Susi Wyss

Central African Republic

Like Janice, the character in my book who visits the Central African Republic in the title story, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there in the early 1990s. Cut off from my family, trying to make sense of a different culture, this experience was the most challenging—and intense—of my life. At the end of my two years there, the Peace Corps held a close-of-service meeting at the Dzanga-Sangha National Park. On the road back, we were surrounded by thousands of white butterflies—so many that they clogged up the vehicle’s fan and we had to stop and clean them out. The image of those butterflies fluttering thick as snow has stayed with me ever since, and I ended up including it in my story.

A year or two after I left, the Peace Corps program in the Central African Republic (or CAR, as we called it) closed down due to security concerns; because of continuing problems, it has yet to re-open. Like Janice, I went back to visit—once in 2000 and once in 2005. Unlike Janice, however, I went alone. The CAR still has some of the worst socioeconomic indicators in Africa; it is consistently rated among the ten poorest countries worldwide. And yet—maybe in part because so few foreigners ever make it there—the people of the CAR have always struck me as being among the most welcoming and generous of any I’ve met in Africa.

Postage stamp from Central African Republic

Photos left by Susi Wyss

Map of Africa showing countries where Susi's stories are set. Central African Republic Ethiopia Ghana Malawi Ivory Coast
Eating mishwi with friend
Smiling kids under hangar