I graduated from college when I was 21, an artifact of doing kindergarten and first grade in the same year. Finishing college “early” meant, to me, like I got an extra year to do whatever I wanted to do, rather than joining the job market and a gray cubicle, or transitioning to graduate school. After transferring from George Washington University to Penn State after my first year, I needed all the credits I could get to stay on track to graduate in just four years. In addition to studying (and partying) I worked a cooking job (or deli counter job) to make ends meet financially, and so my Spring Break travel was by car if at all, and I never studied abroad although the possibilities intrigued me.
Peace Corps service was a strong post-grad option because it would give me the opportunity to avoid traditional (potentially soul-sucking) work and to live in Africa which had long been a dream of mine. I grew up on National Geographic magazines and was fascinated by studying population/environment interaction and related HIV transmission in the PSU Sociology Department. Also let’s face it, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life except the sense that I needed to study public health – and my mediocre grades were not going to get me into a reputable graduate program.
I loved my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon. I arrived in country in March 2000 (I think) and landed at my new home in Franceville that summer. My concrete block house was at the end of a long dirt lane behind the Poubara Hotel.
At the time, the hotel was closed – that’s it there in the trees — looking towards the hotel from my house. Now, L’Hotel Poubara appears to be open and check-in-able on Facebook.
Here’s a view of walking towards the house, hotel behind you. It was a palace. Three bedrooms, one bathroom. Cold running water. Kitchen, living room, mosaic tile floors.
I sat on that step a lot.
Same step, other direction.
Kitchen. That’s ma belle Console, and we’d just wrapped up making several jars of mango jam. Ah, memories.
If I tell the story this slowly I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the part where my Peace Corps sister, Mint, and I get to tour Washington, DC 17 years later, last week. But here’s us as near baby humans, making lunch at her house. That’s Mint on the left, me on the right, and Sylviane (aka Kady) in the middle.