Where were you in 1969? I was a medical laboratory technologist embarking on what was to be a two-year adventure in a land far from my home. Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) had accepted my application to serve with them in a developing country. They offered me what looked like an exciting and fulfilling position training dispensary assistants in northern Nigeria.
Letters Home has been purposely written in two volumes since each phase of my adventure in Nigeria was remarkably different. Volume One, Letters from Home: Glimpses of a CUSO Cooperant's Life in Northern Nigeria. 1969-1970, describes experiences in, and around, the ancient, walled city of Kano — a region of northern Nigeria that suffers from dry and searing Harmattan winds, from poverty, from bureaucratic immobility, and from the fatalism of the Muslim faithful. Volume Two, Letters from Home: Glimpses of a CUSO Cooperant's Life in Southern Nigeria. 1970-1971, looks at my experiences in southeastern Nigeria near the border of what was Biafra during the crisis. Problems there were those caused by frequent rains rather than by drying winds. Mildew got into everything, grasses grew rampant, roadways subsided. People suffered from near starvation, exotic parasites, gross anemia, and lack of such normal utilities as reliable running water or electricity. The occasional black mamba slithering across my pathway to the hospital and geckos hatching their eggs under my kerosene refrigerator made my life even more interesting.
Letters Home are my memoirs. They have been compiled for the world to experience and, perhaps, to learn something about volunteer life in a developing country. Enjoy!
A recent retiree now living in Vernon, British Columbia, Andy Buhler has weathered 25 years as a medical laboratory technologist around the country and another 12 years as a specialist medical librarian. His move from employment in Victoria, BC to retirement in Vernon, BC turned up a stored box of air letters written during a two-year stint with CUSO in Nigeria. In 1969 he was a recently certified medical lab technologist testing the waters as a salesman for a biomedical supply company. Sales were not found to be his forte but general bench technology seemed too restraining for him. The option of working overseas in a developing country arose. CUSO was looking for recruits. That option looked like it could become an exciting foreign adventure and an opportunity to hone his fledgling technical skills. That adventure was what had been saved in the newly discovered box of air letters. Although Andy has edited birding newsletters and journals and has put out a limited-edition cookbook, this is his first venture into the publishing of a memoir.