After arriving in my hometown of Parkersburg, I got to drive again for the first time in over a year (Peace Corps Volunteers are strictly forbidden from driving). I felt as if I were 16 years old and learning to drive again, as my Dad rode in the passenger seat and had me drive all over the county, including the speedway which he had managed during the 1960s. He wanted to be sure I wasn't too rusty to use his truck that night to attend the reunion.Love Letters in the Sand" story. He read it and agreed to match her donation. It turns out that "To Sir with Love" was one of his favorite movies of all time.
I tried to thank my classmates in a speech I gave on Saturday night (pictured below) up in front of the dance floor, because the stuff they provided (and the money some chose to give) will truly make a difference. I told them that if our teachers had been there to receive all this largesse, they would have been crying tears of appreciation. It was almost overwhelming even for me. The spirit of the Class of '76 is amazing!
Then on Tuesday, I gave a presentation at the Public Library to about 70 people. It was set up by Federally Employed Women, a civic minded group at my former workplace, and I am very grateful that they so ably handled all the logistics for this event. I recognized most of the crowd, either as former co-workers, or family friends, or folks I had met during my years on the school board. It was wonderful to see so many friends who were interested in what I am doing in the Peace Corps.my previous blog story about visiting a nearby swimming pool and wanted to make sure those kids got another chance to enjoy that. I can't thank everyone enough for the interest and generosity you have for my students and my village!
Also while in Morgantown, I attended a movie for the first time in over a year (there are no movie theaters on the entire island of Dominica). We chose to see “Free State of Jones” starring Matthew McConaughey. It was an incredible movie about a fascinating but little known story from the Civil War, where some folks from Mississippi seceded from the Confederacy. I highly recommend it! I also enjoyed once again sitting in front of a huge screen in a darkened venue and getting mesmerized by a good story.
Throughout the week, I was able to enjoy a lot of my favorite foods that are not as readily available to me down here. It was good to be back in familiar restaurants such as Pizza Place, Cheryl's, Der Dawg Haus, Black Bear Burritos, Mario's Fishbowl, Lavender Cafe, etc. I also didn't worry about dieting while I was home briefly, so I really enjoyed myself!
During my time at home in West Virginia, I also enjoyed seeing the wildlife that I don't see down here. I watched deer, rabbits, turkey, and a beautiful red fox. However, the best animal sighting was a huge black bear that galloped across I-79 in front of us yesterday in Braxton County. Bears can really run fast! I just wish I could have been able to get my camera out in time to get a picture, because it was an astounding sight!
We drove down I-79 from Morgantown to Charleston, where my return flight originated this morning. This took us through the Elk River valley region, which was one of the areas that was flooded badly early on the previous Friday morning (the day I was flying back to West Virginia). There was about nine inches of rain in about nine hours, which caused flash flooding in much of southern and eastern West Virginia. It was a similar amount as what Dominica experienced during Tropical Storm Erika, and both of my “homes” suffered similar death counts as a result. Dominica and West Virginia, both with their rugged, mountainous terrain and populations living in isolated valleys, as well as each having more poverty than other places, too often get hit by torrential rains and others acts of nature. This is one tragic characteristic I wish my two homes did not share. Fortunately, neither the Morgantown or Parkersburg areas were hit hard, but 80% of West Virginia's counties have been declared disaster areas. Many families have lost everything.
We had heard that gas cans were one of the items needed, so we had stopped at Lowes and purchased a couple of new ones before leaving Morgantown. We figured since we were going to be passing through one of the affected areas, we would stop and fill them with gas and donate them somewhere. We ended up getting off the Interstate at the Elkview exit, where a bridge to a major shopping area had been totally washed out. I wanted to get a picture of it (shown below) so that my Dominican friends—who suffered with multiple bridges getting washed out during Tropical Storm Erika—could see that sometimes it happens in the USA as well.
Early this morning, I started the long journey back to my new home of Dominica. My flight left Charleston at 7:30 bound for Charlotte. After a layover there, I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and enjoyed another layover. Finally, I boarded a turboprop for the last leg of my journey—after requesting a seat change so that I would be on the right side of the plane. You see, this particular flight goes over my village each evening, and I've often looked up at it and wondered what the view would be like looking down on my village.
The sun was beginning to set as we approached Dominica. I got my camera ready and hoped that the scratches on the window glass would not degrade the photos I hoped to take. Soon my village came into view. In the picture below, you can see Mont Rouge in the lower left corner, with the peninsula L'islet separating our two beaches. The bat cave inlet that is difficult to get to can be seen in the lower right corner. Our playing field is the large green space in the lower center, and the white roof of the school can be seen to the left of the field. I can even pick out my cottage in this picture, but I'm not allowed to tell you where it is (a Peace Corps security policy). It was very satisfying to see my village and capture this view from the air.