Kids at Festivus

By Kirsten Tuhus and Sydney Null

Peace Corps Gallup Journey

A young visitor poses in front of some crafts and photos from Zambia.

The Peace Corps Fellows of Gallup hosted their annual Festivus on Tuesday, February 26 at the campus of Western New Mexico University. They were very pleased that over a hundred people, including kids and adults, came to check it out! Each Fellow manned a booth decorated with photos, art, and literature explaining life in their country of service. Many of the returned volunteers even dressed in traditional clothes and cooked samples of foods they came to love during their time in the Peace Corps. Visitors started trickling in at 5pm to chat with the Fellows and learn a bit about the various countries represented, which included Guatemala, Ghana, Lesotho, the Kingdom of Tonga, and several more. Pretty soon the conference room was packed, each Fellow was being tackled by kids looking for answers to the country-by-country scavenger hunt they were handed at the door, and plenty of folks were lining up to try some of the treats brought in by the Philippines contingent. The crowd didn’t let up until 7pm, when some second graders might have been disappointed by the shutdown of the karaoke corner. Out of the many, many children who accepted the challenge of the scavenger hunt, it seemed like all passed with flying colors. Way to go, kiddos! You did a great job of asking questions and seeking out the facts. Below are some thoughts on the minds of Gallup’s greatest assets:

Peace Corps Gallup Journey

Sean Shiel (Morocco 2009-2011) serves deliciously sweet Moroccan mint tea to a guest at his table.

Lila most enjoyed the mint tea provided by Amber and Sean Shiel who served in Morocco. They even poured it out of a lovely traditional pot for the guests who visited their table! Lila was also very impressed by the transportation talents of Salamatou Issoufou, David Bell’s beautiful wife from Niger – she demonstrated how women in many African countries can balance almost anything on their heads (in this case a big cooler) while simultaneously carrying their babies in cloth slings across their backs.

Kalkidan, originally from Ethiopia herself, found the blackeyed pea fritters and chile sauce from Niger to be a winning combination. She said she’s not interested in learning another language, though maybe that’s because she’s already learning Navajo at school (and her mom says a natural at it!).  However, she would like to visit Taiwan someday.

Tyler loved examining the coins that Eric and Marycate brought back from Malawi. The country’s currency is called kwacha, which means ‘dawn is breaking.’

Kaylan most enjoyed learning about Victoria Falls. Vic Falls qualifies as one of the Seven Wonders of the World – it is by far the largest waterfall on earth and creates a part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Her eyes certainly widened when I explained how during the dry time of year people can walk across the tippy-top of the falls and swim in pools overlooking the edge.

Melissa impressed the adults by reading the fine print at the Niger table and becoming fascinated by one of the country’s leaders. She was unconvinced, however, that mice and caterpillars make decent eating, as kids her age in Zambia would argue.

Cousins Trevy and Nathaniel agreed that the Philippines would be a great place to visit (perhaps some noodles and sweet buns had something to do with that?), and Trevy would also like to travel in Japan. The boys said they couldn’t think of other languages they’d like to learn, though both smart cookies are already fluent in Navajo in addition to English.

Peace Corps Gallup Journey

Dixie Brackman (Ghana 2005-2010) shows some Festivus-goers an example of kente cloth, which Ghanaian women use as clothing, for carrying babies, as a towel or potholder and in about a million other ways.

The Peace Corps Fellows of Gallup would like to thank everyone who attended the 2013 Festivus. Please check it out again next year – new Fellows join the program every year so each Festivus is a celebration of the cultures of different countries. It’s a night of fun and learning for families with kids, people who like to travel (by plane or imagination!), and of course anyone interested in serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. You’ll see ads for the 2014 Festivus in the Journey and local newspapers.

The Paul Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows Program brings Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to Gallup to pursue a Masters in Teaching from WNMU-Gallup.   They work as teachers in local K-12 schools for three years while taking classes to earn their Masters degrees, and many stay on for years after they complete their degrees.  In addition to teaching full time, the Fellows also support the Gallup community by volunteering with the Community Pantry and other local nonprofits.

For further information about Peace Corps, please visit To learn more about the Fellows program at Western New Mexico University, please email Scott or Kirsten at, or call 722-3389.

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