In beautiful, evocative prose, Adrienne Benson brings to life the striking Kenyan terrain as these women’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways in The Brightest Sun. As they face their own challenges and heartbreaks, they find strength traversing the arid landscapes of tenuous human connection.
Before becoming an author, Adrienne served as a Peace Corps volunteer high in the mountains of Nepal. We talk about her service and her new book, The Brightest Sun.
On this Episode:
- Having a water buffalo as a neighbor
- How Adrienne Benson broke her leg and got Typhoid on the same day
- The Brightest Sun, Adrienne’s new book
Photos from Adrienne’s Story
Adrienne Benson’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I served as an English teacher and teacher trainer in Nepal, from 1992-1994.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Well, Nepal is a beautiful place, and I was lucky to live in a little village up in the Annapurna Himalaya foothills. The people were wonderful, and so I think my favorite memories are those day-to-day ones–sitting on my steps in the morning drinking tea and watching the fog lift off the valley below me, laughing and gossiping with the other women while we washed our clothes at the village tap, taking walks along the ridge line with my Nepali sister in the evenings and seeing the peaks of Machhapuchchhre in the distance. And the food. The food! It was simple, village food–rice and lentils twice a day and, when we were lucky, Water Buffalo milk to pour on top, but I developed a sever addiction, which I still wrestle with!
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
Being sick. I had all the usual PC illnesses, plus salmonella, and typhoid, and then I broke my leg in three places. I had to make my way from my village to Kathmandu via a man carrying me on his back, then on horseback, then taxi to the airport, then luggage cart from airport to plane. It took two solid days. Actually, it’s kinda funny to remember now.
What do you miss about the Peace Corps?
I miss the luxury of time. I was there before cellphones (!) and so once I was in my village there was so much time to think and read, and just hang out talking to people. That’s something we just don’t get much of in the States.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
That there is ALWAYS enough to share. It’s a trite, overused expression, maybe, but I learned the poorest of the poor are always offering what they have to others. That’s something all Americans should learn to embrace.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
“Caasto duka cha!” In Nepali, it basically means, “Oh, what trouble!” and it’s used for everything–from doing homework being too much trouble, to terrible things like bad crops. I still use it in my daily life–when my kids ask for snacks and I’m feeling lazy (caasto duka cha), to taking the dog for a walk when its raining… It’s a great catch-all term for things that are kind of a pain in the a$$.
The Brightest Sun
I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to read The Brightest Sun before it was published. For anyone who has ever lived in sub-Saharan Africa or had a mother, I highly recommend this book. The Brightest Sun follows three women as they come to terms with their past and they try to make their future in Africa.
“The African backdrop gives an interesting spin to Benson’s exploration of themes related to motherhood, outsiderness, and emotional connection.”-Booklist
If in the DC area or elsewhere, support your local bookstore and pick up The Brightest Sun for your next read. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it online here: http://amzn.to/2pmsRCd