Oh yes, the young and restless – I was 19 and Steve, 24. We met in the Virgin Islands at the Peace Corps training in 1971. I was heading to Liberia and he was on his way to Niger. A brief encounter…well because, I was spoken for – pearled to my high school sweetheart. But as time progressed, Steve and I remained in contact.
Read below while I am on a plane heading to Niger to visit Steve 18 months later.
Excerpt from Part VI – West Africa – Chapter, Air Maybe
Steve and I corresponded by mail since our meeting in the Virgin Islands during my Peace Corps training many months ago. The Peace Corps had hosted a couple of chaperoned parties intermixing the male and female trainees. At one party, Steve flirted with me. I informed him, right off, that I was spoken for and he said he understood. Blond like Doug, I found him intriguing, sweet, and very smart. His dad was a TV producer in L.A. One evening at our Dorothea Beach training camp the two of us sat on the beach when he turned my chin and our lips gently met. I turned away quickly as a small voice told me to do, but as the night progressed, Steve missed his transport back to his camp. My roommate Linda and I hid Steve in our room and he spent the night on the floor between our beds. The following morning, our supervisor, Ms. Picket, knocked on our door, came in, and summoned only me to a meeting before breakfast in the dining room. Just as she left, I saw Steve’s feet sticking out from under my bed. Surely, I would be in big trouble now.
In the next paragraph in my book, you will learn if I fell from grace and suffered Mrs. Picket’s wrath. Also in the following chapter, Deportation, you will discover if I ever made it to Steve’s village in Niger.
Fifty years later I receive an email from someone who had read my book and contacted me through my website. OMG, STEVE!!! We had lost contact over the years. Yes, I had changed his name in my memoir to protect the innocent. However he knew immediately, those chapters in the book were about him. Here is what his email said.
“Sue – Huge congratulations on your book, simply the best “Peace Corps book” I’ve ever read and one of the most heartfelt memoirs I’ve seen. You deserve every award and accolade that has come your way. The moment I started reading, it’s as if 50 years simply disappeared and I was once again that 24-year-old setting off on the adventure of a lifetime.
As you described landing at Robertsfield, I was once again feeling the sense of awe and excitement that came from the plane doors opening in Dakar and smelling that unique African atmosphere of wood smoke, open sewers, new spices and for Dakar, the salty ocean. Then on to Ouagadougu for a meal stop where I first encountered brains – thanks, but no thanks – and finally Niamey where it felt as if I had stepped into a blast furnace when the doors were opened.
Your descriptions of going to Zorgowee mirrored my arrival in Gazoua where my partner, Jon, and I were the first and only whites to ever live there. We, too, were treated to a welcoming banquet as the guests of honor, and I will never forget our hosts lifting the pot lid to uncover a complete sheep’s head bubbling away. The eye balls and brains were a hard “no thanks” but Jon and I upheld the graces by finding meat to pick from the skull.”
Steve and I proceeded to have a 2.5 hour phone call a week later. So much ground to cover and so many fond memories to share. Steve is happily married with two wonderful children living in Maine. At one point in his life, unbeknownst to either of us, we lived only 32 miles apart, as the crow flies, when he and his family lived on San Juan Island and I in Bellingham, WA.
My book just keeps on giving and my heart is warmed by the outpouring of accolades and love given to me by so many of you. Thank you from the bottom of the heart.
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