While on a camping excursion with friends and neighbors sitting around the campfire on a warm August evening, for some strange reason, the discussion turned to protein foods. Some of us shivered with “Oohs,” “Awes,” and “Yucks” as a few recalled tasting unsavory insects in certain parts of Asia.

One of my neighbors, Chris, who bought our Anthology entitled Never the Same Again, said she had just read something interesting. She shared with the nine of us, from the story “Uncommon Meat” about the Boa Constrictor and the German Shepard. As she told the story from memory, line by line, the campfire audience listened intently. When she concluded telling us which creature was really eaten by the local Liberians, the discussion gravitated toward customs that vary around the world and importance of protein during hard times. I chimed in with another protein story from the Anthology, “Gonleyen the Bird Catcher.” Chris added some detail that I had forgotten. One of my neighbors asked Chris when she had been to Liberia. “Oh no, I haven’t been there, I just read these stories in Never the Same Again.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Chris had been transported to Liberia through those brief stories. She was able to tell them to a group with the takeaway message of each story being totally clear.

The art of storytelling is a gift FOL authors have given to the world and the messages they share. This was exactly what I had hoped for. To see it spontaneously happen before my eyes was so rewarding. These stories and poems can and will educate: ones that go beyond campfire chatter.

4 responses to “Beyond Campfire Chatter”

  1. Randall Alan Durner Avatar
    Randall Alan Durner

    Susan,
    Congratulations on finishing your anthology on Liberia! I’m sure it was a work of love, very intense, but worth the effort. Appears you had a great turnout for its initial presentation.
    After reading this piece about different “critter” foods, it reminded me of one of my early experiences in Liberia, where I watched women one evening trapping termites that flew to lanterns. Lured by the light, they became easy prey and once caught, were dropped into a kettle of hot cooking oil, to become “crispy critters” in a matter of seconds! A rare source of protein for Liberians. I never tried any; one indigenous food that didn’t quite appeal to me, although I liked most other local foods such as eddos, cassava rice, palm butter, etc.

    Like

    1. susangreisen Avatar

      Hello Randy, I did eat these deep fried termites and they were quite snacky. The one Critter I could not consume was a live grub about the size of my thumb. You had to swallow them all at once, no chewing. I couldn’t do I couldn’t do it. the Liberians told me a taste like pork.

      Like

      1. Randall Alan Durner Avatar
        Randall Alan Durner

        I don’t think I was ever presented with the option of grubs for a meal.
        I did get into a pickle well into my tour however, when a new volunteer came for a weekend stay. We went for a short bush hike near the town where I lived, without one of my houseboys. Within several hundred yards of town, we hit a “Y” in the trail. We stopped, I looked to my right, and to my utter amazement there was a “Bush School!” I’d seen one near ZorZor deep in the forest, unoccupied. I couldn’t believe this one was so close to town. We turned to leave immediately, but we’re met by a woman on the trail, who said we needed to see the Town Chief. Of course it was in Mano dialect and the newbie didn’t know what was happening. Thank goodness for language training; I understood what she said and we complied. The Town Chief was absent, however, and the Acting Chief declined to act upon the woman’s request for damages due to our intrusion. He referred her to the Regional Political Commissioner who resided in a compound near the center of Saclepea. There, we each plead our case. By sheer happenstance, I had sent my houseboy James to the Commissioner’s residence with some bush meat perhaps a week or so earlier as a goodwill gesture. I really didn’t know the man. He indicated I was a guest in their country, and rather belittled her. She wanted two goats and $40 as reparation for out unplanned intrusion. He ruled she was to get no damages. In hindsight, it would have been smart of me to have offered her something to save face, however, that might have undermined the politico’s ruling, not a good thing either. The new guy must have thought he was going to be strung up by his thumbs, not really knowing what was going on. At the very least, I’m sure he never went out of his village without a Liberian escort. By noon, word had spread quickly about the incident. I shared the house with a public health volunteer, and she came back asking what kind of trouble had I gotten myself into, since word had spread far and wide. In the end, there was no repercussion for our little episode. A good lesson learned the hard way!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. susangreisen Avatar

      Hello Randy, yes we could’ve gotten ourselves into a lot of pickles as I indicated in my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos. I was extremely fortunate in that the Gio ethnic group in my village was very forgiving of me searching out The Secret society of the girls Bush school. They led me to the area where it was occurring, but later refused my entry into the ceremony. I write about this story in the chapter entitled The girls Bush school. I think refusing my entry was a good thing. I heard of some very bad outcomes or stories of such. That was a threshold that is volunteers need not cross. I left Liberia with many, many fond memories and friends and a host of Tropical Illnesses. 50 years later I am now learning that the work I had done planted a seed of improved health. And that’s all I could have hoped for.

      Like

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If our anthology lit a fire in your psyche, l encourage you to leave a comment above OR write a review/comment on any or all of these websites below. Hover over the link and open:

Peace Corps Worldwide:
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(For this link just scroll to the bottom and add your comment. It will ask for your email, but it will not be published. You don’t have to be a PC volunteer to comment.)


Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=1736935151/RPCVWritersReadeA/#customerReviews
(Amazon requires that you have purchased $50 of merchandise from them in the past year or are a Prime member)


Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61290175-never-the-same-again?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=men52qnAiD&rank=12#CommunityReviews

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4 thoughts on “Beyond Campfire Chatter

  1. Susan,
    Congratulations on finishing your anthology on Liberia! I’m sure it was a work of love, very intense, but worth the effort. Appears you had a great turnout for its initial presentation.
    After reading this piece about different “critter” foods, it reminded me of one of my early experiences in Liberia, where I watched women one evening trapping termites that flew to lanterns. Lured by the light, they became easy prey and once caught, were dropped into a kettle of hot cooking oil, to become “crispy critters” in a matter of seconds! A rare source of protein for Liberians. I never tried any; one indigenous food that didn’t quite appeal to me, although I liked most other local foods such as eddos, cassava rice, palm butter, etc.

    Like

    1. Hello Randy, I did eat these deep fried termites and they were quite snacky. The one Critter I could not consume was a live grub about the size of my thumb. You had to swallow them all at once, no chewing. I couldn’t do I couldn’t do it. the Liberians told me a taste like pork.

      Like

      1. I don’t think I was ever presented with the option of grubs for a meal.
        I did get into a pickle well into my tour however, when a new volunteer came for a weekend stay. We went for a short bush hike near the town where I lived, without one of my houseboys. Within several hundred yards of town, we hit a “Y” in the trail. We stopped, I looked to my right, and to my utter amazement there was a “Bush School!” I’d seen one near ZorZor deep in the forest, unoccupied. I couldn’t believe this one was so close to town. We turned to leave immediately, but we’re met by a woman on the trail, who said we needed to see the Town Chief. Of course it was in Mano dialect and the newbie didn’t know what was happening. Thank goodness for language training; I understood what she said and we complied. The Town Chief was absent, however, and the Acting Chief declined to act upon the woman’s request for damages due to our intrusion. He referred her to the Regional Political Commissioner who resided in a compound near the center of Saclepea. There, we each plead our case. By sheer happenstance, I had sent my houseboy James to the Commissioner’s residence with some bush meat perhaps a week or so earlier as a goodwill gesture. I really didn’t know the man. He indicated I was a guest in their country, and rather belittled her. She wanted two goats and $40 as reparation for out unplanned intrusion. He ruled she was to get no damages. In hindsight, it would have been smart of me to have offered her something to save face, however, that might have undermined the politico’s ruling, not a good thing either. The new guy must have thought he was going to be strung up by his thumbs, not really knowing what was going on. At the very least, I’m sure he never went out of his village without a Liberian escort. By noon, word had spread quickly about the incident. I shared the house with a public health volunteer, and she came back asking what kind of trouble had I gotten myself into, since word had spread far and wide. In the end, there was no repercussion for our little episode. A good lesson learned the hard way!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hello Randy, yes we could’ve gotten ourselves into a lot of pickles as I indicated in my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos. I was extremely fortunate in that the Gio ethnic group in my village was very forgiving of me searching out The Secret society of the girls Bush school. They led me to the area where it was occurring, but later refused my entry into the ceremony. I write about this story in the chapter entitled The girls Bush school. I think refusing my entry was a good thing. I heard of some very bad outcomes or stories of such. That was a threshold that is volunteers need not cross. I left Liberia with many, many fond memories and friends and a host of Tropical Illnesses. 50 years later I am now learning that the work I had done planted a seed of improved health. And that’s all I could have hoped for.

      Like

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