The Bush Devil Ate Sam is the story of my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa from 1965-67— four years after President John Kennedy created the organization. Join me as I make the decision to sign up, go through training in San Francisco, fly off to West Africa, and spend two years teaching second graders and high school students.
A wandering gene passed down by ancestors— reinforced by my experiences as a student at the University of California, Berkeley— led me to sign up for the Peace Corps. You will meet some of the ancestors. As for Berkeley, the 60s were turbulent, divisive and very interesting times on campus. I joined the Free Speech Movement, sat-in at Sproul Hall, and gave a speech while standing on the Dean’s desk. The FBI was watching.
Just how do you prepare people to leave their friends, family and culture to spend two years of living and working in a dramatically different culture? The Peace Corps was still struggling with this question in 1965. Did camping our group in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and introducing a crate of clucking chickens for dinner help?
My story is about the challenges of teaching in a third world country. But it is also about how the history, politics, and culture of Liberia impacted the job we were brought in to perform. Why, for example, was an elementary school reader I wrote featuring African folk tales and Liberian children considered a revolutionary tract by the government?
Mainly, The Bush Devil Ate Sam is about everyday life, African style. Do-Your-Part the Dog adopts me and then causes a mini-riot when she sneaks in behind me to the grand opening of a mosque. Rasputin the Cat and the rooster next door take turns waking me up at 5 a.m. A tribal chief offers to lend me a Lightning Man who can make lightning strike whomever stole my $50.
I conclude with an epilogue that covers Liberian history from the 1970s up to the present, including Liberia’s civil wars and Ebola.