On October 26th, a little over 20 people gathered on the top story of Bloomsbury Books to listen to two new authors read from their new book. David Drury and Asifa Kanji, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, have recently finished their book about their services in Mali. They served from 2011 until in 2012, militants staged a coup d’etat, overthrowing the elected president and suspending the constitution. The nearly 200 Peace Corps volunteers, including Drury and Kanji, were put on lockdown, and three weeks later, were evacuated. Afterwards, Drury and Kanji completed their service (the Peace Corps requires a 27 month commitment) in Ghana and South Africa.
Their new book, titled “300 Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job” is a collaboration from the husband and wife, and is a collection of their stories about their time in the Peace Corps. The stories range from humorous (being “potty-trained” in the open-aired wooden huts and learning to squat and aim) to sentimental (seeing the faces of the volunteers around the campfire for the last time), and detailed their transition to Malian life that included hard mattresses and the oppressive heat.
“Nothing prepared me for the challenge I faced in Mali” Kanji addressed the small crowd, admitting how life in Mali started as a struggle. Kanji worked as a Health and Nutrition volunteer, and Drury worked as a kind of small business consultant, helping at a cybercafé and aiding in the operation of a small radio station, “the local equivalent of JPR.” However, the couple, the other volunteers, and the Malian people did not complain, and Kanji pointed out how the people were warm and compassionate.
According to the Peace Corps website, the average age of volunteers are 28, yet Drury and Kanji are 60 and 57, respectively. The couple is relatively new to Ashland, moving here just this past January, and their book is on sale in Bloomsbury Books or can be bought on Amazon. Drury also noted how it could be bought on Kindle for only six dollars, or “a beer and a half.” Drury and Kanji told those who came to hear them speak, they would not earn a penny from the sales of the book. Instead, all of the proceeds will go to help fund a current project that Volunteers in Mali are doing.
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Ryan Loughery is a former Siskiyou staff writer who serves as a Peace Corps Campus Ambassador at SOU. He hopes to pursue his passions of traveling and writing through his affiliation to the program.