I still have the Yashica-D twin-lens reflex camera I took this with. The Leica that took the slide I snapped just after, just before the elephant charged, has disappeared–as has the slide itself. As has the negative for this print. Ten moves over twenty years, and things just vanish.
The picture never was much better than this damaged print. I took it soon after dawn and the light really wasn’t sufficient. Plus, I was in a hurry. I knew I was too close to the elephant–but I had never been this close before and wanted to get a picture. I was sick of elephants appearing as little black dots in the distance (I lacked a telephoto lens).
When the elephant charged, I turned and ran down the hill and then circled to what would be the left in this picture–and fell somewhere to the left side of the picture. To the right, and somewhat behind, was my compound, but I could not have managed to get around to the entrance, which was down the path the elephant was walking on.
In the upper left, near that ridge in the background, is the village of Nassiett, where I was working on a hedgerow project, where I constructed a small culvert easing rainy season flooding of the road, and where I built a tree nursery. Directly to the left was the main part of my village, Tambaong. That way, down the path, several people were watching as I took my pictures and the elephant charged.
My involvement in the “Peace Corps @ 50” project began with my submission of a personal essay recounting this incident. With it, I offered any assistance I could give. Series Editor Jane Albritton, when the original editor of the Africa volume had to step aside, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in taking over. I was and did–and, though it has been a great deal of work, have enjoyed every minute of it.
The book, One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalohttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=one098-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1609520009&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, is now available from Amazon.com and will be in many Barnes and Noble stores within days. You will have to buy it, if you want to get the whole of my story. [I get no money out of this, but I really, really want it to be a success.]
The essays, together (and with the three forthcoming volumes focusing on other areas of the world) present one of the great stories of the last half-century, the story of Americans moving into the world peacefully and with purpose, the story of the lives of Americans in cultures absolutely distinct from their native land, the story of Americans coming home changed completely.
Reading One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, one begins to recognize the commonalities of the diverse experiences of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), the challenges, the growth, and the learning. There are some sixty essays in this book, each one a gem. Even if you have had no experience with Peace Corps or with Africa, the quality of the writing here will surely impress you.
In many ways, I am more excited by the publication of One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo than I’ve been by any book I’ve written on my own. With this, I feel part of something much bigger, much more important than my academic books.
If you buy the book and read it, I would love to hear reactions. Please contact me.