So … we’ve been getting a little snow. Today, at school, people were talking about a “snow day” tomorrow. I can’t remember if that ever happened, when I was a K-12 student in Detroit. Fingers crossed that I get to stay home tomorrow.
One of my favorite December memories happened in London, back in 2015. A book vendors offered me two tickets to an Arsenal match. Turns out, the tickets were the season pass tickets, from the company. No turnstiles, I entered through a proper door. There were free drinks and everything. Trust me. It was the best way to watch a first match.
By the following December, I had already put in my retirement papers, at Duke University. The African and African American Studies Department gave me a wonderful send off. I had been the Course Librarian for the department for five years, along with my normal duties. I attended every Intro class, for African Studies and African American Studies. I would pick three or four other courses and also sit in on each class. If anyone needed help, the librarian was already there.
Three weeks after retirement, I arrived in Armenia with the Peace Corps. For months, I tried to make contact with the Armenian Red Cross Society. I wanted to create an after school club, at the high school in Masis. I had almost given up … Then, one weekend, I booked a room just off Northern Avenue. I noticed a bunch of little wooden huts going up, along the pedestrian walkway. One of the Christmas booth belonged to the Red Cross. I wasn’t able to start the high school club, but I was able to volunteer for the Red Cross Soup Kitchen in Masis.
My final December in Armenia was pretty amazing. By the end of your two years of service, you really believe that you know your way around. I was fortunate enough to have old friends and new ones visit Armenia. I did my best to dole out a few tips on getting to and from the airport, hotel suggestions, and my favorite places to stay, in Yerevan. It was a good feeling, trying to show people around my town. That’s the best part of Peace Corps service. If you’re there long enough, your country of service really feels like home.
After 12 weeks of pre service training, I arrived at my permanent site in mid September. I was still pretty green, when my first (and last) December rolled around. It takes you a minute to hang your mosquito net, keep enough oil to light your paraffin stove (when the electricity goes out), learn how to do laundry by hand, and how to use an outhouse (quickly) because it doesn’t have a door. I know. I know. Peace Corps says there has to be a door! I had no idea that in three months time, Peace Corps would evacuate all 7,000 volunteers, worldwide, due to COVID-19. I could have saved my host family the price of that door.
Last December, I was learning the ropes, in Sitka. I was part of the largest group of Americorps volunteers, to serve here. There were quite a few returned Peace Corps volunteers in that cohort. Five months after having our international service cut short, we figured out another way to serve. Seems strange now, volunteering five months into a major pandemic. But, what did we really know, back in 2020. We thought the country would be shut down for a few months. It’s almost 2022 and I’m still wearing a mask.
Some days I can’t believe my life. I’ve been volunteering, living around the world, for almost five years. I don’t have a permanent address. I donated my car and almost all of my belongings to charity. I’m sixty five years old and I live in a dorm, with a shared kitchen and bathroom. Am I crazy?
Well, we all know that I’m a tad bit crazy! Next May, my service with Americorps comes to an end. I’m planning on getting my two suitcases down to one and taking that one around the world (again)! Watch this space! —-GGT
Great read! I love that your 56, living in a dorm with a shared kitchen. I don’t think it’s crazy at all in fact, I think it’s inspirational and I’m looking forward to hearing more x
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It’s great your having all these wonderful experiences of around the world x
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