Virtual Author Signing: Mar 1, 2021 ‘My Life in the Peace Corps’

On Mar. 1, 2021, I’ll have a virtual author signing for “My Life in the Peace Corps.” Using the live function on Facebook for my new page @ShadsBooks, I will show some of the items that I brought back with me from Africa. What will these items be? That will depend in part on a vote at my Patreon page. People who join will get the first shot at telling me what they most want to see.

The Format of Signing

This live video will start on March 1, 2021 at 7pm. The first 20 minutes will be show and tell, I’ll leave 20 minutes available for questions and answers, and the last 20 minutes will be for signing your books. If you want to watch me sign it and have more input on what I write in it, this will the time for you. Plus, you’ll get my personal gratitude. Questions and answers will be done in the chat. You can pre-order your autographed copy, so I know how many books I need to order. I will send out all books on March 2.

What Are the Possibilities?

I brought a lot of stuff back from Guinea. In the Christmas theme, I have a stockings, a commemorative t-shirt, and Santa Claus outfit a tailor made for me, including a beard. We celebrated Christmas at the Casse in 1998 as told in “My Life in the Peace Corps.”

Other items include a mancala board, my formal Guinean attire, tin cars made by the kids in my town, three nicely carved wood boxes, and Le Patron (which is a bit risqué, but part of my life there). Join our Patreon and vote for what you want to see. You could also just leave a message, but there is a limited amount of time for items, so Patrons get first dibs.

What Is Patreon?

Patreon is a platform that allows you to support creators as they work to become free from the constraints set on them by having to earn a living. You get to play patron to someone (or multiple someones) to help bring more of what you want into the world. In our case, you get to help us make more penguins and write more stories. You will also get some pretty cool items, sneak peeks, recognition, and voting privileges, depending on the level you pledge at.

Do I Have to Buy a Book?

You do not have to purchase anything to join this virtual author signing. You can simply show up and walk down memory lane with me.


Peace Corps and the Unabomber Insanity Plea

When I was in the Peace Corps, the FBI captured the Unabomber and he was facing a trial for his crimes. The Unabomber was responsible for killing three people with package bombs that he mailed or delivered himself over the course of 17 years. He could have faced the death penalty, so his attorneys argued that he was insane. Their specific reasoning for declaring him insane included that he lived alone in a cabin. Now, a cabin is not too far from a hut, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was living away from “civilization.”

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ICYMI: ‘My Life in the Peace Corps’ Available on Amazon

You can now get both the paperback and the eBook of “My Life in the Peace Corps” today at Amazon! I composed this from the letters I sent home while I was serving in Peace Corps Guinea, where I joined as a Public Health and Community Development Extensionist. I was assigned to the health center of a small town of about 5,000 people in the middle of the country. My nearest Peace Corp neighbor was 70 km away during my first year, and I could only get a car out of my village on Saturdays.

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Bicycles for All Seasons: A story of freedom

For a long time, bicycles were an integral part of my life. As a child living in the projects, I had the sweetest black bicycle that I had gotten during a mysterious Christmas. It was a hybrid mountain-road bike that I took everywhere in the HUD housing complex where we lived. When I was on that bike, the world was mine. I could make it do magic. I rode up and down stairs. I went to the neighborhood convenience store and searched the newspaper boxes for spare change. One day, I left my bike outside as I ran into my home to go to the bathroom. When I returned, the bike was gone. “My Life in the Projects” would never be the same.

Albany, Oregon

In high school, I used my ten-speed to get to and from school when the weather permitted. I mostly left it at home when the weather was rainy, but some days, it was nice to have a faster way to get to school. On the weekend, we would use our bikes to go to the park or get downtown. This bike was built for speed and the roads, so sometimes, I would crank up the gears and head out onto the nearest big roads just to race the cars. I’d hit the Arctic Circle up for a lime rickey or a kid’s meal if I had the cash.

Bicycle Safety

This was the time when I learned two good safety lessons. The first was that when riding a bicycle, the rider should always wear closed-toe shoes. We went to see my mom as she floated down the Willamette for some holiday. My sister’s foot slipped of the pedal while her flip-flop remained. Her foot flew back, and her big toe ended up in the spokes of the bike. There was plenty of blood, and my mom had to swim from the boat she was floating on to help my sister.

The second was when we were driving on the main road through town away from I-5. I saw a car hit a boy on a bicycle on a side road. He flipped up over the hood of the car and slammed his head on the windshield. He was then thrown forward and slammed his head on the roadway. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet. The boy crawled to the curbside, and mom turned down the road to see if she could help while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.

The Peace Corps

Once I got my first car, bicycles went by the wayside. It wasn’t until I joined the Peace Corps that bicycles got a new lease in my life. The Peace Corps supplied the bicycle and trained us in how to fix them. This bike was freedom. It allowed me to travel hundreds of kilometers during my service. “My Life in the Peace Corps” was much better for the mobility that the bicycle provided.

While I couldn’t take the Peace Corps bike with me, when I returned to the U.S., I was able to purchase a bicycle. In Kalamazoo during the summer months, it was my only transportation. I would ride to the American Red Cross and use one of their vehicles to get to teaching gigs. When winter rolled around, I had a new job, a new apartment, and a new car. I kept that bike, but I stopped riding. Now, my niece uses it.

Get the Books

If you’d like to read more about “My Life in the Projects,” the book is available on Amazon and here. It’s the mostly true account of living in HUD housing during the 1980s. “My Life in the Peace Corps” will be available on Amazon on Dec. 28, 2020. Pre-order today. Or get the autographed book when it comes out in hard copy.

Toto’s ‘Africa,’ Karaoke, and My Return to the U.S. from Peace Corps Guinea

One of the first events I attended when I got back from serving in the Peace Corps in Guinea was a wedding. Karaoke was the main activity featured at the reception. No one was singing, so the karaoke DJ was having to wing it. Playing questionable music and trying to get people up on stage to get involved. I wanted this wedding to be successful, so I signed up.

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The Mosquito Net Is Life in Peace Corps Guinea

As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), one essential place of refuge from life in Africa was under the mosquito net. In 2000, the World Health Organization estimates that malaria killed over 700,000 people worldwide.  Peace Corps didn’t want its volunteers to experience malaria or any of its related health consequences. We received insecticide-impregnated mosquito net for our beds, instructions on how to eliminate the mosquito population in our immediate area, and an anti-malarial medication called “Mefloquine.”

Anti-Malarial Drugs

When I arrived in Washington, D.C., I wasn’t given any choice as to the type of anti-malarial medication I was to take. No one was. Unless there was a history of allergic reaction or someone had done the research and put up a real fight, all PCVs took mefloquine. It was the preferred medication because it only had to be taken once a week, instead of every day. Peace Corps thought volunteers would be less likely to forget a weekly pill, even though many of us were taking vitamins every day. Most of us were too young or too idealistic to care. We assumed that Peace Corps would want to take care of us and offer the best preventatives available.

I certainly never looked at the possible side effects, and when I heard rumors about them, I just shrugged them off. I’d never experienced severe side effects associated with prescription medications. I didn’t see a need to worry. More importantly, I wanted to get out there to help people. If taking a questionable medication would get me there, I was fine with it.

The Mosquito Net’s Importance

Anti-malarial medication isn’t one hundred percent effective, mostly due to human error. If you forget the medication one or two days in a row, you really want to have a back up plan. The mosquito net was that. It was an impregnable fortress that not only kept mosquitoes from biting you, but also kept other insects out of your most private space – the bed. You might get attacked by anything – scorpions, ants, spiders, snakes, mice, termites, the list is long – but once you were under the mosquito net for the night, you were safe.  The mosquito net was also impregnated with insecticide, so it killed any mosquitoes that tried to get to you. When the day was over, you could crawl under the net and rest assured that nothing was getting while you were asleep. Or so I thought.

A Violation of the Mosquito Net

I had just finished reading one night. I put the book down beside my pillow, turned of my reading light, and rolled onto my back. There must have been a full moon that night because I could dimly see the inside of my hut. As my eyes adjusted to the ambient light, I could see more detail. I had tucked in my mosquito net, so I was safe. I could just close my eyes and go to sleep.

There was a scrabbling sound on my thatched roof. It wasn’t uncommon to have some bird or lizard run across the roof, except they weren’t usually active at night. My eyes drifted to the sound. A gray flash ran around the top of the mud walls. It was just a blur; it moved so fast. Then, it crawled on the line attaching my mosquito net to the ceiling. It was a mouse. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was safe under my net.

The mouse dropped down and disappeared. I figured it landed on the floor, and I would deal with it in the morning. I was too tired to be bothered with it now, so I closed my eyes and listened, secure under my net, waiting for sleep to take me. Something rustled I the dark. I ignored it. Then something wriggled underneath me. It was the mouse. I leapt up from the bed and got out from under the mosquito net. I tore the sheets away and saw a cockroach about three inches long in my bed. How’d it get there? I pushed it off the bed, squished it on the floor, and swept it outside to let the ants deal with it. I searched for the mouse but didn’t find it. Uneasily, I crawled back into bed.

Mefloquine’s Side Effects

Peace Corps told us that one of mefloquine’s most common side effects was vivid dreams. They involved all of the senses. Was this one of those dreams? I don’t know. What I can tell you is that I hadn’t slept for about three months. My dreams were so real that it felt like I was living them. I’d wake up tired and irritable. Some days, it would take me a little time to get my bearings and understand which version of the day was reality and which was the dream. I’m sure having a routine saved me from appearing crazier than I already seemed. When I went to the Peace Corps medical staff and told them about it, they calmly said – “Oh, that’s just the medication. Can you take a pill every day?”

“I take vitamins every day, so I can take them together.”

They switched my medication, but even now, I still have days and weeks where my dreams feel more real than real life. I struggle to separate the two until I stand up from my bed – tired and stressed from another restless night. Is that the mefloquine 20 years later? I don’t know, but it sure feels like it.

More from the Peace Corps

While the above is a memory, “My Life in the Peace Corps: Letters from Guinea, West Africa” is directly from my time as a PCV. There is no reconstruction, so you get the information as I lived it and as I sent it home to family and friends. The book will be released on Dec. 28, 2020 in eBook format on Amazon. I will try to publish the paperback on Amazon about that same time. If you want to get it quickly, watch my Facebook page for a link. If you want an autograph, you can pre-order the paperback on As soon as I get some copies, I will sign them and send them out. This process will take longer than ordering directly from Amazon because I cannot order them ahead of time.

Christmas at the Hut in Guinea, 1998

In 1998, I decided to spend Christmas at my hut in Banko, Guinea. As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), I had invites to go to larger cities to spend the holidays with other PCVs. Instead, I invited a couple of my friends from Peace Corps to have “Christmas in the Case.” (“Case” is French for “hut.”) I had to improvise some things to make it special.

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Traveling in Guinea at the end of the 20th Century

While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, West Africa from 1998 to 2000, I had to take bush taxis or ride my bike to get where I wanted to go. The Peace Corps provided us with a bike and the knowledge to fix it. These mountain bikes were simple, strong, and essential for mental health. They let those of us, who were isolated, know we still had a way out, even if there was no motor transportation available. The bush taxis were a whole different story. Traveling in Guinea was not for the faint of heart.

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What’s at the Saturday Market (Marche) in Banko? A Peace Corps POV

My editor has been going through my book and making suggestions about what I can add to make it more interesting to the reader. She thought it might be interesting to know what’s at the Saturday Market in Banko. However, “My Life in the Peace Corps” consists of the “Letters home from Guinea, West Africa and the Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” (Pre-order the eBook at Amazon or the paperback at As discussed earlier, I’ve realized that memory is a reconstruction, so the letters are more accurate because they were written through one lens – my own culture. The following observations on the market are written through the lenses of time and culture and may not be accurate. I served in Guinea from 1998 to 2000.

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Memory Reconstruction and My Life in the Peace Corps

For the last five years, I have been toying with the idea of publishing my letters from my Peace Corps service. I started by typing them up without editing. Then, I waited. When I went back to them this past month, I had to type them up again, and I did a little more research. I found that my memory of life’s events isn’t always accurate, and I am glad to have these letters to help keep things in perspective. As someone who has studied creativity, psychology, and communications with an emphasis in journalism, I know that memories aren’t something we recall. Instead, they are things that we reconstruct through the lens of who we are today.

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