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The Optimist Podcast

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The Cambodian Teacher

On the season finale of The Optimist Podcast I chatted with Melany Danielson. Melany is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia educating her community on health and teaching English. We talked about her work, why she joined, how hard it was to learn the language, and the Cambodian version of carnaval.

Duration: 00:30:56

The Senegalese Handwashing

On this episode of the podcast I chatted with Sajani Khondker about her Peace Corps service in Senegal. We talked about Senegalese culture and her village, the project she's working on, and what made her run out of her house in terror on her first night in site.

Duration: 00:28:44

The Cambodian Health Center

On this episode of the podcast we talked with Ben DiNapoli, a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Cambodia. We discussed Buddhism and its impact on Cambodian culture, how Cambodian kids grow up a lot quicker than American kids, and weighing babies. Ben also told some really funny stories about poop, shared his “Welcome to Peace Corps” moment, and described what it was like having to leave all his bags in South Korea on his way to Cambodia for the first time.

Duration: 00:38:40

The Mongolian Optimist Part Two

This episode continued our conversation with Travis Hellstrom about his life after Peace Corps. Travis has become a successful author and entrepreneur since returning from Mongolia. He’s launched The Optimist Program, started Advance Humanity, and written several books on a variety of topics. All of Travis' work can be seen at

Duration: 00:30:21

The Mongolian Optimist

In part one, Travis and I talked about his service in Mongolia, the vast differences between Mongolia and the U.S., working with the first ever B Corporation in Asia, and starting the first TEDx event in Mongolia. We also chatted about Global Happiness Indices, the pressure the west puts on developing countries, and, lastly, how he met his wife in Mongolia.

Duration: 00:32:20

The Nicaraguan Project Brainstorm

On this episode I chatted with Michael Lifschutz, a Peace Corps Volunteer wrapping up his service in Nicaragua. We talked a bit about his service, the differences between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and his plans after Peace Corps with Project Brainstorm ( to sign up). We wrapped up by touching on his life before Peace Corps, which included his brief stint as a stand-up comedy in New York City!

Duration: 00:27:37

The Tanzanian Doctor House

On the season 1 finale of The Optimist Podcast I talked with Frederick Livingston — a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania–about spotting elephants, giraffes and zebras regularly, the frequency of buses breaking down, the laid back Tanzanian culture, building a doctor’s house for his village, and drunk bush babies falling out of trees every night.

Duration: 00:30:15

The Gambian TREK

On this episode Tre and I talked about how The Gambia got the “THE” in its name, solar power, mistaking American football for rugby, his TREK project with 2 other volunteers, and being forced to sacrificed a ram to celebrate a Muslim holiday. We also bonded over being both former college athletes and Chelsea FC fans.

Duration: 00:37:07

The Paraguayan Entrepreneurs

On this episode I talked with Katherin Sibel, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. We talked about living in a rural village, the origins of Yerba Mate, the entrepreneurial efforts of a women’s committee, and being handed a machete to chase after a piglet.

Duration: 00:19:54

The Indonesian Turtle Sanctuary

For episode 5 I interviewed Elena Cussler, a Peace Corps volunteer in Indonesia. We talked about the misconceptions of Indonesia, working at a vocational school, and living in the largest Muslim country in the world during a presidential election with severe Islamophobia. We also touched on how good a 99 cent hamburger can taste when you’re homesick, eating cow skin, and sultans. Elena’s project is working at and renovating a turtle sanctuary, which we discussed as well. These...

Duration: 00:16:42

The Moldovan Dance Studio

In this episode of the podcast we chatted with Aaron Ratz, a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. He talked to us about learning Russian, renovating a dance studio in his town, and outhouses.

Duration: 00:18:12

The Ugandan Library

In episode 1 we sit down with Kelly Drummond, a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, and chat with her about building a library for the school, her Welcome to Peace Corps moment, and the time she thought someone was asking to borrow a condom.

Duration: 00:18:21