First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Lifeby Eve Brown-Waite Published 14 Apr 2009
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In this laugh-out-loud funny memoir, a pampered city girl falls head over little black heels in love with a Peace Corps poster boy and follows him —literally–to the ends of the earth.
Eve Brown always thought she would join the Peace Corps someday, although she secretly worried about life without sushi, frothy coffee drinks and air conditioning. But with college diploma in hand, it was time to put up or shut up. So with some ambivalence she arrives at the Peace Corps office–sporting her best safari chic attire –to casually look into the steps one might take if one were to become a global humanitarian, a la Angelina Jolie. But when Eve meets John, her dashing young Peace Corps recruiter, all her ambivalence flies out the window. She absolutely must join the Peace Corps - and win John's heart in the process. Off to Ecuador she goes and - after a year in the jungle - back to the States she runs, vowing to stay within easy reach of a decaf cappuccino for the rest of her days.
But life had other plans. Just as she's getting reacquainted with the joys of toilet paper, John gets a job with CARE and Eve must decide if she’s up for life in another third world outpost. Before you can say, "pass the malaria prophylaxis," the couple heads off to Uganda, and the fun really begins--if one can call having rats in your toilet fun. Fortunately, in Eve’s case one certainly can, because to her, every experience is an adventure to be embraced and these pages come alive with all of the alternatively poignant and uproarious details.
With wit and candor, First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria chronicles Eve’s misadventures as an aspiring do-gooder. From intestinal parasites to getting caught in a civil war, culture clashes to unexpected friendships, here is an honest and laugh-out-loud funny look at the search for love and purpose—from a woman who finds both in the last place she expected.
EVE BROWN-WAITE was a finalist for Iowa Review, Glimmer Train, and New Millennium Writings Awards for stories she wrote about her time abroad. She lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts.
"First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life" Reviews
This memoir was really event based and not as thoughtful as I wanted it to be. The author describes major events in this sort of matter-of-fact way, but never provided the reflective commentary I wanted to get what the heck was going on. I thought that Eve was just a bundle of contradictions (which admittedly, everyone is) but she never took the time to really explain why she acted the way she did. I hate criticizing memoirs because the work that her and her husband do is really exciting and important... it just didn't make for the most gripping of plot lines.
On a side note, I really loved the cover design.
CARE and the Peace Corps do not have the same lifestyle as missionaries, but the confusion and frustrations of being plunged into a small town in a developing country are very similar. The fact is that negative events are much funnier to read about than pleasant ones, and Eve Brown-Waite’s misadventures in Ecuador and Uganda will have you laughing out loud whether you have ever been in a developing country or not. Those of us who have, will see ourselves and our friends in everything from making yogurt in a sleeping bag and coping with body odor to dreading good-byes and totally losing it in an American supermarket.
Brown-Waite’s account shows culture shock in both directions. If it doesn’t scare you off life overseas, it may prepare you for the realities with more insight than a field integration manual. Although in much of the book she is desperate to escape, by the end, as unrest escalates in the area, she is heartbroken to leave her friends and remove her “Ugandan” toddler from this supportive community.
As someone who's about to become a Peace Corps volunteer I read this book in order to get another perspective on what it is like to serve. The book is split into two parts-- when she's a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, and then when she is in Uganda with her husband when he is working for CARE. It's almost like 2 different books, and one gets the sense that she is rushing through the first part of the story just to get to the second. The whole premise of her falling in love with her Peace Corps recruiter is preposterous and fairly unbelievable to anyone who has been through the process. You never get the sense of why she is so madly in love with him, nor do you get why he falls for her. I mean, it's a pretty big deal that he quits his job and spends the summer living with her in Ecuador (are volunteers really allowed to have someone shack up with them for a summer?) And you'd think it would be really frowned upon for a recruiter to date a potential volunteer, plus why would he start dating someone that he obviously knows is leaving for 2 years? The whole romantic aspect is just not believable to the reader. The other part that wasn't treated well was her early termination of service. She vaguely talks about panic attacks, but I think she gives it all of 2 pages from when the panic attacks start to when she says "I quit". For such a monumental decision, she doesn't offer it much gravitas, and it forces the reader to think that she just quit early so she could go back to her pseudo-boyfriend-- even if that's not the case, her treatment of that episode just makes it seem that way.
Her writing style is conversational and the epistolary element at the end of each chapter adds a nice, different dimension to each chapter, but oh my god does the "I'll keep you posted.." ending to each letter get irritating! (Who signs a letter that way?)
A lot of readers find her whiny and irritating in her unrealistic expectations of life in rural Uganda-- as someone who served as a Peace Corps volunteer you'd think she'd be a little bit better prepared to do without western luxuries. Ultimately I did empathize with her, especially during her incredibly difficult pregnancy, but on the whole I was not able to be pulled in enough to really identify with her.
I wanted to like this -- I really did. But I think the reason it took so long for me to finish reading this book was because Eve Brown-Waite seemed to be trying too hard to be charming and quirky -- like Carrie Bradshaw if she had followed some handsome do-gooder out to Uganda and married him.
But the thing is, Eve Brown-Waite is no Carrie Bradshaw -- though, some of the flightly, materialistic, whiney aspects of Carrie's character is on full display in this book.
I think the best travel memoirs give you a true sense of a place. When someone's so busy complaining about how difficult it is for them to be there and seems to gleefully document how much they've struggled to adapt there...well, it's hard to want to continue finishing the book.
If anything, she makes a pretty good case for how awful it is in Uganda and how she seems to deserve some sort of medal for surviving it.
I mean, you have to feel sorry for the poor thing! She has no domestic skills whatsoever! Of course she had to hire on several servants -- after all, that's what they do there. And wasn't she helping people out by hiring them to wash and clean and cook for her? After all, she must have been so busy, what with not having a job and complaining all the time.
I get the fact that Eve is a do-gooder at heart but the fact remains that, despite a short stint with the Peace Corps herself, this is really just the story of a girl who followed a boy to a Third World country. I would have really rather just read an account of the good work that her husband did while he was in Uganda, as opposed to the massive culture shock that Eve had to face when she was suddenly living without all the luxuries that she was so used to. What's more is, even though she establishes very early on that it's just what you do there -- hiring people to be your servants -- I very quickly got the sense that she was this spoiled rich person who sat about doing nothing all day and then being irritated over how "backwards" everything was.
It was like, "Oh, I was always being asked for money and I freely gave it out!" or "I was at the tennis club with my expat friends..."
Yes, she has a Masters degree, and yes, she tried to get a job, but ultimately, couldn't get one. (Not her fault, though. Nobody seemed to have a position readily available for her...but, in her own words, she became this "giver" of money, helping people out, so I guess she found something to do.)
The fact is, I just didn't really like Eve very much -- the more I read of her book, the more I thought, "I wouldn't get along with this woman or like her very much if I knew her in real life." In fact, a small part of me couldn't even understand what drew her husband to her. (Though, who can really understand what makes one person fall in love with the other?) I get why she was drawn to her husband, but not the other way around.
If anything, she came across as this whiney, self-indulgent, condescending brat.
I only finished this book because I have this insane urge to finish what I started...but now I'm beginning to think, "Why waste time with things you hate?"
This book was good, but dated. Hello, right up my ally! For the most part I liked it, but I am going to say the big thing that I didn't like. It tried to jam too much into a short book. I wish the author had written like two books, one about her time in the Peace Corp and maybe her courtship with her husband and then another book about their time in Africa. Instead, it was jammed into one, kind of short, book. And in doing that, lots of detail was left out. And it's the details I would have liked! Oy, what can you do. It's not my story to tell.
Girl finishes school, had no idea what to do, works a bit and then joins the Peace Corp, but not before falling for her recruitment officer. They have a relationship before she is shipped off to South America for 2 years. She lasts 9 months before coming home, which apparently is quite common. She picks up her relationship again, they marry and then Boy gets a job in Africa and they settle there. Their time in Africa is like half the book. So imagine how rushed all that first part is! She writes about her life in Africa, her getting a job, being pregnant, having a kid and then coming back to the US, which is where the book ends. Oh yeah, and all this takes place in the late 80's, early 90's!
The pace was the biggest issue I had with this book. The whole story was jammed into like 300 pages, which is a good length of a book for me, but not for this entire story! I felt too much was left out. Okay, I'll get over it. Otherwise, I liked this book. Different places, different people, different cultures. A decent read.
Can I rate the first section five stars and the second section three? Being a RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) and ex-"expat" myself, the book rang true. I laughed out loud about gamma globulin shots, weekly Newsweek magazines, host families that, with the best of intentions, will never leave you alone, scary staging in Miami, crazy water heaters, people going through your personal hygiene products trying to figure them out, etc. It was a fun, realistic look at the well-meaning, and often misguided efforts of the idealistic idiots that most of us were, or still are.
On the other hand, being an expat isn't really all that interesting beyond the point when life becomes routine. Eve, as is often the case, met some interesting fellow expats and figured out that hired help can get you through the challenges of working out survival techniques while helping the local economy. She also saw some interesting scenery and stressed about interesting governmental situations which I would have loved to learn more about. The motherhood issues got a bit dragged out for my taste, and the cast of characters got flat in the second section. I wish we'd learned more about her husband and his work, and I wish she'd come away with some deeper friendships with some of the people of Uganda.
Still, the book was enjoyable and money well spent.