Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Peace Corps Connections

Kimmie, Clem, and me at Paradise Valley Estates

Kimmie, Clem, and me at Paradise Valley Estates. See the display of beads, leather boxes, and the doll on the table.

So Many Connections

On Tuesday afternoon I presented a book talk to about 60 people at Paradise Valley Estates where my college classmate and friend Kimmie now lives.

Kimmie had arranged dinner for Clem and me, her and her husband, and two other couples. One was a couple who had served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria soon after me. The wife of the other couple went to high school with Jack Wilson whose wife Angene was on the National Peace Corps Association board with me.  Such a small world!

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Friends

Former, or ‘returned’ as we like to say, Peace Corps volunteers have an easy time connecting with each other and with ‘host country nationals.’

Why do you think we use that term, ‘returned’ volunteers? Returned volunteers, feel free to answer!

Clem, John, who was a volunteer in Papua New Guinea, and me. John had just bought my memoir!

Clem, John, who was a volunteer in Papua New Guinea, and me. John had just bought my memoir!

This afternoon I came out of the exhibit hall to find my husband, not a terribly outgoing social person, in deep conversation with two former volunteers, John, who had served in Papua New Guinea, bought my book.

Memoir Writers Panel

Today I was one of the panelists who spoke about our writing. Marian Haley Beil who manages the virtual community of Peace Corps Writers and the newer Peace Corps Worldwide was the moderator.

Same jacket at PeaceCorpsConnect

Same jacket at PeaceCorpsConnect

I was surprised to see a woman wearing a jacket just like mine! We walked into the room together. She was as surprised as I was. Neither of us was sure where we had got it.

Peace Corps Writers Exhibit

Several of us also had our books in the exhibit hall at tables she organized for Peace Corps Writers – writers who have the Peace Corps Writers imprint as I do on my memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad.My spot was next to Gary who wrote Dnncing with Gogos.

Fellow author Gary and me

Fellow author Gary and me

Peace Corps Friends of Nigeria

We concluded the second day of the Peace Corps reunion with a Nigerian dinner and dance put on by the Friends of Nigeria. We ate pounded yam, jollof rice, plantain, akara, and chin-chin. There was Star Beer for those who wanted.

The organizers put on an amazing party!

A Nigerian DJ entertained us with wonderful highlife music. Once he turned down the lights that were keeping me off the dance floor, Clem and I danced for a good half hour to one popular tune after another.

Star beer

Star beer

One I like a lot says, “If you marry taxi driver, I don’t care; If you marry lorry driver, I don’t care.” and on to several other less-than-prestigious occupations, but finally ending with, “If you marry senior service, I don’t care!” I’ve always thought of it as a father to daughter, but the music is so lively it doesn’t really matter!

Buhari and Oil

Professor Vinnie Ferraro at Mount Holyoke College has informed me through his blog that Buhari is holding the petroleum ministry for himself.

I think that’s a good step. He was oil minister in the 1970’s so has some familiarity with the issues. He will surely have reputable advisers to help with this critical part of the Nigerian economy.


Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Cathy, I have had so much positive feedback about your visit and presentation here at PVE. John told me today that he sees people all around the campus carrying your book.

    • Thanks, Kimmie. I’m glad there are positive repercussions from my visit. Clem and I had a lovely time at Paradise Valley Estates. I just finally wrote you a thank you note which I’ll mail later.

  2. It was a pleasure to meet you and Clem at the Friends of Nigeria meeting on June 4 and 5 (I skipped the Saturday session). Having read your book twice, I felt I knew you both already.
    As for what feels like “home,” I have layers of friends that are the foundation of my life: my Portland (Conn.) High School friends, Mount Hermon friends, Harvard friends, Peace Corps friends, Columbia friends, OEO friends (who unfortunately have almost all died off), food advocacy friends, running friends, choral singing friends and old girlfriends.
    I’m also grateful that my brother and sister are both alive, and all three of us get along. Not to mention my wife (and ex-wife), two daughters, four grandchildren, three stepchildren and five stepgrandchildren. I’m truly blessed!
    Two years ago I wrote a farewell column in Food Chemical News, “Once a Foodie, always a Foodie.” The same could be said of most of us Peace Corps volunteers. Most of my career was spent in Washington, D.C., but Nigeria is never far from my mind.

    • Thank you, Steve. Yes, I know what you mean about layers of friends. I too can go through parts of my life and name groups of friends. After the Peace Corps gathering in DC, Clem and I went to Park City Utah to stay with my dear high school whom I hadn’t seen for more than 50 years! Thank you for naming so many sources of friendship!

  3. It was a highlight of my first Peace Corps Connect to meet and engage with Clement. Yes, we hit it off right away! He is the perfect complement to your noteworthy life. And I am now unfulfilled until I try “Star” Beer and dance to Nigerian music. The other RPCV was Benny Cespedes (Pakistan 1961) who also met his wife there and recently celebrated their 52nd anniv. “Nwa nne di na mba.” (Even in a strange land, a brother can be found.)

    I also have wondered if there is another word that can describe our “returned” status. The two years of Peace Corps is, after all, only the commencement of a lifetime of service to humanity.

    • Thank you, John. Clement really enjoyed meeting you too; it was a special encounter for him. Maybe you can join us next year at the Nigerian dinner if you don’t have your own! I love your use of the proverb from my book.

      Good question about another word. The reason “returned” is used rather than “former” is exactly what you say – it’s the start of an experience that goes on for a lifetime. Another word instead? Do you have a suggestion?