Betsy was not allowed to play croquet with her husband and the Reverend, so she sat in the shade of the trees at the top of the mound. The mound overlooked a lush African rain forest, which grew thick and dense to the edges of the mission compound. The view was compelling and frightening to Betsy. The close, steamy jungle made her feel insignificant, and as she half listened to Mrs. Shaw’s chatter, she watched the bush as if it were alive.
The Reverend and Mrs. Shaw had started their mission twenty years before. Landscaping woods near a village of mud and cattle-dung huts, they cut into the underbrush, leaving only the ancient acacias and gum trees for shade, and planting lawns and gardens. The African laborers had instructions to keep the lawns neatly trimmed during the rainy season, well-watered the remainder of the year.
The Shaws had been the only white people in the district until Betsy and her husband arrived with the Peace Corps to teach in the government school in the fall of 1970. It was their second year in-country, and as Betsy had calculated that morning, she had only eighteen more Sundays left in Africa.
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