[Paradise in Front of Me is a collection of inspirational, heartbreaking, and comical short stories about a Peace Corps couple’s experiences in a small site in Central America called El Paraíso. The village is nestled in the mountains of southeast Honduras. Although its name means “paradise,” the town is a place of extreme poverty. In 2004, Kevin and Cristina Finch, were assigned to El Paraíso, and as PCVs focused on AIDS education and community development. Life in El Paraíso was at first a tough go, and Kevin and Cristina were about to ET when strange changes begin to transpire. Through a variety of characters, humorous events, and life-changing experiences, Kevin’s memoir describes how their lives were transformed. As Kevin writes, “Perhaps paradise does exist where one least expects.” Here is my interview with Kevin about his new book published by Peace Corps Writers.]
Kevin, where are you from in the States?
I grew up in Sterling, Virginia and attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Why did you join the Peace Corps in the first place?
My wife and I were at a transition point in our lives. We were newlyweds, content in our jobs, but also looking for a change. We had often talked about wanting to live abroad, experience a new culture, use our skills to serve others in need, and learn a new language. We also wanted to go for an extended period of time and completely immerse ourselves in a new environment. We enjoy traveling and find we grow as individuals when discovering and learning about how others live.
What was your assignment area?
I was assigned to the HIV/AIDS and Child Survival Program. Cristina worked in the Municipal Development Program.
Why did you write the book?
While living in El Paraíso, I kept a journal and began sending emails to a group of family and friends about our experiences in Honduras. To my surprise, people were extremely interested in our lives. My stories were being forwarded to others and soon a large group of friends and strangers were reading about our life in El Paraíso. Every story I sent resulted in a flurry of replies. It was exciting for me to witness how the stories were impacting others. Upon returning to the U.S., many people encouraged me to write a book. They believed I had an important message to spread. While compiling the stories, I recognized that the theme of the book was applicable to life anywhere in the world and that others might benefit from hearing it. So, with the overwhelming support of my family and friends, I initiated and finally completed the writing of Paradise in Front of Me.
Do you have a family?
We have two daughters, Adelaide (age 6) and Bridgette (age 4).
What are you doing now in the States?
We live in Roanoke, Virginia. I home-school my two children during the day and operate a private tutoring business in the evenings where I work primarily with children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.
What does your wife do?
My wife is a regional transportation planner and works with state and local governments to improve transportation in the Roanoke Valley.
What is your favorite memory of your tour?
This is a tough question because there were so many wonderful moments. Christmas Eve of our last year in site was very special. Beginning at sundown, we visited numerous families all over El Paraíso. We spent about 20 minutes in each home, eating delicious food and meeting extended families. Until well past midnight, we continued our travels around the town. In every home, we were treated like family, and it was then that I realized just how much a part of the community I felt. We were no longer the strangers from the U.S.A. We were now good friends and a part of El Paraíso in a way that was much more than just volunteers. We were neighbors and friends who were trusted and accepted as members of the community. Two years earlier, my Spanish skills were weak, and I felt lost in a new culture I did not understand. Now, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort. El Paraíso felt like home.
Where can people find out more about your book, Kevin?
I do have a website and blog for the book — www.paradiseinfrontofme.com.
Thanks, Kevin. Good luck on the book.
Thank you, and thanks to Marian Beil for helping me get the book published.