December 05, 2003
"UZ17" is the designation of our group leaving in January. We are the 17th group of Peace Corps volunteers being sent into Uzbekistan since inception in 1992, and the 4th to be sent after the program was reinstated following the pull-out in 2001.
The Uzbekistan Desk Officer in D.C. told me today that we are a group of 50+, 18 of whom are NGO Development volunteers like myself. I've been able to connect with 7 from the group so far. We found each other either through the peacecorps2 Yahoo! group, or they found this blog or my Peace Corps blog through search engines. It amazes me to think how these 50 people and our experiences together over the coming two years will affect my life forever. And how I will impact theirs, never mind the reciprocol impact on lives of the Uzbek people we will encounter.
In the mean time, its snowing like mad here, the heavy white flakes already forming the negative image outlines of all the trees. This black and white world is magically timeless!
December 04, 2003
Informed and Balanced
And thank you, Nathan, for providing experienced and reassuring views on the threat of terrorism in Uzbekistan...
"...the average Uzbek likes and respects the United States...If the Uzbeks ever rise up against their leaders, don't expect them to declare the US enemy number one or to build a particularly religious state...
Fundamentalism is at the fringes of Uzbek society, and we have the Soviets to thank for thoroughly secularizing Central Asians who are now genuinely secular..."
We can now get to the task of how to help vs. who to blame.
6 Weeks 'Til Uzbekistan!!!
Actually, it was six weeks on Tuesday, but I can't seem to catch up with these passing days and end up posting this count-down a few days late. I always feel like I've got a train to catch!
I've even been a few weeks late completing the last remaining administrative requirement for the Peace Corps, which was sending in my "Aspiration Statement" and updated resume. The statement outlined my expectations of Peace Corps service as an NGO Development volunteer, my personal and professional goals, and my strategy for adapting to a new culture. It is meant to help the country officers, in D.C. and in Uz, match me with the right project as well as devise the appropriate training program in light of my overall experience. As hard as I try, I really have no expectations, or rather very low ones, given the fact that civil society is a very nascent concept in Uz and the program is just getting started there. Without much precedence, I imagine working more closely with the Peace Corps in its design and implementation to get things off the ground than actually accomplishing a whole lot with the local NGOs. But I didn't say that, of course. I mostly talked about the skills I expect to transfer to my local counterparts and how adept I am at cultural adjustment.
I also have a Homestay questionnaire to fill out, which is not a big deal since I'm flexible with smoking, drinking, and eating meat (except lamb). So it will come down to not being placed in a family without cats due to my cat allergy. Otherwise, its a toss of the dice where and who I live with. *fingers crossed*
November 30, 2003
7 Weeks 'Til Uzbekistan!!!
These weeks go by fast, huh? Almost too fast. I'm wilting a little...
...under the weight of all the sorting, packing, moving, etc. Most of all, the emotional juggling is becoming more and more precarious. How am I supposed to balance the joy of what I have in my life here while preparing to leave it all? Thanksgiving was wonderful in all its hectic madness and undeniable familial bonds.
How can I be excited for my new endeavors in the face of possible dangers and discomforts? What IS going on in Turkey? How WILL it effect my safety in Central Asia, if at all? What does being AMERICAN mean to Muslim people, or everyone for that matter, in light of all the madness in the world? When neutral, peaceful aid workers are targetted, threatened, and attacked, all logic seems lost:
Maoist Fiat Forces Peace Corps Out
Rupandehi, November 18
Thirty American Peace Corps volunteers have been forced to leave the district following an ultimatum by an armed group of Maoists asking them to leave within six days.
The volunteers were running a temporary Peace Corps office at the Butwal Technical Institute (BIT), of the United Mission to Nepal, in Manigram VDC. It is said that the ultimatum was issued keeping in view Prachanda's hostile attitude towards the Americans.
The volunteers left for Narayangadh with no intention of returning.
The owner of a house where nearly a dozen volunteers had put up said the Americans had come to Butwal two and a half months ago and planned to stay for around two years.
The volunteers, who could communicate in Nepali, were studying the language in Manigram VDC-2 and 4. They also used to provide financial and technical assistance to the Aama groups.
Earlier there were 36 volunteers but of late only 30 of them had been staying including some women.
They used to visit Butwal, Shankarnagar, Kariya regularly and were planning to visit Pokhara, Siraha and Bara.
Commenting on the incident, SP Dhak Bahadur Karki of District Police Office said, “Though we had heard about the volunteers being asked to leave by the Maoists we have no idea whether they left due to the same reason.” He said the police might be able to gather more information when a team would visit the area soon.
Accepting that the volunteers had left the VDC, the manager of BTC, Bishnu Hari Devkota, said, “We did not ask them the reason for leaving and they did not tell us.”
According to him some remaining Nepali staff were also planning to leave the place tomorrow.
@ The Himalayan Times
Oh yeah, I think I'm scheduled to leave two days sooner than I thought, on the 13th instead of the 15th of January. I'm noticing how two measely days are hitting me so hard, and makes 760 days of service seem like all eternity.