In February 2012, I did something that would forever change my life: I joined Peace Corps. I had just turned 22 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. A brief study abroad trip in Rome the previous summer had taught me there was so much in the world I wanted to see.
Four months later, I was lugging two North Face duffels and two extra-large carry-ons to DC to hop on a plane that would take me to my new home: Ethiopia. I had my linen pants, headlamp, REI sleeping bag, and hiking shoes. You know what I wished I had brought more of? Jeans.
Two years of living and working in Ethiopia taught me so much about the culture, people, landscape, food, MYSELF.
I went boating with hippos, haggled in Amharic, hiked to waterfalls, was astonished by rock-hewn churches, snacked with hyenas, avoided malaria, got evicted, helped publish four children’s books, was sexually harassed, peed in far too public of places, celebrated new holidays, helped open a library, climbed through castle ruins, ran a summer camp, got depressed, celebrated weddings, hiked around a crater lake, craved oreos, and made lifelong friends.
I also met the love of my life, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, and he’s now part of my adventure!
We spent three months backpacking through Southeast Asia. We soaked up the sun in Koh Samui, celebrated the paper lantern festival in Chiang Mai, got food poisoning in Ho Chi Minh City, explored the world’s second largest cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, strolled with elephants in Mondulkiri, marvelled at temples in Angkor Wat, stuffed our faces at night markets in Luang Prabang, and got conjunctivitis at the Bun Awk Phansa festival.
To make a long story short, we’ve had our ups and downs. After a year in the US, reconnecting with family and friends, we made our new dream happen: International Teaching.
We spent three years living and working in Accra, Ghana and it was such an incredible place to call home. We grew more together than we ever thought possible.
I went on my first safari, became a PYP classroom teacher, learned to batik, vacationed at “Ghana’s most exclusive beach resort,” coordinated a Maker Faire, went to art shows, visited a kente village, celebrated International Festival Day, had my first flight cancelled, visited a plastic-bottle school, learned how to make glass beads, got emotional at former slave castles, shouted at cab drivers, realized how much more comfortable I feel living in an international community, and visited 16 new countries.
Then it was time for our new international home: Amman, Jordan. This was a fun surprise for us, because we had visited it a year earlier and left longing for more time. That wish was, unfortunately, granted by a global pandemic.
During our three years in Jordan I ate incredible food, was locked in my home, became an online teacher, started working out every day, developed a hobby of rescuing stray cats, survived a sandstorm in Wadi Rum, stared at the wonders of Petra, floated in the Dead Sea, and missed traveling. In fact, I still miss traveling. But, traveling internationally is still so complicated that we decided it was time for a change.
We recently moved back to Texas. We’ve found an apartment, a car, and new teaching positions. We’re making plans to settle in for the next two years – reconnect with family, friends, and consumerism. After that? Who knows…I have no doubt we’ll be back abroad!
I came across your blog by accident but haven’t been able to stop reading so far. I had a few questions about your trip to New Orleans if you have the time and willingness to indulge me. I currently live in Japan but am a native of New Orleans; and unfortunately I know very little about my ancestry. What I wanted to ask is more about your experience in identifying the d’Aunoy role in prominent New Orleans families. My maiden name is Ashley d’Aunoy. Any information you could share would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Ashley, thanks so much for the interest in my blog! Everything I learned about the d’Aunoys came from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. This is the page they have about the connected painting and family: https://ogdenmuseum.org/exhibition/belizaire-and-the-frey-children/ Sorry I can’t be of more help – but perhaps the museum has more information for you!
Brilliant pictures. I am researching George Maclean and trying to transcribe the writing on the slab above the canon ball pile. Do you have a picture of this please
Hi Mike, thanks for the kind words. I looked through my Cape Coast photos but, unfortunately, I don’t have a clear photo of the writing. Best of luck on your research!
Ashley good morning,
Thank you for replying to my enquiry. With your vast travelling experience, do you know of anyone who might be able to help with my enquiry about the memorial at Cape Coast Castle. It seems that it is memory of George Maclean but it is quite frustrating not being able to confirm this or find a full transcript anywhere. I have contacted Ghana directly but they have passed my enquiry on. I am compiling a 19th Century Whoâs Who of the Gold Coast and Ashanti Wars. Fascinating subject and very enlightening. Sorry to trouble you but as Maclean is a vital part of my research I find it strange for the memorial not to receive a single mention. Keep on producing great pictures