Peace Corps Writers
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Tales from the Jungle . . . a Gringa in Nicaragua
by Rachael Tyng McClennen (Nicaragua 1996–98)
Amigos de las Americas, $15.00
     P.0. Box 30129
     Seattle, Washington 98103-0129
35 pages
  Reviewed by Stacey L. Flanagan (Costa Rica 1994–97)
  THIS LITTLE BOOK IS what memoirs are made of. Rachael’s Tales from the Jungle . . .a Gringa in Nicaragua is a collection of essays about her experiences as a young woman learning and working in a New World. As I flipped through the pages, I was reminded of the questions I asked my self as a similar gringa living in Costa Rica. I felt like I was reading my own journal at times, asking questions and growing from each answer.
     Rachael’s path to Peace Corps is a similar tale for most of us: Fate. At a young age, her aunt and uncle, who served as Peace Corps Volunteers, inspired her. After questioning her ability to live overseas, she tested the waters with an international program called Amigos de Las Americas. Following this eye-opening experience with Amigos in Ecuador, she knew she was ready for more. Her essays are about her transition into adulthood through Peace Corps and what she learned in a modest Nicaraguan community
     As I paged through the essays, I was able to identify with each question she posed and each growing experience. Rachael’s expression is: it helps you to learn how to walk in the chancletas (sandals) of another Peace Corps Volunteer.
     In “The Hidden Jinotega,” Rachael asks herself if she could ever become desensitized to poverty. I could see the women selling her tomatoes outside the All-American haven where she went once a week for her escape from “real Peace Corps life.” In “Wrong Expectations,” I felt the journey of Ana as she waited for an appointment at the health center.
     I am hoping this little book is only the beginning for Rachael Tyng McClennen. Rachael reminds us that it is the constant questioning and risk taking that makes Peace Corps “The Toughest job you’ll ever love.”
Stacey Flanagan is the Director of Engagement, Mandel Fellow at the Drucker Foundation. She has a B.A. from Michigan State in Political Science and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from the New School and lives in New York.
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