Category Archives: Peace Corps

Liberty Station

Now that I’ve completely and permanently moved back to Houston, I decided it was about time to get in touch with other RPCVs. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer was such an important part of my life but yet it’s hard to share with people who haven’t been a part of that experience. In some ways, it’s really only other RPCVs understand that experience or are even interested in it. My friend Lisa, is a member of both the official and the unofficial RPCV groups and added me to the lists. So about once a month the groups meet. Yesterday we met at Liberty Station, a bar that was converted from an old gas station. (It’s a bit hard to find, so keep your eyes peeled.)

It was a bit of an eventful evening. After dinner, I had to go through downtown to get to 45 to get to Liberty Station. Since I really haven’t driven in Houston for about four-five years, I have AT&T’s navigator system on my phone and depending on the signal strength sometimes is how fast it changes to the next step. At some point in time, I had to make a right and then an immediate left to get to 45. I made the right and then with my left blinker on changed lanes until I was in the left turning lane, all the while making sure that there was room for me to change lanes. I changed lanes in front of a Houston PD car, but there was more than enough space. Sat at the light and then turned left once the light turned green and there wasn’t an traffic, since it wasn’t a protected left turn. Immediately after the police officer turns, he flips his lights on. I freak out because I haven’t really gotten any tickets ever, I never had D-Hall in my life as a student, etc. So I pull over because maybe I’m in his way keeping him from responding to an emergency. But no it’s me he’s pulling over. I am mentally upset, but I’m actually pretty calm. The conversation when like this:

HPD: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: No I don’t. What did I do?

HPD: You made a left turn from the right lane.

Me: But I was in the right lane to turn.

HPD: Exactly, you were in the right lane and made a left had turn.

Me: No, I was in the turning lane, the left turning lane, when I made the turn.

HPD: Well, then, you kinda cut me off.

Me: I did? I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.

HPD: License and registration.

Me: I’m so sorry. I never meant to. I’m really sorry.

HPD: Did you hear me honk.

Me: Honk? No. I didn’t. I was lost and trying to find my way.

HPD: Registration. How many tickets have you had.

Me: None.

HPD: None? None? No accidents?

Me: No. No. I had one in college ten years ago.

HPD: What was it for?

Me: Speeding. Here’s all my insurance papers, which one is the one you need?

HPD: This one. *Looks at it and basically throws my drivers license and my insurance at me* Nevermind.

I sat stunned for a bit, then clarity come and I realized he couldn’t really give me a ticket because his original “reason” was not true and the real reason was a bit petty, especially with my driving history.

I eventually made it Liberty Station. It’s an eclectic place, a pretty big outdoor seating area, interesting paintings. The things that I was so impressed with were the seating areas are far enough apart that you can’t hear the tables near by, but close enough that their conversation “buzzes” in your ears and the music is a bit too loud, both make it a bit hard to hear the person next to you.

I’ve come to realize that I never really experienced the much talked about reverse culture shock of readjusting to life in America after being a PCV when I first returned, but I almost immediately left for Ireland, then I returned  for a month or two and then it was off to Slovakia, etc. So I’m experiencing a massive extended reverse culture shock and it’s a bit disorientating at times. Which means that I can get all kinds of advice from RPCVs that know what I’m going through.

Now if I could find a job…



There are days that I wonder where my life is taking me. It’s already August, but I’m still sending out cover letters and resumes, hoping someone will have an open position, like what they read in my application/cover letter/resume, call me for an interview, like what see and hear, and then offer me a job.

I’ve been meeting new people catching up with a few friends, trying to fit into American life, finding new places to eat, enjoying everything that Holy Cross offers my soul, taking advantage of Borders and their nice comfy chairs that are meant to curl up with a cup of chai and a book. LG. Life’s Good.

“Little Shop of Horrors”

Over the last couple of weeks, the biggest celebrity in Houston has been Lois, a Amorphophallus titanum, more commonly known as a Corpse Flower. Corpse Flowers are known its smell, which is similar to pheromones that attract carrion beetles. Lois bloomed in the early morning hours last Friday (2010.07.23), about a week later than she was originally estimated to, but thanks to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences‘ 24-hour Lois cam and keeping their doors open 24-7 until she wilted helped give everyone the chance to smell Lois.

My friend Lisa, from Peace Corps, is definitely my friend, who knows exactly how nerdy I am, she wrote me an e-mail when she returned from her vacation, asking if I had “seen” Lois yet, since she knew that this would be on my to-do list. On Sunday morning, we went to HMNS to see Lois, there was a bit of a line for 8:15, but the line moved pretty fast, so we didn’t have to wait too long to smell her. She wasn’t disappointing, but compared to the photos of other Corpse Flowers that I had seen on-line, she was a bit small (I say this even though she was taller than me at 5 ft. and some inches), not as open as up either. Her color was a deep eggplant color, really gorgeous. The smell that I was a mix of anticipating and intimidated by, was not as strong or as pungent as I had expected. Sadly, Lois collapsed later Sunday afternoon. Overall, it was fun and apparently there’s another Corpse Flower in HMNS’s greenhouse and Lois will bloom again.

Lois on Sunday morning


Notes on the way back to TEXAS
Friday, December 19, 2008

So I’m sitting in the middle of Incheon International Airport – about two hours from Seoul and thought that I should share some last minute stories with you. And by Christmas, I will have finished my blog from Europe…promise.

It rained at night, so I put my Texas sweatshirt on my balcony to get rid of the smoke smell and of course it got wet and dirty.

So it tooko way longer that it should have trying to leave SEV, mainly because the security guards wanted to check everything that I had and were trying to take my pillow from me. Trust me I was only taking my pillow, I in no way would ever think about stealing the tiny, hard SEV pillow.

A kinda nice man let me share his taxi with him and he generously let me pay for the first part of his trip.

The 140 bus was decorated for Christmas, complete with paper snowflakes on the door windows and tinsel in the seat windows and Christmas (faerie) lights strung inside the bus.

I was a nice sight to see all the U.S. military men and women being able to go home this holiday season and you could see how impatient they were to get back home. There was this army guy somewhere from the South and I just wanted to stand next to him and listen to him, because he sounded so much like home. Listening to him, it kinda just hit me how long it’s been since I was last in the States and how much I miss the South. I also wanted to listen to him so that I could remember how to properly speak again. ^.^

So as I’m sitting in the Incheon airport trying to get my wifi to work, this woman comes up to me and immediately says, ‘Hi Karen, it’s me Nicole.’ And what do you know it’s Nicole Christensen. We were in the same Small Business Stage in Peace Corps Morocco. If I’m going to run into anyone at the airport in Korea, it might as well be someone from my Peace Corps days.

So I’m waiting for my flight, I have ten more minutes until I board.

Sorry Erin, I gave in and bought a book because I realized with “19 hours” of travel my one book wasn’t going to cut it. But I’m not going to go to Borders this weekend, no matter how wonderful the coupon is. Seriously, no more books until 2009.

Nichole Christensen Hardeman

I still can’t belive I saw you in Korea! It was great cathing up.
Have a wonderful Christemas in Texas!

Nouveau Antique Art Bar

the outside of the Nouveau Antique Art Bar

When I applied and agreed to volunteer in Peace Corps, I didn’t realize how significant of a part Peace Corps would play in my life. I’m one of the lucky ones that can say that I was able to figure out my life thanks to my experiences in Peace Corps. I went from a career that I had to occassionally lie and help cover things up and to a career where I can inspire and encourage students to hopefully help them realize their potential.

Since I’ve never really lived in a city with really any kind of a RPCV community, I never became involved in one. But once I decided to move back to the States, I knew that for something that played such a major part in my life, and something that many people can’t understand unless they’ve been a PCV, it would probably be a good idea to get in touch with at least one RPCV group.

So once a month there’s an RPCV get-together and yesterday it was at the Nouveau Antique Art Bar. It’s a relatively new place off of Main Street, but keep your eyes open so that you don’t miss the turn. Once you get inside and adjust to the slight darkness, you become slightly entranced (or at least I did) by the seemingly millions of unique stained glass light fixtures. It’s a really nice place to sit, relax and talk, but two warnings: the menu is only alcoholic drinks and not a single food item.

part of the stained glass chandelier ceiling

more chandeliers

one of many really, really beautiful lamps