I was hoping to finish 2020 in The Maldives or The Seychelles. Before COVID, I had planned to spend my Peace Corps Ethiopia Christmas break on an island. I did, but it was not the way I had hoped.
My mid-term break was on Zanzibar. It took me more than thirty years to get there, but it was wonderful.
Then, COVID came and plans had to be changed. I updated my Peace Corps Home of Record to Honolulu, said goodbye to my cohort, and flew home to being my fourteen day quarantine.
Honolulu was under a strict Stay-at-Home Order the entire three months that I was there. Access to the ocean was allowed, but there were limits to what could be done on the beach. At first, there was no sitting. Then that was changed to sitting, in small groups, at a safe distance.
I spend my time walking around my part of the Island. I purchased an Apple Watch rotated through 5 mile, 10 mile, and 13 mile sessions. On rest and short days, I would use my friend’s exercise bike.
While in Hawaii, I applied for a nine month Peace Corps Response position in Jamaica, begin in October. I flew out of Honolulu and made my way to the lower 48. The Jamaica position was push to March/May 2021. I needed a plan b.
Friends offered to let me quarantine and stay at their home, just outside of Salt Lake City. Their basement was remodeled and had a large bedroom with its own bathroom. The also had a large screened in patio (where they watched tv), and a big backyard. While getting caught up on three years of American movies and TV shows (I did back-to-back Peace Corps assignment and hadn’t been stateside since 2017,) I applied for a COVID position with AmeriCorps Alaska.
Zanzibar, Hawaii, and now a small island off the coast of Alaska. It was nice to have something to do, during COVID. My cohort arrived and did a 14 quarantine. During that time, we also did our Americorps orientation via Zoom. Because our town is surrounded by water and in the middle of a National Park, we’re allowed to swim, kayak, bike, and hike. It’s very easy to keep to a safe distance, in a town this small.
Although the majority of my cohort takes full advantage of the outdoor opportunities, I rarely leave my dorm room. At sixty four, I can’t take any chances with COVID. I did go out on a boat and was able to spot a whale. It turns out that someone I served with, Peace Corps Kenya, back in the 1980s, lives on the island. She has a boat and called me up, one Saturday, and offered to take me out on the water.
After watching the salmon run, no one ever warns you about the smell of dead fish or the noise hungry bird make, we began waiting for the bears to hibernate. The path through the National Park was closed, so no more short cut to the Post Office. As it turns out, some of the bears here don’t really go away, during the winter. They’ve grown up getting food from neighborhood trash cans and they are happy to continue doing so all winter long.
I retired and moved out of my apartment, in February of 2017. I own nothing. I donated my car to charity and gave away everything in my apartment, to the maintenance staff and charity centers around Durham, North Carolina. After three years of living with homestay families in Armenia and a Pre Service host stay family in Ethiopia, followed by a room, in a gated compound, at my permanent site, I’m finally home. Well, I’m sort of home.
Next year, I will turn sixty five. I’ll have to apply for Medicare and decide on whether or not to pull my social security benefits, a year early, or wait another fourteen months. It’s hard to know where we’ll be, in terms of COVID, next year. What I do know is my Peace Corps days are “probably” over. Three times might be enough. So, … rather than planning island vacations, during my breaks in Peace Corps service, maybe I just need to plan a real vacation.
Going on a long post COVID vacation might be something to wish for in 2021. —GGT