September 9, 2008
Transitioning to Talas
The big day, one I’ve been hoping would arrive for 30 years finally does. On September 18th, I, along with 57 fellow trainees, will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. A PCV.
As much as I look forward to living in Talas for two years, leaving my training family will cause some tears to be shed. I have come to think of them as my family here in Kyrgyzstan. I only hope they enjoyed hosting me as much I as I enjoyed being hosted. And I also hope I left a positive impression of what an American citizen is. I believe I did because my host father (ата) has invited me for dinner the next time I am in the area. I know they wonder how I survive on the little amount of food (тамак) I eat. Actually, I do eat an ample amount. I just don’t have a Kyrgyz appetite. And part of the reason for that is I don’t work hard enough to generate one. Yeah, I can live with that.
The challenges that lie ahead will not be so overwhelming because of the education, care and nurturing given me by my host family. They helped in so many ways. Language, cultural adaptation and, most of all, accepting me as a member of their family so I wouldn’t miss mine quite so much. How do I thank them for that???
These past 10 weeks have conjured memories of graduate school. Learning, being challenged, living small. Real small. And having fun in spite of limited funds. Ah, the good ol’ days. This evening I sat outside and watched the sunset while playing with the dogs. Simple pleasures.
September 10, 2008
We lost two more trainees this week. (We’ll swear in 57 out of 63. That’s a pretty good percentage of survivors.) One I knew pretty well and the other I would have as they were both assigned to my Oblast (An оьласт is like a state in America) and I believe would have been solid volunteers; that they ET-ed (Early Termination) surprised me. I’ve heard that N (a male) left because he was sick throughout much of the training period and didn't know if anything would change going forward. I'm not sure if I would have survived as long as he did. The irony here is that he had the sweetest deal of any new volunteer in our group. His new host family would have been a young couple, both of whom speak English, no children, and a nice house, so his sick days were probably behind him. Another version had it that he had work opps in the film industry back in the States and had to take them. Probably a little truth in both. The other trainee, J (a female), was homesick. I got to know her because she was in my TEFL technical training class. We had a NY connection (she’s from a city upstate) and I was looking forward to having her as a fellow volunteer. She leaves tomorrow. I said good-bye today, wished her well and told her I wanted to meet in NYC in two years. When people left 10 weeks ago, it was not such a big deal because I didn’t know them that well. Now, and going forward, anybody who leaves will have a bigger impact due to our time together.
This led to a question. The PC policy is to match the skills of the volunteer to those of the country. Would the ET rate be less if the volunteer could choose his/her country? Or if not the country, maybe choose the continent? Who knows? I mean, if J were in Columbia instead of Kyrgyzstan would she not have succumbed to homesickness? But, N would have had enough with the sickness no matter where he was, right? The best of intentions are often thwarted by the realities of life.
Statistics in 2008 showed that across every Peace Corps country the average ET rate (Early Termination) after two years is 33%. Some leave voluntarily, others don’t.
In the book, a surprise ET and my journey to a life of "living small."