Many thanks to all of you, on this adventure with me. It’s December 24h. I’m just back from a Christmas Eve dinner, with my godson’s family, that was hosted by a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) friend from Kenya. My godson’s mom is an old grad school buddy. What a great way to spend a holiday. So, let’s end 2021, with tales of my Christmas past. In 2015, I traveled to the UK for Christmas and was able to attend my first football match. Emirates Stadium was a great way to start. I was gifted two seats by a book vendor. There’s nothing like seeing your first match in style.
The following Christmas, I was working my final full semester at Duke University. I’d turned in my retirement paperwork that October and was set to retire on February 28th, 2017. December was all about unpacking. I donated almost all of my belongings. March 2017, I arrived in Armenia, to begin serving 27 month with the Peace Corps. The first twelve weeks are pre service training, followed by two years of service.
By my first Christmas in Armenia, I had moved in with a host family at my permanent site. Volunteers in Armenia live with two families. The first homestay is for the twelve week training period. Then, volunteers move to their permanent sites and do another 12 week homestay. After that, if there is housing, volunteers are allowed to live alone. I opted to stay with my host family for my entire two years. They are still family (along with my training host family). I can’t see that ever changing.
By my second year in Armenia, Yerevan had become my home away from home. It’s so funny how when you first get to a new city, you think you’ll never learn your way around. Then, after a year, you’re all about the shortcuts. I knew every inch of Yerevan, Republic Square, the yarn shop by the Blue Mosque, hotels on or near Northern Avenue, and where to eat, drink, and stay around the Cascade. I’m talking, take that turn after the coffee shop, head up that road, make a left at the bookshop, head up the alley, and ring the bell at the first door after the parking lot.
The following Christmas, I had moved on to Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is no joke. I was still learning my way around, when I heard about the Sheraton Addis, a Five Star hotel. One of the restaurants there had a Sunday Brunch buffet, with unlimited sparkling wine offered to its guests. You don’t need to say that twice, to newbie volunteers in country for less than six months. I stayed at another hotel and met members of my cohort for the brunch. We made a pact to return. The pandemic had other plans for us.
I really don’t remember last Christmas. I’m sure that I hung out, in the dorm. I probably got a frozen dinner to have on Christmas Day. Maybe some group or the other sent food over, to feed the Americorps members. It’s all a blank to me. Christmas is pretty much the halfway point for the education cohort. I was sixty four, last year. I guess I would have been thinking about what I was going to do, at the end of my service.
This year, I have people in town. My godson’s dad is the designated driver. There’s snow. There’s lots of snow. Sitka doesn’t normally get this much snow. Good luck dad. His wife and I ride around town talking about grad school, careers as University Archivists, and where we’re traveling to next. Today, the older brother hiked. I arranged it for him yesterday. Today, it fell through. There were two guys sitting in the dorm’s kitchen, as my godson’s brother was being dropped off for the hike and as I was being told it wasn’t going to happen. “We’ll take him!” Two guys in the kitchen offered. And just like that, the hike was back on again.
My godson, true to form, said he would go, but then opted out of the hike, earlier that morning. He’s so like me that he could actually be my son. Because true to form, Queen doesn’t hike! Happy Holidays and see you in 2022! —GGT