About one year ago, I started a blog using blogspot to capture my Peace Corps experiences in a public forum. Shortly after I began blogging on my old account, I learned from other volunteers that blogspot is censored by the Kazakhstani government, and thus it won’t work well as a blog site for me. Thus, not long after arriving in Kazakhstan, I created a new blog- the very blog which you are now reading.
I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping up with this blog lately (for reasons which will be explained in my next entry). Nonetheless, I thought it would be interesting to attach my first two blog entries related to my Peace Corps adventure. They are copied below. Enjoy!
First Post, One Month from Departure, July 16 2010
I’ve been contemplating starting my Peace Corps blog for a while now. I didn’t want to get started too early for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons was that I was unsure whether I actually wanted to join Peace Corps a few weeks ago. I went through some tempestuous emotional swings and life dilemmas. But I seemed to have weathered the storm, and I’m going for sure now.
One month from today, I will be stepping on the plane headed for Washington, D.C. When I get to Washington, I will meet the approximately 80 fellow Kazakhstan volunteers heading over with me. We will be in Washington for two days for a pre-service orientation, and then we’ll be off to the other side of the world. The flight to Kazakhstan has two legs- first to Frankfurt, Germany; then to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty is the old capital of Kazakhstan before it was moved to Astana. My first three months in Kazakhstan will be spent at a village just outside of Almaty. During this ‘pre-service training’, I will learn to speak another language- probably Russian- as well as other cultural immersion necessities. It will also be a time to learn about how to be a Youth Development Facilitator (my job title).
At the time of writing this blog entry, I am working as a volunteer at an organic garden/retreat center in Ashland, Oregon. It is a beautiful Friday morning. The sun is just beginning to shine through the trees on my trailer as I lounge on my beautifully dilapidated deck. I am playing some Jimmy Smith on the stereo and drinking fresh hot coffee. I can’t help but think that in a few weeks, these amenities will seem luxurious. The joy of waking up every morning to NPR and hot coffee cannot be overstated. This trip to Oregon has made me realize the importance of finding solace in the subtle pleasures of life.
This is my first blog. Facebook account aside, I am anything but an aficionado of online social networking. One thing I am, however, is an overly analytical contemplator. Needless to say, I had to make some promises to myself regarding a new blog before commencing my first post. So I would like to briefly enumerate my goals as a blog newbie. First of all, I am going to be honest. Although this may sound trite and obvious, I believe that honesty is a consistently undervalued virtue. The crux of honesty is not what one says, but rather what one doesn’t say. Leaving out crucial information is just as dishonest as a blatant lie. Thus, I hope to use this blog as a means to convey my actual conditions. I don’t want to merely write about the grandiose revelations which may arise through the Peace Corps experience. I want to write about the real deal- the entire experience. If conditions completely suck, then I want to write about it. With honesty being my first blog-self-promise, the second promise is consistency. I don’t want this to be an ignored blog that loses attention after a few weeks. Regular blog entries are essential to capture my experience in Central Asia.
I would like to conclude this first blog post with an excerpt from one of my favorite authors. Henry Miller, an author best known for his work Tropic of Cancer, is in my opinion greatly misunderstood and undervalued. I just finished reading one of his books titled Air Conditioned Nightmare. Actually, Air Conditioned Nightmare is my least favorite of his books that I’ve read, but it still has its moments. In one of the chapters, Miller eloquently addresses the American poet’s conception of Asia.
“Asia. Just Asia, and the mind trembles. Who can fill the picture of Asia? Marco Polo gives us thousands of details, but they are like a drop in the bucket. No matter what man has accomplished since, no matter what miracles he has wrought, the word Asia floods his memory with a splendor and magnificence unequalled…Our adventurers and explorers lose themselves there, our scholars are confounded there, our evangelists and zealots and bigots are reduced to nullity there, our colonials rot there, are machines look puny and insignificant there, our armies are swallowed up there. Vast, multiform, polygot, seething with unharnessed energy, now stagnant, now alert, ever menacing, ever mysterious, Asia dwarfs the world…”
Leaving the Country in One Week, August 11, 2010
It’s been an interesting summer. For the first two months, I was a WOOFer in Oregon. I arrived back in Colorado almost two weeks ago, spending lots of time with friends and family. Leaving as a Peace Corps volunteer truly is a bitter-sweet endeavour. There are so many interesting and loving people in this country alone, it is sometimes difficult for me to fathom living in Kazakhstan for over two years.
But then again, time is incomprehensible in itself. Two years is arbitrary. I’ve spent the last four years in college living one semester at a time. It’s a great life actually- as though many of my concerns and stresses washed away after a few months and I started all over again. Continual rejuvenation. College life is like a fast-paced river, moving indiscriminately through rocks, pools, and bends. Post-college feels like the river has finally approached the sea, and there are suddenly unlimited directions to turn. Each option and opportunity is beyond conception. Even the human mind trembles in confused obscurity. It is as exciting as it is terrifying.
I have friends from my college class who chose to work in an office. I have friends who joined the military. Friends who are travelling the world in penury. Still others who are unemployed and unmotivated to do much of anything. We all aspire to learn and experience different landscapes. My aspirations are simply different; they are not better nor worse. No normative judgment can encapsulate the human experience. We all contemplate what makes sense to our personal ideologies, and eventually come to realize our realities.
But enough of my analysis. I will be on a flight to leave the state in 5 days, and a flight to leave the country in 7. The future will bring what it will. I am letting go of anticipations and expectations, and accepting whatever comes my way. That’s really the only option I have.
Leaving America Tomorrow, August 17, 2010
I arrived in Washington, DC yesterday, and completed the Peace Corps staging today. It’s actually my first time in Washington. The sights are, put simply, astonishing. My walk between the White House, the Capital, and the Lincoln Memorial was overwhelming in sensation. I tried to take pictures to capture the significance, but no pictorial representation could possibly recreate the experience. For one thing, the distance between structures and memorials in Washington is massive. It took about 20 minutes to walk from one end of the Capital’s front lawn to the other. While walking to the capital building, I was drawing the parallel to my walk in front of the Eiffel Tower a few years back. Both structures have incredible front lawns that span many city blocks; enough distance to allow one’s mind to become lost in perplexity. Walking past the innumerable expansive buildings was reminiscent of the streets of Rome. Overall, being in Washington DC revitalized my appreciation for the United States of America. It is fascinating how physical structures and architectural feats can impact the soul. Architecture really is art- it alters emotions and elates enthusiasm.
Staging is the time when Peace Corps staff speak with all of the volunteers about expectations and so-on/so-fourth. I met all 73 other volunteers in my Kazakhstan group today. It seems like a really eclectic group with an enthusiastic vibe… all good things. Although the staging event was somewhat tedious at times, it is a necessary element of fostering a safe and effective atmosphere for volunteers. This whole staging event reminds me somewhat of Freshman orientation. Peaple from all over share a common aspiration. We’ll be in the same country for over two years. The sociological dynamics are hefty, to put it lightly.
We’re heading off at 5:45PM tomorrow. My first flight is to Frankfurt, Germany; then my second flight is to Almaty, Kazakhstan. We’ll all arrive around midnight in Almaty, which will undoubtedly be an interesting experience.
More updates to come later. I need to get some sleep. It’s been a long day.