoire, I'd known that trust would be vital to my work. But that meant a certain degree of assimilation, which is not always easy — especially for an educated Western woman living in a tiny, traditional, West African village on the cusp of change.

The early days were rife with small talk and polite misunderstandings. I wanted so much to get past it all, to connect on a deeper level with the people I was supposed to be helping. The waiting was hard. But that night, about two months after I arrived in the village of Nambonkaha, it became apparent that the villagers were just as eager to bring me into the fold.

I was tinkering with dusty cans of food, trying to summon the creativity to make dinner, when a breathless man appeared at the screen door.

"Come!" he said, his eyes wild. "My wife's stomach hurts."

"What's wrong? Is she throwing up?"

"No!" he cried. "A baby is coming out!"

I knew nothing about childbirth. "Why have you come for me?" I asked, steadying the rising panic in my voice. I'd been dispelling myths of my medical expertise ever since I'd arrived. He answered, in his tattered French, "My wife — she said to find you." Suddenly my ignorance just seemed an excuse: the fear on his face persuaded me. I strapped on my headlamp, grabbed my Birthing for Midwives manual, and followed him into the night.

The man led me to a courtyard not far from my own, then pointed to a dimly lit doorway. "Pei ba," he told me in Niarafolo, the local language. They're there. And then he was swallowed into the shadows. Low voices came from inside the hut — creaking, scratchy ones — and my pulse slowed as I listened. Tonight this birth would not depend on me. The elders were there. For centuries, the village has relied on its grandmothers, its vieilles, to deliver its babies. One of the old women, a friend who sold salt at the village market, beckoned me from the doorway. "Come look," she said.

My neighbor Fanta sat naked on the dirt floor. She seemed so calm despite all the women pacing around her. The salt seller stood straight, arms akimbo, a presence far greater than her four and a half feet warranted. Her jaw rotated in slow circles around a cheekful of snuff. I could tell right away she knew I had not seen this before. The other old women scrambled to find me a stool, urged me to sit. I couldn't yet speak Niarafolo well enough to say much. I had learned many phrases, but none applied to childbirth. We communicated with hands and eyebrows.

Crouched on the stool, I opened my book to find the right page, but there were hundreds of pages about childbirth, and Fanta's labor wouldn't slow for me to catch up. Pain crumpled her face in waves. I had only known Fanta as a pregnant woman, but that night, as the baby shifted downward, her scrawniness was suddenly apparent. A shoulder jutted out grotesquely above her hip and I realized I could trace the baby's progress through her thin flesh. I riffled through the pages of my trusty manual, but instead of answers, I found a whole catalog of causes for panic. The salt seller rasped orders to the others, chomping vigorously on her tobacco, shaking her head.

One woman grabbed Fanta's belly from behind and rocked it vigorously, as if she could shake out the baby. Suddenly there was blood pooling on the floor. So much blood! Fanta's teeth flashed in a grimace, and then she clamped her lips together. She seemed so strong, but I was scared — this might be the end of Fanta, and I, the ostensibly trained one, was a helpless spectator. My teeth carved up the inside of my lip; I watched anxiously, feeling useless. The bloody prelude gave way to a pale patch of skull, visible just under the bright pink scar where Fanta had been circumcised.

The swollen head emerged slowly, and then the neck — noosed with a blue umbilical cord. I turned back to my book, trying frantically to find this particular complication. After the tense and sluggish delivery of the head, the rest of the baby slid right out, flopping against a cloth on the ground. I was used to scenes of babies smacked and screaming seconds out of the womb. This one lay still, translucent and whiter than me. The hut filled with our breathing. The salt seller poured water on his chest in a thin stream to check his reflexes. Nothing. Fanta lay on her back, staring at the ceiling.

Without speaking, the women simultaneously picked up the rusted tin basins they'd been sitting on and started hammering them with spoons and fists. The metallic din smashed our dark silence; it suffocated the room with noise. The sound was violent, unbearable — it seemed to explode in my head. But the women banged on, louder and louder, as if the world's noisiness were reason enough for the baby to stay.

The child's chest barely moved. I flipped through the manual, squinting against the clatter, embarrassed not to have found any answers.

And then, amid all the ruckus, the tiny thing gurgled and flickered a hand. That's all it took. The old women's voices returned, their faces crinkled into smiles.

I had just watched a miracle, but the others didn't seem to notice. Fanta didn't look flushed with excitement, didn't reach out her hands to hold him first. The atmosphere turned curiously businesslike. The vieilles cut the cord with a razor blade, sprinkled some dust on it to stanch the bleeding, and stuck him in a basin of dark red bark water. Fanta crouched over, the placenta slipped out, and she slid it directly into a clay pot. According to tradition, she alone must bury it in a secret place outside the courtyard. She would also be expected to laugh and sing as she buried it, or the child would be sickly. If a sorcerer got hold of the placenta, he or she would have complete power over the baby's mortality.

An old woman scooped the tiny boy out of the water and tossed him in the air three times, muttering prayers as he fell back into her hands. Then the child was wrapped up and passed straight to me for inspection. I tried to hand him to Fanta to start nursing, but all the women shook their heads. "Yirma wo ba." She doesn't have milk, only water, they said sadly, as if she were defective. Strange that they regarded this normal delay in milk production as the result of something Fanta's body had done wrong. How could I explain the virtues of colostrum in Niarafolo? I said, "The water is good!" They cocked their heads, smiling quizzically, and kept passing the baby.

The salt seller held him for just a second, then handed him off. "Allons partir," she ordered gruffly, and so we left. But some boundary had been crossed: they had let me in. I trailed the salt seller's small, strong figure walking briskly under a bowl of glittery stars.

People ask me now, "What was Africa like?" I tell them that the place I came to know is laughing yet troubled, strong yet crippled, and dancing. Africa was like nothing I had known before, until I knew it better. But to really explain it, I have to start from the beginning.

CHAPTER 2

A BEGINNING


Shadows slide across the table, shrouding my dinner in darkness. Something resembling a tiny shark is floating in my sauce, but I can barely see it. The girls, the mothers, the children are clustered in the dust of the courtyard below, eating on low stools. But I am white, and something of a trophy just now. My place is on the balcony, seated at a rickety table covered with flowered plastic, overlooking the family. The girls and mothers below eat fast, lips smacking between words. Lachaud's jaw moves in slow, powerful circles. He sits next to me, silent, a bit fierce. This morning, he was the one sent to greet me at the welcoming ceremony, when my fellow Peace Corps trainees and I sat sweating and dazed amid throngs of grinning Africans. Later he brought me into this courtyard to introduce the rest of the family that will be mine for three months while I learn to be a health worker in rural West Africa. Lachaud, it turns out, doesn't live here. Still, he seems to have a kind of authority.

He says nothing for minutes, and then, "Il faut manger!" You must eat! I look down. The dull bulb on the wall sheds light on Lachaud's plate, but mine is drenched in darkness in the shape of my own head and shoulders. I know it's foutou on my plate — they pounded boiled plantains all afternoon. Mama No. 2 sat low next to the mortar, thudding rough paste into shiny globes.

I stab my fork at the lump of black submerged in the bowl of okra sauce. The head surfaces, its eyes blank and white, its teeth still gnashing its tail. I want to be good, to slurp up this meal with gusto and ask Mama No. 2 for seconds. That might make my strangeness less glaring. "Il faut manger," repeats Lachaud, glowering faintly. My fork trawls the murky sauce, and I swallow what emerges with my eyes shut.

Two tall girls appear in the darkness below and call out a greeting. Lachaud's teenage sisters are twins with long thin braids, identically smooth, strong faces, and the same mischievous eyes. They scamper up the stairs and hover behind me. Sandrine glances at the remnants of the monster in the sauce, but it is Sylvie who grabs my shoulder and relieves my culinary torture. "Come!" she says. "Let's go for a walk." I abandon that fish in a flash.

There is one paved street in the village of Abenké, a pocked ribbon of asphalt that splits the community down the middle. But the earth on either side of Abenké's street has washed away, and the village around it seems to be sinking. Orange light pools under streetlamps that run the length of the village; the intervals are dark. I walk up and down the road, a moving centerpiece in an assembly of so-called siblings. Fingers wander in my hair, brush my shoulders, my elbows, my hands. My teenage "sisters," Sopi and Rosine, lead the way, laughing a little too loudly. Around our little nucleus swirls a kinetic pack of children in rags. We pass boys collected by a stereo whining reggae, a tailor spinning out stitches by lamplight.

A voice calls out my name. "C'est Lachaud," says one of the twins. Saturday night and he's pacing the street, too. My entourage goes orange under a streetlight, then falls black a few steps on; orange, and then black again. We pass Lachaud for the second time a few minutes later. I say, "Ça va bien, Lachaud?" even though I asked just minutes before. Everyone has told me to never skip a greeting. His smile has loosened. Somewhere down these black alleys there must be a moonshine maker.

When I finally head home near ten, reeling from the whirling crowds of staring, dusty children, I feel flattened by so much strangeness. We pass Lachaud on the way. He's bleary-eyed and slumped against a wall, wearing only white shorts.

I wake up the next morning in my turquoise-painted room to the whispers of a silhouetted head against my window. I know it's Sopi. She is fifteen maybe, an imp, a joker. Stubby braids sprout all over her head, and her face balances on a wide, unfaltering smile. I love her already. "She's still asleep!" Sopi croaks. She coughs and clears her throat, then finds some reason to yell to her sister far across the courtyard. It works. I'm up and laughing already, and it seems some of the foreignness has rubbed off with sleep and daylight.

My giant duffel bag has erupted across the room. It occurs to me that there is too much stuff — dozens of batteries, flashlights, cassettes, books, pens, herbal medicines. I brought tennis shoes, two pairs of sandals, and Birkenstocks, when clearly all anyone wears is flip-flops. Although I've stocked up on amenities, maybe all I really need is in me.

My parents are in the Foreign Service; I grew up on the move. Being a foreigner does not faze me. Coping with cultural differences is something I've done since childhood. Before leaving the States in January of 1998, I pored through every book I could find about Côte d'Ivoire and learned that the country has sixty-four ethnicities, strong animistic traditions, and the most political stability in West Africa. I came confidently. I thought I was prepared. But already I am humbled and astonished by what I've found.

My room is on the lower floor of a worn-down two-story house, built by the father of my host family — the vieux — during his heyday. A long, narrow balcony looks out at the fields and the courtyard below. The dark staircase between the floors has nearly catapulted me into the courtyard several times already; the steps are drastically uneven, as if each one has been collected from a different flight. The house speaks softly of former success: the large, vacant salon gathers dust. The bedrooms, except for mine and the vieux's, remain sealed behind doors that don't quite fit their frames. Life happens outside. The women and children sleep on plastic mats to escape the heat. Cooking takes place on low fires in the courtyard. Washing — of dishes, clothes, and babies — is done in basins in the dirt.

I come out into the sunlight to the smiles and clucks of all the courtyard women, whom Sopi immediately introduces as either sisters or mothers. I'm stymied. "All the same family?" She giggles and nods. Is she trying to trick me? Sopi's older sister Hélène grabs my bucket, new and pink in this dusty courtyard, and hops up on the well platform to pull water for my bath. She wears a pagne, or sarong, of faded dark red; her shoulders sweep out of it, smooth and rippling with fine strength. Hélène may be nineteen, but it seems to depend on whom you ask. She has given her flashing eyes and her dimples to a three-year-old daughter, Eloise, who hides behind her mother's knees in my presence.

I step up on the well beside Hélène. Already it is clear that I am considered weak and somehow superior to manual labor — misconceptions to be dashed before long, I hope. The last thing I want is for them to serve me, though it almost seems they want to. When I take the rope and fill the bucket, slashing my shirt with wet dirt in the process, the whole courtyard erupts in laughter. Rule No. 1 becomes quickly apparent: Laugh first.

The N'Guessans' latrine becomes, within hours, my favorite spot, the only place outside where I'm confident of my solitude. The bathing section is made of baked clay, draped with vines and roofed far above by the edges of a giant mango tree. It is lovely purely by accident. Hélène says I must bathe twice a day, and I wouldn't dream of arguing with her. My first bucket bath is like skinny-dipping — splashed cold water in the sun's slow burn, the smell of wet clay. I dry off in minutes just standing there. At night it must be even better, when the water is warmed over the fire, the air is soft, and the ceiling is a million shimmering stars.

While I'm dawdling in the latrine, the twins show up, boisterous already. I emerge in my Western garb and they rush up, a bundle of rioting colors in their arms. "You have to try on these!" they pant. "Comme une femme africaine!" In all the excitement, we leave my own clothes on. Over my pants goes a narrow skirt that binds my knees and reduces my walking to the mince of a geisha. A bodice fits snugly over my shirt and leaves my shoulders swimming. The neckline is low and lined with ruffles; the short sleeves are entities of their own: giant wads of padding puff out level with my ears. The girls pull out a long warped mirror, and I note in my reflection that my outfit is made from the "cellulaire" fabric that seems all the rage: mud-green background patterned with giant orange cell phones, symbols of modernity just out of reach.

The sun is racing to the top of the sky. February is the onset of the hot season. I am wearing two whole outfits and nearly suffocating when they bring out the pièce de résistance: a thick, black velvet cloth traced with sparkling gold designs. "This goes around your waist," says Sandrine, who, when asked what purpose it serves, can't think of a good one. With an everyday pagne, you can tie on a baby or bundle up your purchases at the market. But this one is too nice for all that. The girls step back and grin into their fists. I am wearing a complet, a three-piece pagne, the traditional costume of West African women. They're mighty pleased with their handiwork.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman. Copyright © 2003 Sarah Erdman. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A graduate of Middlebury College, Sarah Erdman still works for the Peace Corps and lives in Washington, D.C. The child of parents who spent their entire careers in the Foreign Service, she lived in eight countries while growing up.

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Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
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I agree with all of the previous reviewers. This wonderful book is beautifully written and opens up a world that most of us know so little about.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book for free for participating at a country fare..which i only did for a guy but anyway... Sarah Erdman(sp) the author was a guest speaker and actually read a couple of pieces...hearing her voice really gave life to the book. If you are a pessimist or have a mentality against a group portrayed here (as my dad) then you're going to hate it. But if you are open minded and love to be transported into other places while still enjoying the beauty of human emotions, customs, and vivid imagery...then it is going to be one of the top picks on your shelf. I have had this book for almost a year and a half now and have read and reread it many times not only for joy reading but also as a first person account in my research. Another feature that i love about the book is that i can open the book at any part and it will still make perfect sence...great for people with not a whole lot of time or on the go. Overall it kind of reminds me of an anthology of different experiences. I LOVE this book...and I have great respect for Ms. Erdman. ULTIMATE FAVOURITE
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written book about Africa seen from the angle of the African village. It is very descriptive and makes it possible for the reader to relate to the story. This is the right book for those who have the desire to know about African life and the culture of the people. Coming from an outsider's view of Africa, one gets amazed by the insightful nature of it. A recommended read .You can also read THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES, NO LONGER AT EASE, TRIPLE AGENT DOUBLE CROSS, DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, MANGO ELEPHANTS IN THE SUN. I enjoyed reading these African stories because the opened my eyes to a lot of things about Africa I knew little about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several works by former Peace Corps members before and this was one of, if not the, best. The author allowed the African village to teach her, and rather than relating her opinions to readers, she more or less relates the lessons of the African village. She largely ignore most of the political talk related to Africa, and instead focused on the very specific needs and issues of this community. It was an excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid travel-essay reader - just an average person who loves to be transported to different places. Sarah Erdman's book was enjoyable, and I learned of an area I had actually never heard of! The book moved along a bit slow, but I believe it was her first - nonetheless, you keep turning the pages to see what she experiences next. I really liked it
Guest More than 1 year ago
            Prepare yourself for an amazing trip to Africa when you pick up Sarah Erdman¿s book, Nine Hills To Nambonkaha, because her vibrant descriptions make you feel as though you are truly there. Erdman¿s account of her two years spent in the small village of Nambonkaha in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer is filled with joy, challenges, and many friendships. Her love of people shines brightly through her countless hours of work, in which she tries very hard to make life better for a culture struggling with poverty, corruption, death, and AIDS. Even with all these hardships, Erdman finds the true beauties in this minute village, and she wonderfully shares her experience of a lifetime in her book Nine Hills to Nambonkaha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nine Hills to Nambonkaha is a truly amazing story of a woman, Sarah Erdman, who goes to Sub-Saharan Africa to try educate the local people of things such as AIDS, the proper way to care for newborns, and many other things. Although Erdman has to bring in western science to do this, she first becomes friends with the locals and earns their trust. Then, with the Peace Corps behind her, Erdman teaches the people of Nambonkaha things they never knew. Erdman's delicious story opens your eyes to what is REALLY going on in the world - not just what we think is happening. I recommend Nine Hills to Nambonkaha to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was instantly transported to the northern ivory coast of Africa. Sara Erdman, a young Peace Corp volunteer is assigned to the market village of Nambonkaha. The rarity of this woman's work however is that instead of trying to force her Western ways onto the villagers she takes time to find her niche among the people and become accepted. Then slowly, with the help from the local male nurse, Sideb and his wife Abi, she introduces basic health care and uses the villagers own traditions and culture to attract the mothers and babies to her clinic. She instructs the cautious but curious mothers in nutrition, diseases, birth control, etc and gets them excited about the Healthy Baby Contest where they bring there babies each month to be weighed. Ms. Erdman's language is poetic and flowing with a wonderful natural enthusiasm and love of these people who she has befriended along with the ability to laugh at herself. Her characters are portrayed in all of their humanity including their beliefs and despair. She helps us to understand the terrible situation facing West Africa with the spread of AIDS and we witness the birth of babies and their death from AIDS. There is also extreme poverty for the tribe's people while the upper class has plenty of money. I would highly recommend this book and hope that it finds it's audience as this is a life worth reading about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was touching and refreshingly personal. Sarah struggles with issues familiar to all development workers ¿ ¿How do I instigate behavioral change now that I have disseminated the information?¿ She doesn¿t have the answers, but some insights, which only come from living so closely with a community. She shares these thoughts and the people of the village with her reader, avoiding clichés and stereotypes. As a former student of economics and having worked in community development overseas, I feel that this book is must read for individuals in these fields. Sarah lets you in the secret obstacles to capitalism not found in textbooks and defines the role of a successful development worker ¿ bringing out the best of those in the community so that ¿progress¿ comes from within, not from a temporary outsider. Of course, I would highly recommend this book to prospective Peace Corps volunteers, or those who have always wished they had volunteered as well; you will truly be transported to Nambonkaha, Côte d¿Ivoire.