Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Peace Corps Connections

Catherine speaking at FON meeting

Catherine speaking at FON meeting

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.

Far Away in the Sky

Far Away in the Sky

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 and pounded yam

Egusi soup and pounded yam

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.

On Saturday the conference moved to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We heard speeches – most of them excellent – and were entertained by Emmylou Harris and the Carmonas. What fun!

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?

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. Pingback: A Movie, Boko Haram, Igbo-Ukwu, and the World Cup | Catherine Onyemelukwe

  2. I’m following the World Cup, but my loyalties are promiscuous. I’m chiefly rooting for the underdog United States, but I also have affection for Argentina (birthplace of my first wife), Belgium (where I lived for two years) and, of course, Nigeria.
    When the U.S. plays Belgium on Tuesday, it’s a win-win situation for me. I’ll be happy whoever wins.

    • Thanks, Steve. I liked your note about your loyalties. Although I’m rooting for Nigeria, I was sorry to see Greece lose today – I feel they need a boost given the economic turmoil they’ve endured.

  3. Pingback: Unitarian Universalist Connections and Nigeria News | Catherine Onyemelukwe

  4. Thanks for your request, Clem. I will say more about how children learn they belong. Do you have any suggestions?

  5. I wish you had said more about how children learn that they belong in the African tradition. Will you tell us more next time?