Local Author, the Peace Corps and The Color of the Elephant

September 2, 2022 at 2:19 p.m.
Kirkland writer Christine Herbert is giving talks this month on her new book, The Color of the Elephant, about her time in the Peace Corp
Kirkland writer Christine Herbert is giving talks this month on her new book, The Color of the Elephant, about her time in the Peace Corp

Christine Herbert of Kirkland has written a memoir, The Color of the Elephant, about her time in the Peace Corps, detailing her life as a health care worker and educator in Zambia.

As she nears 50, Herbert reflects on how aging impacts volunteerism in the Peace Corps: “When people think of Peace Corps Volunteers, they often think of young college graduates. But the truth is,” she says, “there is no age limit for joining the Peace Corps. I served in my thirties, and there was a fellow in my group who was in his sixties. He told me, ‘This is my retirement, and I'll continue to serve as long as they'll have me!’”

Herbert recalls that this same Peace Corps volunteer took on another assignment in the Caribbean, then just continued to keep traveling the world and teaching, using the skills he had developed through his Peace Corps service.

“There have been a number of volunteers in their eighties who have served, the oldest on record to date being Alice Carter who signed up to serve in Morocco at the age of 86!” exclaims Herbert.

The author at Mutomboko, a yearly festival featuring performers in traditional dress


The events of 9/11 inspired Herbert to serve her country by joining the Peace Corps: “I wanted to align myself with people who ‘wage peace’ – people who strive to find common ground and promote peaceful cooperation between countries,” says Herbert. 

The author preforming a patient intake during an antenatal clinic at her village health center


She goes on to describe her thoughts about the Peace Corps: “It is primarily a cross-cultural exchange assignment, rather than a work assignment. Yes, you have a job to do—you are there to help with development—but you are primarily there to learn about the culture of your host country and to share American culture with them. It's a job about making friends and thereby promoting peaceful, international relations.

There is no age limit on that ability!” adds Herbert.“

Village children perching on rocks at Lake Kashiba, watching over the author as she scratches out a journal entry 


So, if you're thinking ‘I always thought about joining the Peace Corps, but I am too old now’ don't give that another thought! If you have a willingness to serve, and skills to share, chances are there is a post suited for you. It just might be the greatest retirement plan you can give yourself!” 

Although serving in the Peace Corps is considered a volunteer position, participants receive housing and cost-of-living stipends, travel expenses are covered, as well as all medical and dental care during your service. The Peace Corps also provides a generous stipend at the end of your service.

Meet Herbert and hear her read from her book:

  • BookTree, Saturday, September 10th from 4:30-6 pm (609 Market St., Kirkland)
  • Barnes & Noble at Totem Lake, September 18th from 1-3 pm (12520 Totem Lake Blvd NE, Kirkland)
  • Check her website for more events: https://christineherbertauthor.com/events/

Check out more of the amazing photos from her time in the Peace Corps: Gallery • Christine Herbert (christineherbertauthor.com)
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