Review — YOU TRY PAA by Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana)


You Try Paa: A Love Song in Translation
Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana 2008–10)
Independently published
88 pages
$9.99 (paperback), $6.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by Dan Campbell ( El Salvador 1974 –77


Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana 2008–10)

Cynthia Ann Caul’s You Try Paa offers readers a poetic journey through her experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. The book weaves a tapestry of encounters and insights, embodying the spirit of adventure and human connection. Through her poetic narratives, Caul captures the essence of Ghanaian culture with an authenticity and affection that can only stem from genuine engagement and respectful curiosity.

The title “You Try Paa” reflects a common phrase in Ghana that expresses encouragement and acknowledgment of one’s efforts. This encapsulates Caul’s experiences in Ghana — constantly learning, adapting, and trying, even amidst challenges. The poems are structured around various themes such as community, resilience, cultural exchanges, and personal growth, each telling a story that resonates with anyone who has ever been a stranger in a new land.

What makes Caul’s collection stand out is her ability to convey deep respect and love for Ghana, its people, and their traditions. In one poem, she describes moments shared with Deborah, an energetic child, and a friend named Mawusi. In others, she reflects on a bout with malaria and naming a baby. These moments are rendered with a clarity that is poignant, offering insights into the complexity of human connections formed across cultural divides.

Caul’s writing style is accessible yet profound. Her language is simple but evocative, capable of capturing complex emotions and scenery in a few, well-chosen words. This accessibility invites readers of all backgrounds to partake in her journey and derive their own meanings and reflections from her experiences.

You Try Paa also addresses the broader implications of being a Peace Corps volunteer, discussing both the rewards and the inherent challenges of such a role. Caul navigates these discussions with honesty and introspective thoughtfulness, encouraging readers to think critically about the role of cultural exchange in our globalized world. She does not shy away from discussing the difficulties and ethical dilemmas faced by volunteers, which adds a layer of depth to her narrative.

In conclusion, You Try Paa is a masterful collection of poetry that offers more than just glimpses into a volunteer’s life. Whether you are interested in poetry, cultural exchange, or stories of personal transformation, Cynthia Ann Caul’s book is a compelling read that resonates with warmth, wisdom, and a profound understanding of the human spirit. This book is not only a tribute to the people of Ghana, but also a celebration of the possibilities that open up when we venture beyond our familiar boundaries and try paa.


Dan Campbell served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador from 1974 – 1977. He worked with El Salvador’s Department of Natural Resources and helped to survey and plan the national park, Parque Nacional Cerro Verde.

Serving in the Peace Corps was a life-changing experience and Dan has devoted his career to international development after leaving the Peace Corps. In El Salvador, Dan also met his precious esposa Zoila.

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