My Story

I was born on the East Coast and grew up in New York City.  After I graduated from Queens College with a degree in English, I went on to a year at an elite secretarial school, since job opportunities for women in those long-ago days were pretty much limited to teacher, nurse and secretary.  I did learn three things at Katharine Gibbs School which have helped me in writing:  grammar, punctuation, and typing

I met my husband Boris on a blind date just after my college graduation when he came back from military service.  He’s in several pictures with me, and we’ve been married forever.  Boris is a dreamer, an adventurer, and a scientist, and although I was less daring than he, I went along for a great ride.

Boris and CaroleAfter he graduated from Pratt Institute as a chemical engineer, we moved to San Francisco where I worked at the World Affairs Council.  After we’d been in San Francisco a couple of years and I’d typed more letters than I can count, we were ready for a new adventure.  Thanks to President John F. Kennedy we were among the first thousand Peace Corps volunteers to venture bravely into foreign lands.  We were sent to Somalia, a country we’d never heard of—and neither had anyone else in the U.S. at that time.  Now it’s a country that makes front-page news often, usually stories of death, destruction and piracy.  Then it was newly independent and hopeful about the future, like much of Africa.

Our fellow volunteers were adventurers as well:  artistic, venturesome and refusing to take any shit from Washington bureaucrats who didn’t know any more about Somalia than we did.  We trained at New York University, and although our training didn’t really give us a clue about the reality of life in Africa, we made life-long friends.

We were stationed in Merca, a beautiful city on the Indian Ocean with Arabic-style houses and beautiful chocolate-skinned people who had only recently moved from herding camels and a nomadic lifestyle to living in towns and cities. merca image bob stomp1English was to be the common language of the newly unified colonies of Italian Somalia and  British Somaliland, so we taught English as a second (or perhaps a third or fourth) language.  I taught middle-school, although some of my students were nearly as old as I; Boris taught the city officials and later was a photographer for the Ministry of Information.

In appreciation for our teaching efforts, the District Commissioner and other city officials offered to buy us land in Merca if we would settle there permanently.  We declined but loved their generosity.  We lived in the government rest house, a ramshackle wooden building fully furnished with geckos and tropical cockroaches.  We called them barambara. 

We taught school, and bought wild animals from Somali children who dragged them through town for sale.

Carole in Classroom 1A

Carole and Students in Courtyard 1A

During our time in Merca, we had several monkeys, a cheetah, a hedgehog named Zeus, a lynx, a leopard (who didn’t stay long), a baboon named Gina who thought I was her mother, and any number of dogs and cats. In the photo below, I’m holding Gina.

Carole and Gina 1A

We were all hopeful in those days, for we were Kennedy’s children.  Although Somalia lapsed into chaos fifteen years after we left, the impact the Peace Corps experience had on us was lifelong, and we still meet regularly with the group who trained at NYU and went off to Somalia together.

I started to write after I retired from a job as an administrator in a public law office, and I enjoy telling stories.  I write mysteries because that’s what I like to read, and I’m on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Boris and I travel as much as we can and enjoy the memories of our adventures.  Our home is decorated with art and sculpture from those travels, and these bring back memories of people we met, places we’ve been, and adventures we’ve had.   We’ve been on every continent except Antarctica, which doesn’t hold much appeal for us.

Coming home from the Peace Corps, we spent six months in North Africa and Europe.  Boris worked in China for five years, and we traveled a lot in Asia:  China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.  Later we sought out Boris’ Ukrainian roots on a trip that also included Russia, Czech Republic and Hungary.  On another adventure, we found my great-grandfather’s grave in Aberdeen, Scotland.  We went back twice to Africa on safaris which rekindled memories of the people and the animals.  Soon we expect to be off on an extended trip to Greece, which we visited right after the Peace Corps, then on to the Balkans where we’ve never been.  Check out the photos on my website page for pictures of our adventures.

We live in a small town outside of Los Angeles with our two dogs, and visit frequently with our son and his wonderful wife and their two children.