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ON THE BRINK OF PARADISE details the experiences encountered during the author's tour of duty in the Solomon Islands with the Peace Corps. The story takes the reader on an adventure that begins in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, goes to the Solomon's, and then back again to Wyoming. It doesn't focus on the Peace Corps as an organization but rather on the geography, history, culture, people, and places that make up this fascinating country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
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Kim McMahill works for the National Park Service in Hawaii. Having earned a B.S. in Geography from the University of Wyoming, her previous assignments have taken her and her husband to the Natchez Trace Parkway, and the national parks of the Grand Canyon and the Grand Teton. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, as well as geographic and travel articles. Most recently, her work appeared in Pacific Magazine.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
On The Brink of Paradise
LAST SNOW OF WINTER
The wind blew cold and a fine powder of light snow swirled about our feet. With nervous anticipation we began the journey from our home in the Western U.S. to the Common Wealth Nation of the Solomon Islands. Tears clouded my eyes as I said my final goodbyes to our families who had gathered at the small town airport to see us off. We quickly boarded the first of many planes to come and waved a reluctant farewell.
My body grew numb and my mind raced in a state of confusion as I sat on the plane peering out the tiny window for the last time, wondering if everything would feel the same when I returned. A chill shot through me, from the cold or from apprehension, I wasn't sure. We fastened our seat belts and climbed higher and higher into the sky until the home we knew so well completely disappeared from view, and the exciting summer we just experienced eroded away at my once solid resolve to take on the challenges of a new adventure.
We stumbled into jobs with Grand Teton National Park and thought it would be a great way to spend four or five months before we were scheduled to leave for the Peace Corp. I secured a job in the Resource Management Division of the park and my husband, Jim, accepted a job on the Hazard Fuel Crew of the Fire Management Office. We both experienced exciting summers working in the Tetons, though to differing degrees. When our season came to an end, we had mixed emotions about leaving one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Jim spent more than fifty nights on various mountains in several states while I worried helplessly in our remote, phoneless, and mouse infested cabin. I was always concerned about his safety and felt very alone. When he was out as initial attack on a new fire I tried to keep my mind off the danger by thinking about the adventures we knew awaited us at the end of our season and by taking in the natural wonders of the park.
I had seen the breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife of Grand Teton many times in the past, but living among it intensified the experience ten-fold. I woke each morning to an unobstructed view of the sun climbing over the Tetons. In the fall, the bugling of bull elk outside our window kept us up well into the night. As two mighty bulls jousted with their massive antlers dangerously close to my car for the right to mate, I wondered if it could get any better than this.
Despite the beauty of our home, I was thankful when Jim's long season with the National Park Service's Hazard Fuel Crew came to an end and mother nature sent snow to the mountains to squelch the smoldering embers hiding stubbornly in the back country. The summer was a tragic and busy season for firefighters across the American West. The fires began early and I thought the incessant burning would never come to an end. The sky over our little log cabin was continuously dark from the smoke converging on the valley from fires burning throughout Idaho and Wyoming. Flames scorched the earth as they spread through the West with a fury, and many young firefighters tragically lost their lives in the line of duty. I felt very fortunate for the opportunity to live in such a wonderful place, but even more fortunate to have my husband back safely.
We volunteered for the Peace Corps two years earlier after a lengthy period of careful consideration and deep soul searching. We jumped through hoops for most of those two years, so to speak, had our hopes raised and crushed numerous times, and experienced several postponements. We eventually began to doubt if the opportunity to live and work overseas, that we had been waiting for so patiently, would ever materialize. So, when our South Pacific assignment finally became a reality, we felt we had to go regardless of our growing hesitation to leave the spectacular mountains of the Rockies and the only home we had ever known.
Despite our apprehension, the country of the Solomon Islands intrigued us greatly. We knew very little about the country except for the fact that it played a pivotal role in World War II, it was made up of hundreds of tiny islands, and it lay scattered somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Most literature we read talked about head hunting, giant saltwater crocodiles, strict social taboos, snakes and even monitor lizards. The islands were described as wild, formidable, and inaccessible specks in the ocean. The few out-dated articles we located made us wonder how pertinent the stories still were, and feared those parts that might be.
Only two short weeks were available to spend time with our families between the end of our Park Service season and our scheduled departure. As we prepared for our upcoming journey, we did a lot of creative packing and diligent searching for a good selection of reasonably current literature. We came up with little information of value to prepare us for the adventure to come. The most informative tool we found was a detailed chart of the Southern Hemisphere's celestial bodies organized on a circular map to show which constellations could be seen during each month of the year. According to the chart, the southern sky appeared to be completely filled with fanciful stellar characters and objects and I was eager to check it out for myself. In particular, I visualized gazing at the Southern Cross while a gentle ocean breeze swayed the palms beside me and the surf of the ocean pounded out a subtle melody on the soft sand beach. Undaunted by ignorance of our destination and a vague job description provided by our volunteer organization, we readied ourselves to depart for a trek around the world.
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Book Description Buy Books on the web.com, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0741401401