Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .

Joshua Berman

Randy Wood

An interview by John Coyne

YEARS AND YEARS AGO I was traveling with two PCVs from Ethiopia somewhere in upcountry Uganda after having just spentPrinter friendly version several weeks on the beaches of Malindi in Kenya, and before heading back to Ethiopia for our second year as secondary school teachers. We had stopped off at a bar and stumbled upon an old Brit who was proclaiming to everyone who cared to listen that there were too many white people in Uganda and that he was heading out for the jungles of Brazil. Then he ordered another beer and sank back in his chair saying that Africa wasn’t like it once was when you went for years and never meet anyone from back home. I thought: Here was an ex-pat who wasn’t leading what we used to call a normal life.
I hadn’t thought about that incident in years, and then I heard about Randy Wood (Nicaragua 1998–2000) and Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998–2000) who write for the Moon Handbooks travel series with Avalon Travel Publishing and have been traveling the world since they were Volunteers. They have written two editions of Nicaragua together and Joshua also worked on Honduras and co-authored, with Chicki Mallan, Moon Handbooks Belize (for which he won a Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award).
     Randy is an agronomist and engineer, as well as a writer, based in Washington, DC, and he travels frequently throughout Latin America. Randy is married to a Nicaraguan and recently completed his masters degree in development economics and international relations at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS.
     Joshua is a freelance writer, photographer, and trip leader who has spent much of the last 10 years in Central America and the American West. He is currently traveling around the world on an extended honeymoon.
There have been a few RPCVs who have turned their Peace Corps experiences into travel books and a few have done other books for Moon, and all of these RPCVs are characters with whom I wish I could sit down, share a beer, and ask them to tell me stories of their travels. Since that is not possible — since I’m leading a very normal life — I e-mailed them both and this is what they had to say, responding from various places around the world.

Where are you from and where did you go to college, Josh?

I was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia where I enjoyed an Appalachian childhood until my folks moved us to Long Island, New York. At 18, I went to Brown University, where I received a B.A. in Environmental Studies in 1995.

And you, Randy?

I’m from Westhampton, New York (Long Island) originally, a great beach town out at the end of Long Island with lots of fantastic water and very fun summers. It made an explorer out of me, and infused me with a real passion for islands and travel. I graduated from Cornell University in 1993 with a degree in Environmental Engineering. This year I graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS) with a masters in international development. In between, I worked as an engineer and English teacher.

The two of you served together, right, Josh? What was your assignment?

Yeah, Randy and I met during orientation in Granada; we were assigned a room together and he was very proud of the shortwave radio he’d brought down. I wound up serving in La Trinidad, Estelí, a town in the foothills of the Segovia Mountains. My primary assignment as an Environmental Education Volunteer was working with teachers, assisting them to use an eco-themed activity book. Of course it took me the first year to realize that only three out of 120 teachers in the district actually wanted to work with me; once this clicked, then we got some good work done.

What about you, Randy?

I was placed in a little town of 300 people (that's 5 last names, no more!) called San Diego, but I worked as well in an even smaller town called El Hato. They were both in the mountains northeast of Condega, Estelí (Nicaragua). I was teaching soil conservation, crop rotation, and integrated pest management, and trying to convince families to grow vegetables in home gardens for their own consumption.

Why did you join the Peace Corps? Josh?

Peace Corps seemed like the perfect ticket for me to live abroad, learn a language, continue my environmental/service work, and have a life-changing adventure — standard reasons, I’m sure, but I could not have anticipated how the experience would affect my writing aspirations. I pushed Peace Corps back a few times in order to continue working for a magazine publisher in Boulder, Colorado, and finally just had to quit the job and head south, trusting the writing gods that Nicaragua would inspire me. It did.

Home | Back Issues | Resources | Archives | Site Index | Search | About us | To contact us

Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers | PC writers by country of service

E-mail the with comments
or to be added to the new-issue notice list.
Copyright © 2008, (formerly RPCV Writers & Readers)
All rights reserved.