Tag Archives: retired

Our Bottom Line

Now that I’m three weeks away from completing my Peace Corps service, would I recommend it to other older Americans? Some friends back home have begun asking me this. My answer is a strong “yes” — but also “it depends.”

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Champa and I have had a wonderful experience in Moldova. We’ve felt fulfilled by the work we’ve done — her teaching English, me at the library. We’ve become close friends with our host family and others. We’ve learned about this part of the world and shared some great times with our local partners and fellow volunteers.

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Every volunteer’s experience is different, though, even within the same country, and several aspects of our service made things easier for us. Most obviously, we served together. We were never lonely and always had our best friend nearby to share the day’s events. Most Peace Corps Volunteers are single.

Also, we were posted to Eastern Europe, more specifically to a small city near Moldova’s capital where we lived in a nice house with electricity and running water, a modern kitchen and a washing machine. We weren’t allowed to drive (which I’ve missed), depending instead on overcrowded minibuses or walking. But we did have a good Internet connection and a supermarket where we could find items like peanut butter or barbecue sauce. For us, the “Peace Corps experience” definitely didn’t include living in a hut.

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Moreover, Champa and I came here with a lot of experience outside the United States, so we had little trouble adjusting to a new culture. Nor were we distracted by family emergencies back home, at least until a few weeks ago when one of our granddaughters got quite sick. Thank goodness, she is now fine, but her illness was a reminder that our time here could have ended suddenly. We were also fortunate to remain healthy ourselves, unlike some of our volunteer friends. IMG_6969When I served in Nepal years ago, I was sick frequently and was eventually “med-sep’d” before my scheduled departure date. Not this time.

All of these caveats are significant. What ultimately mattered most, though, is that Champa and I really wanted to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers and were willing to put up with sickness, separation from our family and almost anything else. We had a clear idea of what we were signing up for and were determined to succeed. Peace Corps is hard, no matter how old you are. IMG_1057If you’re not fully committed, you’re probably not going to make it.

We joined for many reasons, but mainly because we felt we had received many blessings in our lives and wanted to give back. We challenged ourselves for two years, worked hard and felt like we made a difference. Like so many volunteers before us, we also ended up feeling we received more than we gave, mainly because of the generosity of the Moldovan people,

We didn’t like everything. There were a lot more regulations than when I served as a volunteer in Nepal in the late 1970s. After living independently for so many years, I found it jarring to have to ask permission to do routine things, even to see Champa when we were separated during training. I wasn’t crazy about walking on Moldova’s icy roads in January or riding its minibuses in July. Overall, though, it was great.

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I hope this blog has been useful to anyone, especially older Americans, who is considering the Peace Corps as an option for their next stage of life. As a reminder, they can find lots of useful information on my blog and on a special Peace Corps website. I’m always happy to answer questions personally, as I’ve done many times with readers of “Not Exactly Retired” and others. Simultaneously, many Americans will have different constraints than us, will choose other ways to serve or just want to do something else with their lives. That’s fine; Peace Corps isn’t for everybody.

As we get ready to ring the “COS Bell,” Champa and I are deeply grateful to have had this opportunity. If you are as committed to the Peace Corps philosophy — and as lucky — as we have been, you, too, may have an experience you will never forget or regret. You won’t change the world with your service but you will change the path of your own life, for the better.

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Mulling What’s Next

If you’re an older American looking to continue pursuing a life of service and adventure after spending two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you can find lots of helpful resources online.

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I know because I’ve been searching through them myself as Champa and I enter the final lap of our time in Moldova. Just like our younger colleagues, we’re thinking about what we’ll do after ringing the traditional farewell bell here this summer. While many of them have been checking out graduate schools or possible jobs, though, we’ve been looking for ideas that better fit our stage of life.

Let me share some of what I’ve found:Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.31.05 PM

Senior Nomads, a blog by retired Seattle couple Debbie and Michael Campbell, chronicles their full-time travels since 2013, staying in Airbnbs while visiting more than 68 countries. As Debbie noted in a recent post, they now spend money on airfares, Airbnbs and travel insurance instead of a home. They’ve been able to spend lots of time every year with their children and grandchildren and to keep in touch with friends while pursuing a life that, at least to me, feels a lot more interesting than playing golf every day.Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.31.28 PM

Lynne Martin has been pursuing similar adventures with her husband Tim, which she describes  on her website, Home Free Adventures. Lynne’s book, Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World, inspired us several years ago when we were contemplating leaving the conventional workplace to become “not exactly retired” ourselves

There are numerous websites devoted to “senior travel,” each with its own niche. TripAdvisor compiled some of the best in its article 20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millenials. (Their title, not mine.) If you’re looking for practical tips, also check out Rick Steves’ article about Savvy Senior Travelers. If you’re dreaming of becoming a travel writer yourself, you’ll find lots of advice online.

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Other sites offers leads about short- or longer-term employment overseas. Transitions Abroad is a good one for English teachers. Modern-Day Nomads highlights “top travel jobs & inspiration for globetrekking, creative professionals.” (It hasn’t been updated recently but its listings for November included one for a seasonal sous chef at Denali National Park.)

Champa and I want to continue providing service after Peace Corps. I’ve been finding new inspiration for this at Encore.org, which promotes “second acts for the greater good.” I’m thinking now about how I can best apply my own skills to make a similar impact, whether back home in Durham or more broadly. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.33.37 PMMy niece, Juliana, will be enrolling this fall at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, with a special interest in social entrepreneurship; I may need to borrow some of her course materials.

Good online resources exist to help older Americans find volunteer opportunities. HandsOn Triangle serves our North Carolina community. Similar sites exist elsewhere. AARP’s Create the Good serves older volunteers nationwide. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.34.56 PMThere are also excellent organizations and websites aimed at older volunteers, such as the Executive Service Corps and Reserve. Most seek to match older Americans with positions that make good use of their particular skills.

I regularly find interesting articles on Next Avenue and from journalists such as Richard Eisenberg and Kerry Hannon who cover retirement issues. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.35.33 PMMy favorite writer covering this field is Nancy Collamer (my sister), whose “My Lifestyle Career” site and recent 100 Great Second-Act Career Resources cover many of the issues I’ve discussed here, as well as “flexible gigs,” online courses for seniors and resources for everyone from foodies to pet lovers.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.36.14 PMFor the next five months, Champa and I will remain focused on the rest of our Peace Corps service. Here, too, plentiful online resources exist to motivate us. Not long ago, one RPCV group selected the 8 Best Blogs to Follow About Peace Corps, a list that included the blog you’re reading now. IMG_2013(Thanks, Friends & RPCVs of Guyana!)

Champa and I are most looking forward to taking a break and spending time with our family and friends after being away for so long. We really miss them, as you can tell from these photos we took during our trip home last summer. Simultaneously, we know we will eventually catch our breath and get serious about “what’s next?”

If anyone reading this has suggestions or wants to share something from their own lives, we’ll read your comments with interest — and perhaps others will, too.

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The Surprise of Travel

The modest roadside cafe we saw outside the Armenian village of Sevkar lacked a sign in English, much less a website. It was hardly the place you’d expect two older Americans to stop for lunch. But we did, unexpectedly, while traveling last week and it turned out to be a highlight of our trip. It also provided a reminder about how we all need to look beyond our plans and checklists to embrace life’s surprises.

It was before noon and we were the only customers there. The owner led us into his kitchen, pointed to some bowls of meat and asked what we’d like him to barbecue over his charcoal fire. IMG_8603Then, as the meat sizzled, he sliced bread, tomatoes, onions and cheese onto a plate and took them outside to a wooden table, where he invited us to sit.

The barbecue was beyond delicious, as was everything else. Here along a small road in northern Armenia, we enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives.

This happened only because we asked our driver to find somewhere to stop early for lunch so we could spend our remaining Armenian money before crossing the border into Georgia.

This is one of the things I love most about traveling. No itinerary can anticipate many of the experiences that end up making a trip memorable.

Here’s another example: While in Armenia we also came across an area filled with small stone cairns, which reminded us of the mani stones people in Nepal pile along trekking paths. Beside them were hundreds of cloth and plastic ribbons wrapped around trees and bushes, which people placed for good wishes and luck. They, too, fascinated us, even though we’d actually come to see the adjacent Geghard monastery, partially carved out of a mountain.

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We were surprised at a Jewish synagogue, too. Its caretaker in Tbilisi, Georgia, gave Champa and me a private tour, even opening the ark to show us some of their Torah scrolls. He told us about Tbilisi’s small Jewish community and took the photo you see here.

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While near Tbilisi, we also discovered wine ice cream, from this woman at Mtskheta. We thought it was a gimmick but I bought a cone and it was wine ice cream, and pretty tasty, too.

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We also were surprised by people like this New Zealand woman, Lesley, who we met at an Armenian restaurant that provided a demonstration of traditional lavash baking. We discovered she lived previously in Turkmenistan, where she was friends with a young American woman who is now in our Peace Corps group in Moldova.

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Then there was the woman with the red jacket you see talking with Champa. She is a physical therapist from the Philippines who works in Dubai. She and her husband came to Armenia for a brief vacation while renewing their visas. They were among several foreign nationals we met in Armenia who work in the Gulf. Who knew? The two Chinese women in the foreground, who took selfies and texted nonstop during our tour, are air hostesses for a Gulf airline.

It’s humbling for a planner like me to acknowledge that my detailed trip itineraries often fail to anticipate what Champa and I will remember most about a trip. As I wrote when I started this blog, one of my goals in being “not exacty retired” is to recognize the richness of life’s surprises and make the most of them, especially when traveling. “After being tied to calendars and project schedules for so many years,” I wrote then, “I wanted to embrace the unknown.”

Now, two and half years later, and especially after returning from a great trip, I feel that way even more. Spreadsheets are great but, in both the dictionary and on the road, serendipity will always come first.

Older Peace Corps Volunteers

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What’s it like to be an older Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova, in eastern Europe, or in more than 60 other countries around the world?

Not Exactly Retired celebrated its 100th blog post with a special series sharing the experiences of some of Moldova’s older volunteers.

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Here are the four stories from the series:

Insights and Advice shares what some older Americans have learned in Peace Corps Moldova.

Expect Surprises explores some of the situations and emotions that most surprised them.

Looking to the Future considers how Peace Corps service has changed their life plans.

Carla’s Story shares the story of one older volunteer from Yuma, Arizona.

Are you or someone you know thinking about joining the Peace Corps? You’ll find lots of helpful information on the agency’s main application site, which also offers a website addressing the special concerns of older applicants. If you’re especially interested in Peace Corps Moldova, check out the Peace Corps Moldova Facebook page, which highlights volunteers of all ages.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-10-00-34-amYou’ll also find more stories on this blog, Not Exactly Retired, such as Peace Corps After 50, an earlier post that was reprinted on NextAvenue and elsewhere.

[Added later: Peace Corps: Now vs. Then describes the six biggest changes I’ve seen in Peace Corps since serving when I was younger. Mulling What’s Next highlights resources for older Americans looking to combine travel, service and adventure in their lives. The Surprise of Travel encourages travelers to venture off the beaten path. My Unpredicted Birthday reflects on what it’s like to turn 65 while serving in the Peace Corps.

Shortly after we completed our service and returned home, the Kiplinger Retirement Report profiled the two of us in an article about older Americans serving as Peace Corps Volunteers.]

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We welcome your comments and invite you to subscribe to Not Exactly Retired, which has been chronicling our journey since we left our conventional jobs and American lifestyle in mid-2015 to pursue new lives of adventure and service. Perhaps it will inspire you to consider changes in your own life — or just entertain you. It’s free, and more than 10,000 people have visited. Join the journey!

Thanks to all of the Peace Corps Moldova volunteers who assisted with this series, which was published in December 2016. Unfortunately, we were unable to include all of them. Many of the others have great stories, too. See the Facebook page (above) to read some of them.

Older PCVs: 4. Carla’s Story

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Thousands of older Americans have served in the Peace Corps, and each has a story to tell. In this final post of our series, Carla Peterson, 64, of Yuma, Arizona, shares hers. She has been serving in Ungheni, Moldova since mid-2015 and is due to return home next summer. She sent this essay — opinionated, moving and honest— to Not Exactly Retired, which edited it with her approval: 

I first looked into Peace Corps back in the 70’s while I was still in college. Then I got married, had children and started my career. So much for the Peace Corps.

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Carla with her older son, his wife, her daughter and two granddaughters, in Portland, Ore.

Nine years ago, Pete died from melanoma, two years before he was going to retire and three years before I was going to follow. I was 55. I kept working because I had no plan now that The Plan had blown up.

By the time I was 60, I needed a change from my job at a library. I’m not sure why Peace Corps came to mind again. Maybe I saw something online or in the paper. I called and found out their oldest volunteer was 84 — a lot older than me. So I decided to retire and apply to Peace Corps myself.

I applied in June 2014, interviewed in September and was accepted in October. I went ahead and retired in December, then headed for Washington state to begin saying my goodbyes. My mother lives there as do my brothers and sister. My daughter and two granddaughters lived in Oregon then, and I helped them move to Denver. I hoped to go to Japan to see my older son, too, but I ran out of time.

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Carla with some of her fellow volunteers in Moldova group M30.

My medical clearance took a lot longer than I expected. I understand they don’t want to send us overseas only to have a stroke or heart attack, but both my doctor and I felt like we had to jump through a lot of hoops.

It turned out to be good preparation for the scrutiny that has followed. As a volunteer, you must check in if you leave your site overnight. You can’t leave the country or change your work partner without permission. I’ve also had some smaller annoyances, such as being told to bring dressy clothes I didn’t need or confronting an excessive number of Peace Corps acronyms.

Some volunteers, especially older ones, arrive in Moldova with impressive work experience. Sometimes it’s under-utilized. Communities may be unsure what to do with their volunteer and don’t really understand what having a volunteer entails. Volunteers who were lawyers back home may end up teaching beginning English rather than working in community development. As a volunteer, you need to be flexible and keep a sense of humor.

Learning Romanian has been difficult for me, as for many older volunteers. I’d always been a good student and was shocked I didn’t pick up the language right away. Even after 19 months, I can’t carry on a conversation beyond the basics.

Before I left, I thought, “Two-plus years. Ha! I can do that in my sleep.” Well, the time has gone fast enough, but 27 months is a long time to be away from your family and friends, and from everything you enjoy back home.

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Carla with her host family and work partner

On the other hand, in today’s Peace Corps, and especially in a country such as Moldova, you’re connected constantly through the Internet. Earlier volunteers had to write letters and, if they were lucky, have an occasional phone call. They didn’t have Skype or FaceTime. That must have been rough.

Until recently, the Peace Corps slogan was “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” If I hear that again, I may go screaming from the room. For me, Peace Corps has basically been what I thought it would be. It hasn’t changed my outlook on life. I was a sociology and anthropology major in college, so I have always been fascinated by how different people act together. My time in Moldova has allowed me to compare their customs with our own. As I suspected, we are more alike than different. We work, play, love our families and carry on despite political differences.

Moldova is a lovely country. I love the fields of sunflowers, corn and grapevines, and the grazing animals. There are horse-drawn wagons and people with faces etched with character lines. Flowers decorate every village. People are warm and welcoming but not necessarily interested in changing their lives. Sometimes I think they view us Americans as exotic plants to tend and admire but not necessarily to keep.

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Attending a recent conference on enhancing computer security for libraries.

I don’t know whether I’ve helped develop my community here while working in the local library. Like a doctor, I’ve tried to at least do no harm. I hope those I’ve met will think kindly of America because of their contact with me.

As I look to the future, I want to spend time with my mother, who will turn 96 in February. I can’t wait to catch up with my children, grandchildren, siblings and friends. I’ll do volunteer work in Yuma, but I’m also going to travel, update my townhouse, attend all of the Triple Crown horse races and play some golf. I want to drive. I want to use a clothes dryer again. I want my independence back.

This is the final story in a Not Exactly Retired series about older volunteers serving in the Peace Corps. Thanks to everyone who participated. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to include all of Moldova’s current and recent older volunteers. You can learn more on the Peace Corps Moldova Facebook page and the Peace Corps website for older potential applicants.

Older PCVs: 3. Looking to the Future

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Nearly four decades ago, shortly after I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal,  I wrote an op-ed article for The New York Times in which I asked whether I would be able to hold onto everything I had just learned.

“After I’ve lived so long in a truly poor country,” I wrote, “New York seems like Fat City.” I ended the article with the words, “Will I remember?”

For me, as for so many other volunteers, Peace Corps was a transformative experience, changing my view of the world and my own place in it. In fact, I never forgot it, which is what led me to join again years later, this time with Champa, as I approached the other end of my professional career.

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Jim Fletcher, left, poses with three other North Carolina volunteers: myself, Reggie Gravely and Tom Harvey.

The older volunteers with whom we are now serving in Moldova say Peace Corps is altering their perspectives, too, as they look to their post-retirement years.

“Service has changed me,” says Jim Fletcher, a fellow North Carolinian. “I have come to realize that my needs are a great deal less than I thought they were. I use less water when I shower, I can buy good used clothes and look good and be happy, I can and will spend more time here and at home helping others who are less fortunate than I am. My vision of the world has changed because of the wonderful people of Moldova and it has changed for the better.

Deborah Sesek from Cleveland, who served as my mentor before I even came to Moldova, said she has “come to appreciate more the opportunities, privileges and rights afforded me as a U.S. citizen. I am especially grateful for my family, friends and life. In turn I have greater respect and concern for those who are vulnerable and without voice. Peace Corps has expanded my knowledge and world view.”

Other volunteers I interviewed for this series generally concur, saying anyone considering serving in the Peace Corps can expect the experience to change their lives.

fb_img_1437292102368“I had spent the latter years of my working life and the early parts of my retirement in various volunteer activities,” says Tom Corr, who was previously a lawyer in California. “My part-time volunteer activities had relatively visible results, at a modest cost to myself. I thought Peace Corps would be a ‘scaling up’ of that experience. But it is not. Peace Corps service requires a far more consequential commitment, but the ‘results’ of our service may not be visible to us for weeks or months, or maybe not at all.”

“My service here has really made me understand the concept of knowing that I am where I am supposed to be at any given time, and that making the most of the moment and the opportunities presented, whatever the circumstances, is of the highest importance,” says Sandra Dale Woodruff of Tampa.

Peace Corps service can reveal talents and interests previously unknown to a volunteer, even one with decades of experience. Deeporne Beardsley, who recently completed her tour in Moldova as an English education volunteer, discovered she loves teaching even though she had never received teacher training before. “I intend to make use of this newfound ability for the rest of my life,” she says.

img_9585Cynthia Katocs said Peace Corps helped her unwind from the corporate world (as illustrated here with a photo she took in Ialoveni with two familiar mice). “My first days in Peace Corps, I was wound up very tight from working in a corporation for many years,” she says. “The Peace Corps helped me find myself. It helped me look at myself and accept myself for who I am and not what I can bring to a company.”

Serving as a volunteer for two years, far from family and the comforts of home, doesn’t necessarily change what someone does after returning home. “We plan to stick to our plan: remain in Europe after close of service for several months (or we may live abroad), return Stateside (eventually) and continue doing volunteer work in the community where we retire,” says Lisa Gill, who is serving with her husband, Steve.
img_9741Inevitably, though, being a Peace Corps volunteer makes a person think about not only their new surroundings but also what is inside their own heart.
“I joined the Peace Corps because I felt a need to know the world differently and experience a new way of looking at things,” says Donna Barnes, shown here with Champa and me at a festival in Mileștii Mici. “I am still learning, taking things in and enjoying this new experience even though there are times when you question yourself and ask why? Why am I here?”

Brent Beardsley, who is now making the transition back to “normal life” in Tucson with his wife, Dee, pictured together here in the Peace Corps volunteer lounge, is determined to remain active and “not let life become a dull routine. I need to find new challenges.”img_9907

Deborah Sesek has only a half-year to go before she and the other members of her M30 group complete their service and begin the next phase of their lives. “When I return home, I hope to share what I have learned about the beauty of differences and continue to volunteer,” she says.

I am in M31, the group behind Debbie’s, so I don’t have to worry yet about “what’s next?” But I know the question is waiting there, for all of us in Peace Corps, just over the horizon. We will be different people after we finish this intense, challenging, wonderful experience, and we will need to decide anew how to live our lives. What will we hold onto? How will we do it? Just as before: Will we remember?

This is the third story in a Not Exactly Retired series about older volunteers serving in the Peace Corps. Thanks to everyone who participated. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to include all of Moldova’s current and recent older volunteers. You can learn more on the Peace Corps Moldova Facebook page and the Peace Corps website for older potential applicants.

Older PCVs: 2. Expect Surprises

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If you’re an older American thinking of joining the Peace Corps, or someone younger hoping to do so later in your life, get ready to be surprised.

Jim Fletcher, a retired North Carolina real estate broker now serving as a business advisor in Moldova, was “surprised the most by the bathroom conditions around my school. It has seven holes in the ground separated by 3-foot partitions. Occasionally the boys miss the mark so there is urine and fecal matter right there on the floor. Even in the winter the stench is almost unbearable.”

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Several older volunteer friends who live near us joined us for Nepali food at our house. From left, Cynthia Katocs, Tom Corr, Jim Fletcher, Champa and Donna Barnes. On the right, keeping us all youthful, is Michelle McNeary.

Donna Barnes, who worked for years as a professor at Howard University, was surprised by the lack of open opinions and thought. “There is very little thinking outside the box among most Moldovans,” she said. “It’s almost as though if it is not written somewhere, then it is not something to think about.”

Carla Peterson, who came to Moldova from Arizona, in the maroon blouse below, says her “biggest surprise was finding out I have no affinity for learning another language!”

Lisa Gill, a Peace Corps volunteer along with her husband, Steve, didn’t expect to encounter so much “defeatism and dourness.”

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For many of Moldova’s older Peace Corps volunteers, though, the biggest — and most pleasant — surprise has been the close friendships they’ve formed with other volunteers of all ages, as well as with Moldovans.

“I was surprised to have made so many friends,” said Cynthia Katocs, who came from Seattle. “As an older volunteer, my first concern was that I would be isolated around the younger volunteers. To my surprise, I’ve made many wonderful friends among both the older and younger volunteers.”

“It never occurred to me that joining Peace Corps would give me one of the best opportunities for new friendships and in-depth conversations with fellow Americans,” agrees Sandra Dale Woodruff from Tampa. The experience of serving together as volunteers leads to “a growing understanding and greater awareness of our own racial and cultural diversity in the U.S.,” she says.

Older volunteers interviewed by Not Exactly Retired for this series also spoke warmly of their friendships with work partners and neighbors in Moldova, the small former Soviet state where they’ve come for 27 months of training and service. “One woman who I adore always tries to speak English with me as we meet on the street,” Katocs says. “But the most endearing friend I made was a neighbor who always kisses me on both cheeks when she sees me. She always has a kind word to say.”

“Moldovans of all ages have great respects for older people, especially teachers,” says Deeporne Beardsley, who recently completed her service along with her husband, Brent. She is pictured above in Călăraşi with her senior partner teacher Efimia Dragan; on the right is Brent with Vasilii Goncairi, a potter. “It is surprising just how well Moldovans treat older people,” Brent writes from their home in Tucson. “They really look out for them. Moldova is a very poor country, the poorest in Europe, but they are very friendly and share what they have. We were regularly invited to events and celebrations, and given the best seats.  We were also given things just because they wanted to share.”

Lisa Gill, who is volunteering with her husband, and others say they’ve encountered some ageism as volunteers, from both Moldovans and Americans. Some say people can’t understand why an older American would leave the comforts of family and home to serve in a developing country.

img_20161129_104959“I’ve been surprised by host country nationals’ reaction to my age,” says Deborah Sesek, a former labor lawyer in Cleveland, shown here (in the blue sweater) attending a meeting with the Association for the Elderly in Ruseștii Noi, where she is posted. “Here in Moldova, most people retire in their late fifties. They assume I was retired before I joined Peace Corps, which isn’t true. When I tell them I was working until I left, they often just shake their heads.”

Having extensive life experience and, in many cases, previous travels, older volunteers are generally familiar with the surprises and bumps that life presents. Tom Harvey, who managed restaurants and worked in other businesses before joining the Peace Corps, said he has “not experienced any cultural shock, which is not to say that Moldovan culture is without its shocking peculiarities.”

What’s most important, many say, is for prospective Peace Corps volunteers of all ages to expect the unexpected — and to embrace it.

“It’s awfully hard to predict what will surprise me,” says Valerie Harden, an older teacher scheduled to come with Moldova’s next Peace Corps group, in mid-2017. “It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I could predict it ahead of time.”

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Julie Allison, from Arkansas, pictured above, will be joining Harden. They are among the latest in a line of older volunteers stretching back more than 50 years to when President Kennedy established the agency. Allison knows she cannot predict the future but hopes “my granddaughters would be proud to say, ‘My grandmother is a Peace Corps volunteer in Eastern Europe!’”

This is the second story in a Not Exactly Retired series about older volunteers serving in the Peace Corps. Thanks to everyone who participated. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to include all of Moldova’s current and recent older volunteers. You can learn more on the Peace Corps Moldova Facebook page and the Peace Corps website for older potential applicants.