There’s a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), in Sitka. She served in Kenya and has been living in Alaska for more than twenty years. When I was first thinking of applying to Americorps, I sent her a message via Facebook. Her Peace Corps cohort was the one right before mine.
Turns out, the RPCV is a librarian. I’m also a librarian. I retired from Duke University, almost five years ago. The RPCV received her graduate degree, in Library Studies, from the University of Michigan. You know where this is going, right? I received my graduate degree in Information and Library Studies from the University of Michigan. And …. we both work at the same school, in Sitka. Small world indeed.
My new RPCV friend (we never met in Kenya) is also a cohost for The Library Show. The local radio program airs each Sunday Morning, at 10:30. The show opens with the song “Librarian” by Jonathan Rundman. One of the four women serving as cohost found the recording. It’s perfect for the show and such a “librarian” thing to have uncovered. The show has a “What have you read lately?” theme.
I’ve been interviewed, by my friend, four times. Last Sunday, I talked about Black History Month (in the UK) and suggested Black Teacher by Beryl Gilroy, Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack by Paul Gilroy (Beryl’s son) and a children’s book by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Twice, during the show, I referred to Marcus Rashford as Marcus Garvey. It was pretty funny.
Being on The Library Show has been great fun. It’s becoming one of those “local” things that I get to do, in Sitka. Of course, serving with Americorps also makes me feel like I am part of the community, much in the same way that volunteering for the Peace Corps, in Kenya, Armenia and Ethiopia, made me feel like I was part of those communities. There are certain moments, during service, when you start to feel like you’re home.
My second year of service with Americorps ends next May. With just a few months to go, I’m left with the question. Am I home or just between service sites? After five years, am I “finally” ready to retire or will serving with the National Park Service, American Red Cross, USO, or somewhere else, for some other organization, take me from this place that I now call home.
By May, the world might be reopened. I could visit my host family in Armenia or go see my PC Ethiopia friend who’s just moved to Italy. Then, there’s that friend in Spain. We ran into each other, during Christmas, in London. I said I would visit, in 2020, during one of my breaks. Unfortunately, COVID hit and I was evacuated from Peace Corps Ethiopia. My summer travel plans were canceled, along with a prepaid Spring Break airline ticket to Istanbul.
At sixty five, this could go a couple of ways. Alaska is not a bad place to land. Sitka is a small community of eight thousand. I’ve made friends here. I can afford to live here. Yes, even in Alaska, retirement life is possible. It’s one of the plus sides of retiring and then doing two tours with the Peace Corps and two years with Americorps. Trust me, you learn how to live on a tight budget.
Wherever I end up, next May, there’s going to be a good story to tell and it’s going to be told here. —GGT