Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peace Corps and Kenya Tie Friends after 45 Years

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peace Corps and Kenya Tie Friends after 45 Years

Article excerpt

It was not "The Big Chill" but a small, intense burst of warmth - - an informal reunion of four Peace Corps volunteers, Kenya, class of 1969.

We gathered with our wives in New York, the perfect backdrop for this grand convergence, with its standing promise of sweet surprise.

On day one, I landed my first-ever Buddhist cabbie, a mellow Nepali immigrant. Is there a more useful approach to the harum- scarum driving in Manhattan than Buddhism? Or a better portent of four days of harmony?

The reunion also forced a tacit nod to Buddhist acceptance. We're card-carrying members of Medicare, and cancer and heart problems have surfaced. Mortality was an unwelcome guest lurking in the background. We would seize this precious moment.

We came from California, Montreal and Pittsburgh. We had met over the years in various combinations. But this was the first time all eight of us could assemble in the same place.

Richard, a money manager, was our New York host. He was a great Peace Corps volunteer. Still is. He's been in continual contact with his Kenyan village since 1970, helping develop a water system at present among many projects he has jump-started.

He and his wonderful wife, Gretchen, a world-class flutist, also made their mark at home by starting a music-focused charter school in Queens.

When they picked up restaurant checks during the reunion and I tried to pay him back, Richard said he still owes me big-time for all the weekends he stayed on my sofa in Nairobi. Well, OK then.

The Montrealers are warm, funny Steve, a retired anthropology prof from New York, and the brilliant Salma from Zanzibar. Their 31- year-old daughter lives in Harlem with her boyfriend, and this delightful couple hosted their elders for a superb African- inflected dinner. The circle of friendship thus expanded to the next generation.

Post-Peace Corps, Steve taught briefly in Harlem and felt his life was in danger every time he went there. It was a pleasure now to see the neighborhood safe and at ease with itself, throbbing with life and friendly people.

Returning from Harlem to our hotel, my wife and I came upon not the Beatles but four fine imitators doing an infectious rendition of "You're Gonna Lose That Girl. …

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