An African Market in Grand Central Station, NYC

Years ago someone I worked with in D.C. said that RPCVs were like retired FBI agents, and when I asked him why, he remarked, “they take care of their own.”

True enough. We especially ‘take care of those PCVs we served with” so let me do that now, and also do you a favor by recommending Bamboula, a craft store that is  owned and operated and everything else by Jasperdean Kobes (Ethiopia 1962-64).

Jasperdean is an importer and wholesaler of contemporary gifts handcrafted from six African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda). The company’s mission is to create work and income for African artisans by selling handcrafted products to retailers in the US. Customers include independent gift shops, national mail order catalogs, museums and zoos, and other specialty retailers.grand-central-2

In recent years, Jasperdean has also consulted for the West Africa Trade Hub, the East and Central Africa Trade Hub, the African Development Foundation, and Aid to Artisans on projects related to strengthening the handmade sector in Africa and its access to the US market.

She has been has been doing this for 20 years. Before starting Bamboula she was a lending officer at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City, and she also worked for many years for the Peace Corps Office in D.C. and in various positions to promote social and economic development in Africa. And before that, she got a PhD in international studies at Colombia, and before that she taught secondary school mathematics in Harar, Ethiopia.

My guess is that Jasperdean (or Jazz as we called her in Ethiopia) is the first RPCV to set up such a craft business, and she does it out of the small eastern Pennsylvania town of Kutztown.

However, once a year, at the holidays she comes to New York City and sets up shop in Grand Central Station for customers like you and me. This is a great place to buy ALL of your Christmas presents. Just take the train to NYC and you never have to leave the station! And you’ll be done shopping in an hour.

Jasperdean will be there this weekend and next weekend and everyday until Christmas. Go see her and tell her “Coyne sent you!”

Bring plenty of $$$. You’ll be glad you did. She has amazing crafts. If you can’t make it to New York City, email Jasperdean at and she’ll FedEx you whatever you want. Check out:

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