Last time I started writing on the way to Nashville, Tennessee, for the Peace Corps reunion, called Peace Corps Connect 2014. Today I began composing on the way back home to Connecticut!
On Thursday afternoon I delivered my talk on community and belonging to the Friends of Nigeria meeting. You can see part of the website on the screen behind me! I started by presenting David Koren with his prize for winning my challenge. His own memoir, Far Away in the Sky, is next on my list to read! I’ve included the picture of his book cover for you.
In my talk I included several examples of how Nigerian children are taught that they belong to a place and community. At the end I asked for other examples.
Bud Abbott had one I liked a lot. “The stories children are told almost always include an ancestor of the tribe,” he said, “and a common ancestor means that the children are related and belong to the same community.”
On Friday evening the Friends of Nigeria held a dinner prepared by a Nigerian caterer living in Nashville.
We had egusi soup, pounded yam, jollof rice, plantain, and moi-moi.
Egusi soup is one of my favorites; it’s at the forefront of the picture. It’s made from palm oil, ground egusi or pumpkin seeds, and a spinach–like vegetable, with meat. Egusi soup is eaten with pounded yam. You can see balls of white pounded yam in the tray next to the egusi soup. We also had meat pies and vegetable salad, not Nigerian but frequently served today at Nigerian parties, and fruit.
The conference was organized by the National Peace Corps Association, NPCA, the umbrella group for all returned Peace Corps volunteers. (Peace Corps alumni call themselves “returned” Peace Corps volunteers rather than “former” volunteers, because we work for the third goal of Peace Corps – to bring the world back home – all our lives.)
I served on the NPCA board for two terms, from 1998 to 2006. At the conference I reconnected with friends from that time too.
Friends of Nigeria, FON, is just one of many organizations under the umbrella of the NPCA. There are dozens of other groups organized by country of service or geographically by where we live today. So I’m a member of the Connecticut Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, as well as Friends of Nigeria.
I co-founded FON eighteen years ago with Peter Hansen. There are about 1500 people who were Peace Corps volunteers in Nigeria. About fifty of us gathered in Nashville. But I was the only one from my training group at the conference. Next year’s gathering will be in San Francisco – this is a heads up for you, Group IV! I hope you’ll show up and not let me be alone!
On Wednesday I’ll go to the annual gathering of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Providence, Rhode Island. I’ll share a room with a college classmate who lives in Paris – more great connections.
What reunions or gatherings will you have this summer?