EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 5. Life in the Villages of India

Some of the books I read while growing up were about Americans traveling abroad. Prominent among these were Richard Halliburton’s books on travel, which were high-drama experiences as he climbed mountains, trekked across deserts, or swam the Panama Canal. Another book that stood out was by Osa Johnson, who, along with her husband Martin, was an explorer and adventurer. Her book, I Married Adventure, about life in Africa and the South Seas, also fueled my interest in traveling. Now I would be traveling to the far side of the planet to live in villages in India. I couldn’t wait.

At this time transoceanic travel was in the process of shifting from ocean liners to airplanes, although it was still the era of prop planes, low speeds, and short flights. Our group of seventeen young farmers—headed for India, Nepal, and Pakistan—traveled by ship from New York to Bombay (now Mumbai) via the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal.

The months between notification of my selection for the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) and the beginning of orientation were short ones. I continued working at Seabrook Farms until the time of departure to give them ample time to find a replacement. I had also contracted with P.J. Ritter to grow fifteen acres of tomatoes.

Even though Carl and I were no longer partners, when I left for this six-month commitment, he readily took over the tomato operation for me in late summer, managing the harvest.

At the end of July 1956, I took my first plane ride, flying from Philadelphia to Ames, Iowa, for an intense week of orientation at Iowa State University with 175 IFYE exchangees there from thirty-six countries. The IFYE was a cultural exchange program between the United States and some forty other countries. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Ford Foundation, and the local and state Extension Services, it was one of many exchanges that evolved after World War II to promote better understanding among countries. There were many briefings and much discussion on how to adjust to life in another culture, particularly one as different from our own as that of India.

Among those attending this weeklong gathering were Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese delegates to the United States, which allowed us to meet our exchange counterparts who were now living with U.S. farm families. The timing of these farm exchanges was shaped by the seasons. The best time to be in the United States, of course, is spring through fall. For those of us going to the subcontinent, it was better to arrive in September after the monsoon season.

Once we completed the week in Ames, our group headed to Washington, DC, for an additional week of orientation. As I thought about the plane trip to Washington, it occurred to me that I could hitchhike and save the money that otherwise would be spent on airfare. With most of my personal resources invested in the tomato crop yet to be harvested, every dollar counted. Another member of our group, Earl Drane from Mississippi, also found the idea appealing, so we hitchhiked back to DC together.

We left Ames at about 9 p.m. after our final day of orientation. The first substantial ride was on a flatbed tractor-trailer hauling barrels of buttermilk north to Chicago. Since the cab would only comfortably hold one of us and the trailer was not fully loaded, I volunteered to ride on the back with the buttermilk. Within a few hours, as we were approaching Chicago, the driver let us off so we could pick up the turnpike heading east. At the service center where we’d been dropped, by now 2 a.m. or so, I saw a car with Pennsylvania license plates and a man asleep in it. I suggested to Earl that we wake him up and volunteer to help with the driving. Although he was a bit groggy, it did not take long for him to agree. And since he lived in southeastern Pennsylvania, we would end up close to Washington.

With our orientation complete, we sailed from New York to Bombay, leaving New York on a Greek ship, the Queen Frederica, on August 17, 1956. As we left New York, we found ourselves being escorted by Hurricane Betsy, tossed and turned by the huge waves crashing on deck. For two days we were caught in the storm’s path, moving with it in a northeasterly direction across the Atlantic. At one point the wind speed measured on the bridge hit 120 miles per hour.

The ship pitched and tossed so much that even many of the ship’s veteran crew became seasick. For some reason, it did not bother me at all. On the second day of the storm, I was one of only four passengers who showed up for breakfast. But then as the day went on our path and that of Hurricane Betsy separated, and the rest of our transatlantic crossing went smoothly.

The time on the ship was not all our own. We all had to study Hindi, Urdu, or Nepali—depending on our host country—amidst the many activities to distract us, such as a Scrabble tournament that I organized. And the food was exceptional.

Seven days after leaving New York, we sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, where the water was smooth and blue and the temperature was rising. We made a quick stop in Malaga, Spain, to pick up water, fresh food, and other supplies. From there we sailed eastward to Naples, Italy, where we disembarked to change ships and continue our journey to Bombay.

A five-day layover in Naples gave us a chance to visit nearby Pompeii. Several of us also took the train to Rome, spending a couple of intense days there visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and other sights. For young American farmers, some of whose grandparents were homesteaders, this exposure to ancient Europe was eye-opening.

Back in Naples, we boarded the S.S. Victoria, an Italian liner destined for Singapore. As we approached the Suez Canal, we learned that we had arrived in the early stages of a northward flow of ships. We would be at anchor for a couple of days. Enterprising tourism firms were on hand to take passengers from ships at anchor to Cairo for two days sightseeing and then to the southern end of the Canal to reunite with each person’s ship.

Most of us had barely been out of our home towns. We saw the usual tourist sights, like the Pyramids, but experienced so much more. This was a civilization that had functioned continuously for several thousand years. Taking a trip on a small boat on the Nile one evening in the moonlight was revealing. We learned that the downriver traffic is carried by the steady flow of the Nile, but because the onshore breezes move in the opposite direction, raising the sail on small boats provides the energy to travel upstream. My guess is that this river transport system, powered entirely by natural forces moving both downstream and upstream, played a central role in both the emergence and longevity of this early civilization.

We had not been told by the captain of the Victoria that when our ship emerged from the southern end of the Suez Canal into the Red Sea it would not be able to stop for the tourist boat because of the many ships following close behind it. This meant we would have the unexpected thrill of reboarding the Victoria while it was moving. Our motor launch pulled up beside the ship, and the crew lowered a stairway that we climbed to get back on board.

As we left the Red Sea and headed eastward, we made a stop at Aden, a port that was then part of a British protectorate, later to become Yemen. Walking around the city, we saw poverty that was more acute than any of us had ever before witnessed. It was an early exposure to what we would later see in some parts of India. From there we were eastward bound again, sailing across the mouth of the Persian Gulf and then along the coasts of Iran and Pakistan. We put in at Karachi, where our five delegates for Pakistan disembarked. We would not see them for several months. The rest of us, ten headed for India and two for Nepal, continued on.

Once in Bombay, twenty-seven days after we had pulled anchor in New York, we were met by the agricultural consular officer, Roy Sellers, and IFYE’s director in India, Mr. Raisinghani (a graduate of University of California-Los Angeles), who welcomed us to India and briefed us on agricultural issues. Two days later we headed for New Delhi on an Indian airline DC-3. When we landed we saw a host of photographers, reporters, and newsreel cameramen. We assumed there must be a celebrity aboard the plane. But they were there for us! At that time, there were not many Americans in India. It was just the beginning of a very warm reception by the people of India. For a time, it seemed that every American official in Delhi, as well as many of the Indian officials, expected us to attend either a tea or dinner with them.

In New Delhi, we had yet another week of orientation, this one with briefings from Indian government officials on what we could expect in the villages and how to deal with various cultural issues that might come up, including those associated with diet, dress, language, and religion. During that week, I learned that India would be holding the finals to select its wrestling team for the 1956 Olympic Games to be held in Melbourne. Another member of our group, Ward Armstrong, a graduate of Oregon State University, was also a wrestler. Together, we convinced the other members of our group that we should attend this event.

Because there were so few foreigners in India, we were given ringside seats. In between matches, we talked with Indian officials about wrestling generally and about collegiate wrestling in the United States. The officials hit upon the idea of having Ward and me give an exhibition of American collegiate wrestling, once their team had been selected. Since neither Ward nor I had wrestling gear, we borrowed wrestling tights from the Indian wrestlers. The crowd enjoyed it, seemingly as fascinated with our match as we were with the selection of their team.

To our surprise, the next morning’s newspapers covered not only the selection of the team, announcing who would be going to Melbourne in each weight class, but they also carried a piece on the match between two American collegiate wrestlers. One of the consequences of the extensive news coverage was that as I traveled to various villages in India, I was sometimes challenged by the local wrestlers. Indeed, in the first village, Pardi, located in central India on the Deccan plateau about fifty miles from Nagpur, I faced my first challenger.

The local wrestling champion, Mongol, a friendly guy who smiled a lot, was ready when I arrived. The villagers organized a match that would take place not on mats, as is customary with American wrestling, but in a wrestling pit, a shallow depression filled with loose sand to cushion falls. It became a major social event, with villagers coming from miles around. Villagers placed bets amid a buzz of discussion and anticipation.

In trying to assess my prospects, I considered the usual things: experience, quickness, balance, conditioning, and strength. With quickness and balance, it appeared to me likely to be a draw. With conditioning, the advantage was clearly with Mongol because I had been traveling for several weeks, including a good part of the time onboard a ship where there were no workout facilities. With experience, it seemed to me that I had a strong advantage, and since I was at least fifteen pounds heavier, I also had the edge in strength. Mongol’s big advantage was that we were wrestling in a physical environment, a sandpit, that was familiar to him. It took a while for me to get used to moving around in the sand. Mongol also had the hometown support, but I had a feeling that at least my host family was hoping that I would come out on top, so to speak.

When the match began, we were both somewhat cautious, each trying to get a feel for the other before attempting a takedown. A missed takedown can leave one vulnerable. Mongol wrestled well, but as the match progressed my experience became the decisive factor. Even though we could not communicate directly, we both enjoyed competing and interacting with each other. And I was pleased because it provided a connection with the villagers, another way we could relate to each other.

My host family in Pardi had eight children, seven girls and one boy. The boy, Joe (short for Jawaharlal), had been to the States under the IFYE program and was my age. One sister was a couple of years older. One was away at secondary school. The other five ranged from ages four to thirteen. All spoke English.

My host father, who owned the largest tract of land in the village, was also the village head. An exceptional farmer, he had won a national rice growing championship and was awarded a new Ford two-plow tractor—identical to the one my brother and I had bought just a few years earlier. In a village that had been totally dependent on bullock power for tillage, my being able to teach them how to use the tractor elevated my standing.

Being part of a large family was fun. At night, the younger girls would use their school slates to teach me such things as my numbers in Marathi. I learned to count from one to ten—and still can. Ek, daon, tin, chaar, panch, sha, sat, aath, nuu, dha.

A couple of times during my three weeks in this village, I visited the local school. The students were delighted when I participated in their games. Youngsters always like to compete with adults, and it was great fun for them to watch me try to master the intricacies of their games.

At one point in my stay, I was helping to dig a major irrigation canal, working in my usual energetic way. A farmer, one of the many from neighboring villages who were helping with the digging, was apparently impressed by my work habits and, through my host father, suggested that his daughter was available for marriage. To sweeten the deal, he offered to include two rice paddies. I had not, of course, seen his daughter, nor was I likely to anytime soon, given the nature of arranged marriages. I tactfully pointed out that I had commitments for many months into the future and therefore would have to decline his generous offer.

During my stay in Pardi, my hosts, who were largely vegetarian, began to wonder if I was getting enough protein, so my host father asked the local shukari (hunter) to see if he could find a wild boar for us to eat. The next day, he and another villager came bearing a boar weighing some 125 pounds that he had shot in the nearby hills. Carrying the pig with its front and back feet tied together and suspended on a pole, they dropped it—literally—at my feet. Now what? Fortunately, in my youth I had observed a few hog killings on the farm, where two or three families would get together to slaughter and process two, three, or four hogs. Although at the time I was too young to be actively involved, I did acquire a sense of how to butcher a pig.

So we went to work. My host family and I dressed the pig, then proceeded to carve it into various pieces—hams, shoulders, ribs, etc. One of the things I was concerned about was trichinosis, a pig-borne disease we had learned about in one of my courses at Rutgers. I had no idea whether that disease might exist here so I made sure the meat was cooked thoroughly before it was eaten. Some of my family members ate the pork along with me. It was quite tasty.

What was revealing, though, was that after we had eaten a few meals of the choice cuts, and because there was no refrigeration or other ways to preserve the meat, my host father strung all the remaining pieces on a clothesline well off the ground where dogs could not reach them. I was mystified, but the meat was left there overnight. To my surprise when we arose the next morning, it was all gone. Many of the villagers, though they were by habit vegetarians, would eat meat if it were available.

Soon I had to say good-bye to my home away from home. With sadness I waved from the rear of a bullock cart to my Indian father, mother, brother, and sisters, who had treated me as their own.

Then I traveled by train to the southern tip of India, where I lived in a village near Trivandrum. Located in the state of Kerala, this was tropical India at its finest. It is also the state in India that has the largest Christian population. Here I was treated as a guest of the village rather than of a particular family, so I never developed close personal ties as I had with my host family in Pardi. Much of my time was spent traveling about the region, observing the local agriculture, which was dominated by rice and coconut production. It was here that I learned how to transplant rice seedlings from the nursery into the water-covered fields, a technique imported from Japan.

During my visit in Kerala, I began to sense that I was not getting to see the real poverty in the country. An English-speaking Indian friend and I decided one day to go out for lunch on our own. The plan was to visit homes unannounced at lunchtime and see what would happen. In the first five homes we visited, there was no food for a noonday meal.

On the sixth attempt, we learned that they had just finished their meal but had saved part of the food for their evening meal. They offered this food to us. The meal consisted of boiled tapioca root flavored with a meager amount of chili sauce. With no eating utensils, we both ate from the one container with our fingers. The tapioca root, although not particularly tasty, was filling. They then asked us to stay for coffee. While waiting for the pot to heat, we noticed that the man of the house had disappeared. He returned shortly after with a cup and a glass borrowed from a neighbor. When we said goodbye to this hospitable family, we generously reimbursed them for our lunch.

There were no windows in these homes, only open doorways. The houses had earthen floors. They had no tables, chairs, or cupboards. Everyone sat and slept on the floor. Their stove consisted of three large rocks arranged to support the cooking pot. The typical family in this area cooked their meal in the evening and then ate the remaining portion for breakfast. And, as we witnessed, there was no lunch.

From here I went to the other extreme in the extremes that are India. Traveling by train, I headed north to stay with the Rajah of Mankapur in a small community in northern India, not far from the border with Nepal. My host, Rajah Raghocucha Pratab Singh, was an affable, interesting man. He had two children, both of whom were away at school. His wife had died some years before. He was in his mid forties, a good six feet tall, slightly bald, and somewhat overweight.

The Rajah’s palace grounds covered eight acres. He had fifty servants. At mealtime, he had me sit at the head of the table. Five servants stood at attention around the table, anticipating our needs. If I picked up a piece of bread, a servant would insist on buttering it for me.

In the morning, the wake-up call came in the form of a tea tray delivered to my room. Even getting dressed in the morning became something of a challenge, unaccustomed as I was to being dressed by a pair of insistent servants who hadn’t the least understanding of English.

When traveling with the Rajah, I was surprised at the respect accorded him by the peasants. With few exceptions, when His Highness approached, the villagers would stop whatever they were doing, clap their hands together, and bow reverently.

Although the territory once controlled by the Rajahs and Maharajahs of India had been taken from them in 1947 when modern India was created, they had retained the palaces in which they lived, a small area of surrounding land, and payments from the government that would support them throughout their lifetimes. Interestingly, when the local people needed grain they still came to the Rajah and he would give them handouts. It was an established system, one that he was honoring even though he no longer controlled the vast lands that he once did.

While we were there, he offered to take me on a photo safari in the Terai, the foothills of the Himalayas that lie along the India-Nepal border. Whenever we traveled locally, we had the choice of using his elephant or the Buick. For the safari, the elephant was the obvious choice.

Two things I remember about riding his large elephant: One, you are quite high off the ground. And, two, as the elephant walked there was a gentle rolling motion not unlike that on a ship. Aside from an occasional deer, we did not spot any other large mammals. What we did see were women from nearby villages headed for home with firewood tied into a bundle and balanced on their heads.

While living here I decided this would be a great chance to see Nepal, which was about 100 miles from the Rajah’s palace. The Rajah’s nephew, who was about my age, and I traveled as far as we could by train, then proceeded by bicycle, and then by foot.

One of the striking things then about the Nepalese countryside, virtually all of which is mountainous, is that there were no roads and therefore no wheels. Along the narrow mountain trail we were hiking into the country, we saw many Nepalese on their way to India carrying bundles of hides, baskets of fruit, and bags of rice. Those going back home to Nepal were bearing large containers of kerosene. As we moved further into the country, we saw both hill ponies and water buffalo used for transport.

Three things I remember about the Nepalese: They were a trim, wiry population. Many of them had Mongolian features. And they had an unusually high incidence of goiter, as could be seen from their enlarged thyroid glands. In this mountainous country, there was little iodine in the diet, and the iodized salt that we take for granted was not widely available.

All in all, I was treated exceptionally well by the Indian people at all levels, whether they were host families or government officials. Living in Indian villages was a rare experience for a young American, a sentiment that was shared by every member of our group. Because my three hosts were in north, central, and southernmost India, I studied a geographical cross-section of agriculture from intense rice cultivation in the south to the wheat-growing regions of the north. These months would change forever how I viewed the world.

One of the things I did while in India was to write a column for my hometown newspaper, The Bridgeton Evening News. Sending back periodic reports, though not usually newspaper columns, was expected of all IFYEs. While staying with the Rajah, I had a chance to reflect on my experiences in India and to catch up on my columns.

Getting home from India was not quite as simple as getting there. The Arab-Israeli war that broke out in October 1956 led to the sinking of many ships in the Suez Canal, which meant our return tickets by ship to Europe were useless. Our sponsors back in Washington booked us flights instead. In New Delhi, we boarded a TWA Super Constellation to head to Europe. On hand to see us off at 2:30 a.m. were a large group of Indian friends and some Indian IFYE delegates whom we had met in Iowa.

Daybreak found us over the desolate and barren desert of the Arabian peninsula. We made our first stop at Dahran, an Arabian town and U.S. Army base for refueling. Midmorning found us setting down in Basra, Iraq, for breakfast. Then, to avoid the Middle East trouble spots, we flew a northern route over the mountainous, snow-covered terrain of Turkey. In Athens, Greece, our next stop, near-freezing temperatures provided a chilly contrast to the weather we had just left behind. From Athens, it was on to Rome, and then to London.

Because flying was so much faster than sailing, we arrived in Europe nearly three weeks before our ship, the SS United States, was due to sail from Southampton to New York. With all this time to spend in Europe, we broke into smaller groups. Tom Trail from the University of Idaho, a delegate to Nepal, and I decided to travel together. Leaving London, we crossed the channel by ferry to Belgium, where our first stop was at a Brussels youth hostel. After a day in Brussels, we headed for the land of dikes and windmills.

Then we started to hitchhike. We had addresses of some Europeans who had been in the States under the IFYE program. At one point as we were hitchhiking southward on the German autobahn, we flagged down some NATO trucks operated by Germans that were moving in our direction. We asked them, in English, if we could get a ride, and they said no because the rules forbid picking up hitchhikers. We pointed out that as American taxpayers, we were helping finance their operation, indeed, helping to pay their salaries. After an extended discussion, they yielded and gave us a long lift toward our destination.

While on the continent, we visited a family living in an alpine village in Switzerland. The daughter, earlier an IFYE to the United States, took us on a tour of a Swiss dairy farm. She also arranged for a personal tour of a watch factory where we saw the internationally famous watches being assembled.

Then it was on to Paris, where a French agricultural student, Gerard de Campeau, took us on a two-day tour of the city. The day before Christmas we left with him for northern France to spend the holiday with his family at their country estate near Lille. Like the Swiss scenery, French food was the best we had come across in our travels. Then it was back across the Channel to London and south to Southampton to rejoin our group and catch the SS United States to New York. This time with Tom cemented what was to become a lifelong friendship.

Upon returning to the States, one of our responsibilities as IFYEs was to give talks, preferably with slides, on life in our host countries. My talk was entitled simply, “Life in the Villages of India.” I gave dozens of talks to service clubs, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, and to farm and church groups throughout southern New Jersey.  Having learned the principles of public speaking from Professor Reager, I now had the chance to test them on audiences.

One of the things that I often did to involve an audience was to demonstrate how saris are worn. Most people know the sari is simply a strip of cloth about ten by three feet, which is wrapped initially around the waist, tucked in, and then draped diagonally over one shoulder, hanging down the back. I often asked for a volunteer, preferably an attractive young woman, who would come up on stage to be my demonstration model. When I was giving a talk in early January 1959 to a group of IFYE delegates just returned from India about how to use slides in their own talks about life abroad, I selected Shirley Woolington to help me demonstrate. An attractive, personable blonde with a ready laugh from a Wyoming ranching family, she caught my attention … and soon my heart.

After each talk, Mom would collect the sari and carefully wash and iron it. Although her understanding of my travels in India was limited, she wanted to support what I was doing. Whenever I headed out for a talk, the sari was always ready.

Living in India had been a fascinating experience, but I did not expect that it would influence what I would do with my life. When I left for India I was growing tomatoes and planned to do so for the rest of my life. But a couple of years after returning, I realized that was not enough. While in India, I had become sensitized to population pressure. Although India only had 416 million people when I was there, it seemed densely populated even then. I was concerned about rapid population growth and how it frustrated efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition and thus the opportunity for children to fully develop both physically and mentally.

By the late summer of 1958, I had decided to apply for a position with the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the USDA to work on international agricultural issues. This was an obvious place to begin because I had gotten to know the agricultural attachés in New Delhi. When I contacted the FAS personnel office, they informed me that a degree in agricultural economics was required. Analyzing world commodity prices, trends, and markets depended on a working command of economics.

I then applied, belatedly, to the agricultural economics department at the University of Maryland and was accepted. Soon I was rooming at the university with fellow IFYE Tom Trail, who was working on a master’s degree in agricultural education.

Once September began, I was spending money, not earning it, and I decided to delay paying off a modest bank loan that I had used to help finance the tomato crop. The banker was trying to contact me through Pop, who relayed the message to me the next time I was back on the farm over a weekend. I stopped at the banker’s house the following time I was up for a weekend visit, but when I got there he was out to dinner. I left a message with his fifteen-year-old son, which may or may not have been relayed to his father. I had wanted to assure him that I fully intended to pay off the loan.

The next thing I knew the bank sent a notice to the farm saying that foreclosure proceedings were under way and that the bank would be selling my farm equipment, which I had offered as collateral for the loan, at a public auction. By the time I learned of this, it was too late to intervene. This was embarrassing and so unnecessary, since I would have sold the tractors and equipment to repay the loan. And worst of all, I lost the chicken house that I had built as a fourteen-year-old. It was a classic case of having too many balls in the air and dropping one.

This was a low point in my life. I was disappointed with myself. The weakness in my planning was that I had not anticipated that joining the FAS would require a degree in agricultural economics. Thus the big challenge was to try to squeeze all the courses required for a master’s degree and a dissertation into nine months from September through May before I ran out of money. I spent the first semester catching up with the other graduate students who had studied economics as undergrads. During the second semester, the challenge was to complete the course requirements and to write and defend the dissertation.

The administrative folks in the agricultural economics department—not anticipating that someone would complete a master’s degree in just two semesters—had not ordered a diploma for me. So I could not technically graduate until the summer school graduation. But with the degree requirements satisfied, I was hired by the FAS, reporting to work on June 1, 1959, in the Asia branch.

Meanwhile, during the one-week spring break in the second semester I had driven to Wyoming to see Shirley to try to convince her to come east to work so we could spend more time together. Some months later, she took a job in Princess Anne, a rustic, small town on Maryland’s eastern shore, as an assistant agricultural county agent. This enabled us to spend weekends together. By early 1960, we had decided to marry. We were married in the All Souls Unitarian Church in downtown Washington, DC, by Reverend James Reeb, someone we both admired for his human rights work. Like Shirley, he was from Wyoming.

Sadly, a few years later when he was marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, he was struck in the back of the head with a club and died.

In 1960, we spent Thanksgiving in New Jersey on the farm. Shirley was in an advanced state of pregnancy when she tripped and fell as we were walking through a cornfield. Neither of us thought much about it, but on Monday shortly after we returned to Princess Anne and Washington, respectively, I got a phone call early in the morning from Shirley saying that we now had a son. He had arrived six weeks ahead of schedule, but he weighed in at a healthy six pounds. I promptly boarded a bus from Washington to Princess Anne.

After checking on Shirley to make sure she was doing well, I went to the nursery to see Brian, our son! I had high hopes for him, although even my wildest dreams did not include his one day becoming a world-class kayaker.

Then we had to get practical. Since Brian had arrived early we were missing some essentials, so I did all of the baby shopping: bottles, diapers, a bassinet, the works. Shirley’s plan to work through the end of December was no longer an option. We bundled everything up and headed back to the Washington area, where we found an attractive basement apartment in Takoma Park, Maryland, our home for the next few years.