Ousman killed a black snake in my office

I’d love to hear from other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have had the incredible privilege and joy to see their host-country people again after so many years. I feel so lucky to be ‘seen’ for who I am, all these years later, when so much has changed and really nothing has changed.

I had a moment when Mint was at our house in Hillsborough that is worth writing down and sharing. We’d been out for the day, maybe, I’m not sure, perhaps at the office. It was 5ish, almost 6 pm. Late winter/early spring dusk. I was on duty to make dinner, puttering in the kitchen with spinach ravioli. An Indigo Girls circa ~2001 song came on the radio (a Peace Corps year for me, and a Peace Corps song) — the acoustic version. It’s like the heavens break through or time stops or really it’s that time circles in a vortex where points of life merge again in the ether…  Eric, MY HUSBAND (I have one of those now!) was napping on the couch. Dear sister Mint was praying in her bedroom. Raw, sweet feelings on the radio. Spinach ravioli boiling in the water. And me sort of open handed, open hearted in the kitchen in awe.

So later I posted the story on Facebook, which strikes me as so strange.

FB post spinach ravioli

Anyway. All this inspiration and I’m digging through photos and letters for gems. Here’s a good one. Mint, probably 2001 or so.



And several of us cousins and sisters, also probably 2001 when my parents came to visit and we had a party. My mother made traditional southern (US) fried chicken. Later that night Stinky (the dog) drank the entire pan full of used post-chicken palm oil and had a series of GI emergencies throughout the house. Mom found it pre-dawn but went back to sleep. Dad stepped in it and we woke up to shouted expletives and a lot of work with a bucket, bottle of bleach, thick piece of fabric (called a “surpieds” – under foot) and broom. No pictures of that, sadly.


But here’s the game. My family saved the letters I wrote home. I’ll pick one from the stack at random and share it. EEEK.


Aha! The kind of letter that went home with someone and then got mailed in the US. Nice. Also worth nothing that I’d been living in Gabon for something like 18 months at this point (11/23/2001), so I never felt like I had any real “news” to report. No culture shock, no explaining to do, just regular life.


As evidenced by the three stories I tell…


“Not a lot of news considering we spoke yesterday and tomorrow I plan on spending the morning at the email place… Went out this morning early and enjoyed a plate of beans with Sylviane at Mamero’s stand (Mom- where you ate). … Sylviane’s sister Pemba from Mouanda gave birth two weeks ago and now the baby is with Jamila in Franceville. Ramadan starts tomorrow.”


“Ousman (my neighbor) killed a black snake in my office while I was gone. SCARY! Got all the grass around the house cut – to avoid snakes coming too close.”

Fascinating life of a Peace Corps Volunteer, y’all. (Little did I know that Ebola would arrive mid-February 2002 and the bottom would drop out, but…)


And, lastly, an enclosure! A report about our GAD conference. “The goal of the seminar was to encourage and empower young women and men, who had already become parents, to stay in school and take an active role in determining their futures.”


Okay, that’s all. xo



One thought on “Ousman killed a black snake in my office

  1. I remember that seminar well! I still follow some of the participants. One of the young men finished university, became a teacher, and went on to become the principal of his school! His family ha grown and he applying for YALI and a Mandella fellowship to come to Washington to participate in leadership seminars and an internship. Several families have also”followed” me to PA through the UN refuge program and I have had the privilege to help them adjust to the US and remain a part of my life. They braid my daughters’ hair, we cook African food and speak French and English together. We all knew that Peace Corps would change our lives, but who could have imagined the extent and the blessings!

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