Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job… More Tales from West Africa

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and the Toughest Job by Asifa Kanji and David Drury


Peggy, who is President of Friends of the Ruch Library, came home from a Jackson County Library meeting this summer and told me that two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers had just given a program at the Ashland Library on a book they’d written about their experience in Mali, West Africa. She also had their names, David Drury and Asifa Kanji, and contact information.

Given the book I’d written about my Peace Corps adventures in Liberia, it caught my attention.  I called immediately and reached David. Asifa was off in Hawaii attending to business. Within a few minutes we had a picnic set up for Lithia Park in Ashland. We’d bring the wine. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ashland, it’s the first town you come to when following I-5 north from California into Oregon. The community is renowned for its Shakespeare Festival.)

By the end of lunch, we were on our way to becoming friends and had exchanged books. Asifa and David’s books, Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job, are combined under one cover. My book is The Bush Devil Ate Sam. 

I immediately took their books home and begin reading them. I was fascinated. Both are good writers, have a great sense of humor, and have interesting stories to tell.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22, right after I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1965. David and Asifa joined almost 50 years later in 2012 when David was 60 and Asifa 57. They had to have vastly different experiences from mine, I thought. And yes, there were differences. I certainly didn’t have a cell phone or access to the Internet. They still weren’t invented. And David worked in a cybercafe! In 1965, I would have been running to the dictionary for a definition— and not finding it.

But in the end, I was more impressed by the similarities of our experiences than the differences. Working in an impoverished third world country while struggling to accomplish something in a totally different culture is slow arduous work, and often unsuccessful. Both of their book titles reflected this. Asifa’s 300 cups of tea was the number of cups you had to drink with someone to get their attention. Patience and, I might add, a strong bladder were called for. David’s book got right to the point; it was the toughest job he had ever had.

If you want a good tale that will transport you into another world with both compassion and humor, I recommend David and Asifa’s book. It’s available here on Amazon.

The Bush Devil Ate Sam, Tree Hundred Cups of Tea, and the Toughest Job: Books on Peace Corps Experiences in West Africa

If you are among my blog followers in Southern Oregon, Asifa, David and I will be doing a program featuring tales from West Africa on this coming Saturday, January 20 at the Ruch Library from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. You are invited! The address for the library is 7919 Highway 238 (one block past the Upper Applegate River intersection if you are coming in from Jacksonville on 238).

21 thoughts on “Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job… More Tales from West Africa

  1. I’ll have to alert my daughter about this. She has just returned from her short work stint in Ghana and even after a mere four months, I feel she could write a book! (And she would surely enjoy one about fellow workers in West Africa.) She was trying to get a malaria project off the ground and learned so much both personally and professionally in that time; it helps that she writes quite entertainingly about it! She spent time with many PCVs there, some doing well and some really struggling. It IS one of the worlds hardest jobs!

    • Your daughter will have a lot of empathy for the experience of David and Asifa, as well as mine, Lex. Your daughter is to be complimented for her efforts. Taking on malaria in West Africa is extremely important, and challenging.
      I recruited new Peace Corps Volunteers when I came home from Africa. One of my jobs was to convince them that it was a tough job, that they needed more than wanting ‘to do good’ to succeed. I also wanted them to understand that they would be on their own, in many ways. A desire to travel and learn about other cultures was important. They needed to be independent, patient, resourceful and have a sense of humor. They also needed to be good at self-entertainment. That’s a lot. –Curt

    • Almost always, AC. But it can also be extremely rewarding, both for the Volunteer and the people he or she is working with. The Volunteer also brings home valuable skills and commitments that have a positive impact on the US. –Curt

    • No surprise there, eh Gerard. 🙂 They are always a refuge and inspiration for those who love books. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of bing lost among the stacks. Even the smell of the library tickles my senses like fresh baked bread, or better yet, apple pie. 🙂 –Curt

    • Dave and Asifa were going to collaborate on the same book, Peta, and then decided it would be fun to each write one based on their own unique experiences. I found that it added depth to the story. It is definitely a ‘two for the price of one’ book. Thanks. –Curt

  2. It’s always so interesting to hear/read someone else’s account of a shared experience. I know you didn’t actually share in the *same* experience, but as you said, more similarities than differences. When we travel, my mom, daughter and I always journal and each night we read our journal entries aloud. Even though we spent the whole day together, doing & seeing the same things, our perspective is always quite different. My daughter’s are always my favorite. 🙂

    • That’s a fun, and interesting approach, Juliann. And the three of you have a very similar background. It has to deepen your overall experience. When Peggy and I did a review of my 10,000 mile bike trip last spring, Peggy kept a journal, as did I. I found it very interesting and useful in writing my blogs. –Curt

  3. Darn, just a bit too far to travel! Also too late, hope you had a great time on Saturday! 😀 Fascinating to learn about the differences and similarities of your experiences and what a rewarding experience for you both to meet up. I’d always imagined the Peace Corps was from decades ago and had no idea it was still up and running…I can’t even begin to imagine the work and personal strength of mind and emotions required.

    • Saturday was great fun, Annika. The fact that our experiences were almost 50 years apart provided a unique perspective.
      Peace Corps is indeed live and well, even if its media outreach could be better. –Curt

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