The Peace Corps tries to accomplish a lot of things, but one of their primary focuses (foci?) is on Volunteers integrating into their communities. You can’t do your work well if you don’t know who you’re working for.
WAY back during Phase I of training – it seems like more than four weeks ago – each of the K-23s made themselves a list of goals to accomplish during Phase II. I can’t speak for the rest of my group, but in keeping with the theme of my total inability to anticipate what’s coming next, my list wasn’t all that relevant or realistic.
The single uncharacteristically prescient goal I set for myself was to “meet and remember the names of 50 people.” For the five week long Phase, that’s about one person a day.
Not only is it technically part of my job, but getting to know my neighbors and work colleagues is just plain interesting. And fun. I’m continuously blown away by how familiar life can be on the other side of the planet. No matter where you’re at people still have jobs, families, and friends. They work all day and unwind in the evenings. And on top of these common elements of people’s lives, Globalism (for better or for worse) means I can have a chat about Michael Jackson with a shepherd riding a donkey over a Snickers and a Coke too.
Just this morning I walked down to the only magazine in town I hadn’t visited yet and it turns out that the shopkeeper, Altynai, just finished school in Bishkek and is the third best English speaker I’ve met in town (after Aigul, the current English teacher, and Sultan, the old English teacher). You never know who you’re going to meet.
Phase II is kind of winding down and I can already tell that I won’t quite hit my goal of 50 people, but aiming for it is one of the most valuable and enjoyable things I’ve done so far.