This book was a true accounting of what happened to this particular author during a two year stint with the Peace Corps. While many believed his story to be whiny and negative, I understand where he's coming from with his feelings. I am a retired educator. Yes, I do live in the USA, and yes, I did receive a salary while working.
There are many parallels between education and what Grigsby Crawford describes in the Peace Corps. Most of the time, decisions are made by people who have no idea how they should be implemented. Neither are those people able to explain why certain things would be helpful to the communities where they are supposed to pull the residents out of poverty. Education can pull people out of poverty, but if they are so used to doing things a certain way, they will fight to the death to continue those very habits. Just like the bamboo trees Grigsby planted - they were pulled up.
Eventually I moved into administration, bound to listen to the teachers because I remembered every day the feelings I'd had when I was on the "front line." No matter -- those above me made up all sorts of things for teachers to do, many times so they would look good on paper and in the community. The same seemed true with the Peace Corps projects. Hardly anybody looked at the facts of any given situation - was what they did working? Why? Why not? What did the people really need?
There were some good times in my career, but what stands out is that it seems so many students still don't care about getting educated. They wait until they can drop out and get their "free money", too. The students who succeed are those whose parents have played a strong part and insist on their success. Near the end of his time in Ecuador, Grigsby realized the people he worked with didn't want to change, and the US had been pouring money (our tax money) into a hopeless situation. They couldn't care one bit about the green house he built, though his intent was to help them learn to help themselves.
I liked the book. Yes, there was negativity, but how could he not be negative after what happened? I agree that someone should look into the effectiveness of the Peace Corps to see if we need to continue pouring money into a failed operation.