Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catching Up

I don’t seem to be very good at this blogging thing – too long between posts – but I’ll keep working at it till I get the hang of it.

Making Contact

On Monday, I came down with a cold, one of those that descend suddenly out of the blue. By evening I was pretty miserable. I cancelled a trip I had planned and hunkered down. My trip was to be a little “circle tour” to visit some friends in northern Michigan (Petoskey and Gaylord), then my brother in Detroit, and it was supposed to start Tuesday morning.

Instead on Tuesday I went into town to get some cough medicine and ginger ale and stopped at The Book Nook & Java Shop, my local bookstore and Internet café. Much to my delight, I had an email from another Peace Corps volunteer who’s been assigned to Morocco. She’d tracked me down through Google. I responded, and I also found the blog of another woman who is assigned to the same program – so that makes three of us so far! I have no idea how many of us there are to be in this group, but this is pretty cool, that three of us at least are in touch. I had never been able to make contact with any of the others assigned to the Lesotho program, even though I searched Google and Facebook. This was just the impetus I needed to write another post.

Premature Farewells

Saying goodbye was an important part of my personal agenda for October. I’d already taken care of most of the physical details for departure (though, fortunately, I hadn’t yet sold my car!), but I wanted to do everything possible to be able to say farewell to the people in my life, and I had little time between my last day of work (October 15) and my scheduled departure for Lesotho (October 31).

At my association’s trade show (October 8-10), I had the opportunity to give a valedictory at a banquet on the first evening, but there were many other occasions as well, including, of course, serendipitous encounters. And a number of people gave me impromptu tributes, which was flattering. There seemed to be a theme to their comments:
·         My laugh – I do have a distinctive laugh, kind of dorky if I’m really amused (think “Revenge of the Nerds”), but they were really saying that I laugh easily. I liked that.
·         My calm – However they said it - “unruffled ” or “a steady hand” or “calm in a crisis” - that that trait of mine stood out to them was particularly gratifying to me
Now, many of those people were expecting to see postings from Africa by this time. Believe me, it wasn’t my fault!

A good friend had organized a farewell dinner for me for the 17th of October.  I got the call cancelling the Lesotho program the evening of the 13th. I didn’t want to hold the dinner under false pretenses, but I also wasn’t sure we could reach all of them in time to cancel. The next day, after an exchange of emails, we decided to go ahead with the dinner anyway. After all, I was still going into the Peace Corps sometime, and besides, she’d already ordered the cake! So, a few days later, over 30 of my friends and I broke bread together. I was able to bring them up to date, and they were able to kid me a little. It was a lot of fun. But what about when I actually go…?

My younger son, Joe (who is a junior pursuing a BFA in painting at Western Michigan), and I had planned a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago on the 29th, as our last day together before my departure. I called to tell him about the Lesotho cancellation and suggested we keep our date anyway. He was emphatic about doing so, so on that Friday morning, I drove the two and a half hours down to Kalamazoo and picked him up and we turned west to Chicago. The particular occasion was the reinstallation of the Chagall Windows, which had been removed five years earlier. As a member, I was able to get us in for a members preview and a lecture about the windows, which had been commissioned specifically for the museum. Additionally, now that I had been assigned to Morocco, I was hoping I might see Moroccan period pieces by two of my favorite painters, Matisse and Delacroix. Unfortunately, the AIC doesn’t have any of those in their holdings, but we did get to see the windows. We even had our pictures taken by AIC staff as we were looking at the windows! We also saw a really interesting installation on the grand staircase of the museum – the words are from a speech given by a Muslim scholar at the Columbia Exposition in the late 1800s – words about mutual understanding and peace. So appropriate for these times and for my entering the Peace Corps!

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