Friday, April 29, 2011


    There has been a lapse in my posts to this blog, for some reason.

    So many times in the past couple of months I've compsed blogs in my head, but somehow never posted them. The day David and I spoke via SKYPE with Susan , a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Armenia, filled my head to overflowing with impressions of what Dave and I would soon experience and jogged our memories of what we left behind in Niger. ( A blog in the making, I thought.) Susan described life in Armenia, her living arrangements, her work teaching English as a foreign language, the weather, what to pack and not to pack, and all about her new friends in the Peace Corps and about her host family.  We had also been e-mailing a former Peace Corps volunteer who shared letters she wrote for her friends and family during the 2 years she served in Armenia. All of this was so inspiring, but I did not write the blog...............for some reason.

       Then I researched to which country  each of our Niger 2010 group had been invited and found that most of us were already in a new country or departing soon for destinations all over the world.  As I looked at photos on Facebook or received e-mails from other people, I thought of what we had all shared together in Niger. We were considered to be "the hardcore Peace Corps" due to the nature of our country of service, Niger.  True, most of the group were young enough to be our grandchildren, yet we felt connected due to our mutual experiences, both harsh and joyful. In sickness and in health, those familiar words taken from another type of bonding, could also describe our relationship as a group. As I recalled each person, it dawned on me that we'd probably not see these people again although comments regarding a reunion had already begun. An entire blog filled my head again, but I did not write it down..... for some reason.

       And then as we traveled awating departure for Armenia June 1, we visited many relatives and friends. Most were curious about our experiences and most were amazed that we'd willingly return to Niger if that opportunity was available. My sister even expressed admiration for our courage, which made us a bit embarrassed.   People were even more surprised that we'd start over, learn a new language and begin another 27 month commitment in a totally different country. We met many people who are fascinated with the idea of joining the Peace Corps but would not or could not do it themselves. Many know others who have children or acquaintances  in the Peace Corps, and a few wish they had joined when they themselves were younger. We also encountered people who think the Peace Corps is a waste of US dollars and that volunteers should do their work at home. Our world grows smaller every day and a Peace Corps experience speeds the diminishing distance between cultures quite nicely.  This subject also holds blog potential. It has not been developed even when time might allow....... for some reason.

        As David and I visit with our daughter, we have also been attending numerous and varied concerts because we missed music so much while in Niger. One evening after a local concert perfomed in one of Wilmington, NC's beautiful historic mansions, the singer , Susan Savia, greeted us. She had heard us mention being in the Peace Corps and wanted to give us a children's CD she was recording so that her voice could be heard by the Armenian children. Another blog , about how music influences lives and the cultural aspect of sharing it with children ,was not written......for some reason.

         That same evening , I recognized a local radio personality and approached her during intermission to  say how much I enjoyed her show and what a  delightful voice she had. She has a beautiful speaking voice and uses it perfectly in introducing music and conducting on-air interviews.  She warmly thanked me for speaking to her and before I could respond, she had turned her back to me, calling to another concert goer asking,  "don't I know you from somewhere?" Though I'm certain there was no intention to do so, I was crushed at instantly being brushed off. I'm not even sure what I thought we'd talk about further, but that short 2 minute encounter spoke not so eloquently of how unimportant I was. An emerging  blog swirled in my head and awaited creation.The title might have been "Don't take yourself so seriously or think you are so important".  It has not been composed ........for some reason.

            Then just last night , I was reading in materials provided by the Peace Corps about some of the challenges of returning home after service  in a foreign country.  I began to understand a bit more about this phenomenon of "return home" and the issues that may arise even after a brief period of time such as David and I had due to our evacuation from Niger. The article said that the sudden return to anonymity sometimes  causes the returned Peace Corps volunteer to acutely miss being the center of attention. The volunteer misses the excitement,  intense scrutiny by villagers, and the "fishbowl" life once surrouding them  in a village .  That's probably why I felt miffed during the experience previously described at the concert. I was still feeling special, still being Sherifa as I had been in Niger, still expecting people to recognize me. In Niger,  I stood out as an American woman  who was a Peace Corps volunteer and everyone in the village knew that.   Back home, I am not Sherifa, am not special , and most people do not even know me.  Much more could be said about this subject of  how one transitions and returns to their native country after living in another culture, but it's not written yet .....for some reason.
       Finally, an unexpected e-mail appeared in my in-box this week. It prompted a quick response -----and a blog. That blog will be written and will be posted soon.     Stay tuned, and thanks for keeping up with this journey to Niger then Armenia with the Peace Corps.    Judy