Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) has just published her third travel book, Sailing between the Seas: The Panama Canal. Leita, among many other careers, worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002, and wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert.
In 2012 with Peace Corps Writers, she published In the Valley of Atibon which chronicles her experiences as a middle-aged white woman who goes to Haiti filled with good intentions to manage Hôpital Albert Schweitzer and its community development program. What unfolds for her, however, is a hell filled with young revolutionaries and vagabonds who threaten her life, and the very existence of the hospital and the program. Prompted by these experiences she delves into the mysteries of Voudou, and learns firsthand about the undercurrent of terror that drives rural Haitians. Entwined with her story, Kaldi narrates the uplifting story of Dr. Larimer Mellon, and his wife, Gwen Grant Mellon, who founded the hospital in 1956 and spent their lives serving people in the Valley. Theirs too was an experience fraught with problems that demanded their courage, resourcefulness and dedication to the Haitian people.
In her second travel book, Circling Sicily, Leita and her husband Bob circled the coast of Sicily, from Palermo to the mountain peaks of Taormina, to Catania and smoldering Mount Aetna, to Siracusa and the art colony of Ortygia, to Noto for the annual flower festival, on to Agrigento and its corridor of Greek ruins, to marvelous Marsala, and back to Palermo. Leita writes, “Every day we would find delightful characters, unique food (no spaghetti and meatballs here), awesome sights, and insights into the island’s perennial social and economic challenges.”
What’s next, Leita? Here’s an RPCV you can’t keep at home.