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The EXPATS

A Second Chance

 

A surprise Christmas card in 2010 led Danna Vance Raupp ‘59 down the aisle and to the other side of the world.


“I have always looked for opportunities for adventure but some of them have just fallen into my lap.”

 
 

When Danna—“Like banana,” she instructs— was a junior at Chatham University, her boyfriend, Edward Raupp, a senior at Carnegie Tech, proposed to her. Danna had already defied her parents’ insistence that she marry her high school boyfriend instead of going to college. She wasn’t surrendering to marriage that easily. Fifty-four years later, Edward proposed to Danna again. This time, she said yes.  

Dana retired in 2002, following a successful career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, working to help clients with disabilities enter or rejoin the workforce, and as a manager of a vocational rehabilitation office. In 2010, she received a surprise Christmas card from Edward, and the two began an email correspondence.

Edward was living in Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia and teaching economics at a local university. Danna was living in Brooklyn, New York and had to find Tbilisi on a map. Soon, a rekindled friendship became a rekindled romance. After some difficult deliberation, Danna packed up her possessions and met Edward in London.

The pair embarked on a whirlwind romance: marrying in a traditional Georgian ceremony complete with a traditional Georgian feast called a ‘supra’, teaching side-by-side at Gori State University in Gori, Georgia, and traveling the world together.

 

“If you’re given the opportunity for a second chance to be happy in a relationship, it’s foolish not do it.” 

 
 

When I ask Danna how they ended up co-teaching, she says: “We just didn’t want to be apart.” Together they’ve taught world studies, English literature, micro and macroeconomics, international business, and more. Since they’ve married, they have consistently taught as a team and, fortunately, every university has been fully on board with this unique arrangement. After two years at Gori University, they moved to Tanzania, where Edward had spent significant time as a professor and where the pair spent their honeymoon.

They took up residence in a house on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, in the middle of a banana plantation. There, they regularly lost electricity or water access: “When we moved in, there was a very large green plastic bucket in the bathroom. I wondered what it was for,” she says. “The first time I was in the shower with my hair full of shampoo and the water went away, I realized that I should’ve filled it up with water so that I could rinse the shampoo out of my hair.”

Danna eventually adapted. “It became routine that there would be some point in the day where you had to get out candles if you wanted to see where you were,” she says. In Tanzania, the Raupps taught at Stefano Moshi Memorial University College in exchange for housing and a stipend. The Raupps gave the stipend away to their students and then kept giving. By the time they left Tanzania, they were supporting 14 different students in various stages of their education.

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“We also pay for drivers’ licenses, dentist appointments. Everything goes directly to people that we know and love and want to see have a better life. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Edward’s first gift to Danna was the sponsorship of a child named Gladnis. They’ve since made the commitment to pay for Gladnis’s education in full and Gladnis, now in primary school, hopes to one day become a doctor. Danna is characteristically frank about their charitable giving: “We’re literally divesting ourselves of as much as we can part with,” she says.

After Danna suffered some health setbacks, the pair returned to the United States, settling in North Hampton, New Hampshire in 2014 and teaching at Great Bay Community College. However as soon as they settled in, the couple began to miss their Georgian family—a well-respected local family that Edward initially stayed with as a Peace Corps volunteer who has enthusiastically adopted the Raupps.

As I talk to Danna on the phone one March morning, they are preparing to put all the possessions they can’t part with into a 20-foot shipping container and return to the Republic of Georgia permanently. Their Georgian family is currently overseeing the building of a home for Edward and Danna on their family compound. “We don’t want to wind up in a senior community; we want to be part of a family. Their cultural tradition is to take care of their elders,” says Danna.

After spending the majority of their lives apart, it makes sense that Danna and Edward are eager to spend the rest of their lives exactly on their terms.

 
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