Meeting current and former volunteers

With every adventure comes at least one “Small World” experience. I just didn’t expect to find it so quickly with the Peace Corps. But so far, I’ve had two.

The first Small World experience happened during my decision-making process in regards to accepting the Peace Corps’ invitiation for me to join. Upon receiving the initiation, I got in contact with a college sweetheart of mine, Tracy-Lynn Barr. Tracy-Lynn served in Africa with the Peace Corps soon after college and was a wonderful resource in helping me determine if the Peace Corps will be right for me. And during our discussions, she realized that she knew my Peace Corps placement officer, for they served together in Africa. I have since put them in touch with each other.

A more amazing story happened to Russell Starck, a Peace Corps volunteer who will be arriving to Guyana with me in June. Not to spoil the surprise, I’ll let Russ share his story in his own words.

—–Original Message—–
From: Russell Starck [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2002 12:52 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: FW: FW: PC Update: Other PCV Life

Jason,

Hello, its great to hear from someone entering the same adventure! I was very impressed by your web site! It seems we have very similar interests. I majored in Speech Communication & Business Administration in college. I am an avid amateur photographer, and an outdoor buff. I’m 32 so, I relate to your age comments very well!

However, I am much less traveled. I have traveled through approximately 40 of the US states, but have never been outside of the US. Unless you count a quick lunch in Quebec while traveling for work a few years back.

I haven’t heard from any other volunteers leaving with our group. I will be in the IT program as well. I got connected with Amy (Myers) purely by happenstance. I went to have my eyeglasses repaired and began speaking to the woman working on my glasses.

By chance, that woman was Amy’s mother and we managed to talk about the Peace Corps. And, in turn, I found out her daughter was currently serving in the country I am about to serve in. Through Amy, I have recently been in touch with Pam, Ryan, and yourself. I attempted to contact Joanne, the other current IT volunteer but have not gotten through?

Feel free to contact me anytime. I would guess we have many of the same questions about packing and the whole prep process. Take care, nice to meet you!

Russ

Emailing Current Guyana Volunteers

In the last few weeks, I have been exchanging some entertaining and informative emails with current Peace Corps volunteers who are stationed in Guyana and one new volunteer who will be arriving with me in June.

While some of these emails are long, I wanted to share them with you all. I have made some corrections and modifications to these emails, but their overall message is the same.

This first email was forwarded to me from Pam Kingpetcharat, a current Peace Corps Information Technology volunteer. Pam will be training me when I arrive and has been kind enough to include me on her semi-weekly email to her friends.

In this particular email, she forwarded an email from Amy Myers, a volunteer who is teaching Guyana children. I thought Amy’s email was quite entertaining and hope you feel the same.

—–Original Message—–
From: Pam Kingpetcharat [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:41 AM
Subject: PC Update: Other PCV Life

I figured it was time that I owed you all another PC Update but I haven’t had much time connected to the Internet lately so I thought I’d send you an update from a fellow PCV…Amy Myers.

A little background: Amy is an education volunteer here in Guyana. Education volunteers teach Life Skills as a mandatory primary project. Life Skills includes things such as resume building, sex, HIV/AIDS, body language, decision making and other subjects that we take for granted kids learn in the states.

I don’t know if I mentioned it but the statistics show that a large majority of PCVs are white, females, between the ages of 22-30. As a result, security issues and in-country training attempt to focus upon the unique issues white, females between the ages of 22-30 might have in-country.

If you can’t guess from the note below, Amy is white and gets proposed to (for marriage) A LOT…simply because she is white and American. Amy is cute, but she isn’t Cameron Diaz. A lot of the marriage proposals will follow with, “will you take me back to America with you?”

This isn’t unusual to me since in Thailand, white men are usually approached by Thai women (though not as forthright) for the same reasons. The motivating factors are economic and political. Many (not all) Guyanese do want to go to America if not to live with their family, then to get a better life. It’s still considered the ‘promised land’ to many outside of it’s borders.

Fortunately, this is something I don’t have to deal with here being a person of color…I still get a lot of cat calls but EVERY WOMAN in Guyana gets cat calls.

Enjoy.

— Amy Myers wrote:
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 11:17:15 -0800 (PST)
From: Amy Myers
Subject: “Missing you all!

Yes sports fans, that’s right! It is now Easter break in Guyana and I am officially not a teacher for two whole weeks! What is even more momentous is that I have survived yet another term at school, and am mostly unscathed. Cheer for the hero now…c’mon…I can’t heeeear you…! that’s better.

Hmmm….only one proposal this month. Maybe I am losing that youthful glow. Guyana has started to take its toll, sure, but now that the nasty skin fungus has cleared up, don’t you think the boys would come a runnin’? Perhaps that what Guyanese men dig…thus I won’t be able to snag me one o’ those stallions with the gold teeth and mesh shirts and B.O. beyond any imaginable stink after all. Darn.

Well, the suitor yesterday was made even more special because I had several students with me to witness. Cool. I had taken a group into town to go to the zoo and on a picnic, and it was on our way back that my latest prince approached. He took my hand firmly and said that he loved me and wanted to put a ring on my finger. He even pointed to which finger…third one, left hand. I swooned?…not really.

Now this was a little too much for my students and they all stared to giggle. They are 11-13. Anyway, I was a little more concerned that he might actually take the rings I was currently wearing OFF my fingers so I asked him ever so sweetly, to “Take your hands off me right now, man! Go and leave me alone, because the marrying is not going to happen.”

Do you think that there is something wrong with my approach? Because he left me muttering something about me not liking black men. Hmmm….I guess I will have to work on it, or I will leave this country with no ring around the finger he was so kind as to point out needing a ring. ;)

Anyway, in just three months I am going to be home for a visit! Time here has just flown by…nearly ten months already! I hope to see as many of you as possible in that time. Okay, that is all I can think of for right now. I hope to hear from some/all of you soon. Those who respond will get bumped up significantly on my ranked list of favorite people–and I know that appeals to you all!

love, amy

=====
Peace Corps Volunteer: Guyana Group 9
263 Earls Avenue, Subryanville PO Box 101192
Georgetown, Guyana
South America
592-225-5072 phone
592-225-3202 fax

Saying “I don’t know” with a smile

“I don’t know.” I find myself saying this phrase an awful lot when responding to the many questions that friends and family ask regarding my upcoming Peace Corps experience. And while uncertainty usually brings feelings of discomfort and concern, I find myself saying “I don’t know” with a smile on my face – as if in anticipation of opening a wonderful present or gift.

Wanting to spend as much time with their soon-to-be-distant son, my parents flew in to Indianapolis this past Easter weekend to visit. We entertained ourselves with a few plays, a Pacer’s game, and several museums. But in-between these distractions came countless questions about my upcoming Peace Corps experience. Questions for which I have no answer. Here are a few examples:

Q: Where will you live?
A: I don’t know. I do know that the Peace Corps will determine my placement within Guyana near the end of my three-month training period. That way they can match a volunteer’s skills with the needs of a local community. Other than that, I don’t know where I’ll be living. I could have an apartment all to my self. Or I could live in someone’s home with a family of eight. I don’t even know if my home will have running water or electricity.

Q: What will you be doing?
A: I don’t know. I know that I’ll be serving as an Information Technology consultant. I might be spending much of my time in air-conditioned rooms setting up servers and local area networks. Or I might be teaching students or professors how to build websites or simply use a mouse. The Peace Corps has some very broad objectives for me, but other than that, I suspect that I’ll be working on projects that I create.

Q: How will you keep in touch? Will you have Internet access?
A: I don’t know. I hope that I’ll have at least weekly Internet access, for it’s going to be hard to this high-bandwidth Internet junkie to go offline. But we’ll have to see. If I am stationed in an urban environment in or around Georgetown, I might have frequent access. Otherwise, I’ll likely have to make trips to the city to get my fix.

These and many more questions all have similar unknowns. And while many people might have hesitation or fear in making a change with so many unknowns, I find myself answering these questions with excitement and anticipation.

There will be much about my Peace Corps experience that will be hard and difficult work, for this I’m certain. But it will be the answers to these many unknown questions that will make my experience exciting and rewarding.

Thirty sounds so old

Today I turned 30. Thirty sounds so old. And yet, I still don’t feel like a grown up. Perhaps that’s because I’m getting ready to pack up and move to Guyana.

The decision and announcement that I’m going to be joining the Peace Corps really has been a nice distraction from me turning middle aged. But that’s about it for the distractions or reminders.

For I don’t have gray hair, I’m still tall and thin – much like I was in college, and I occasionally get carded when I order beer or drinks. And when I’m with my younger brother, many strangers have a difficult time guessing who is older.

So I suppose I’m lucky to still feel and look young. Although that all seems to change when I blurt out that I’m now 30.

I might also add that my Mom gave me a nice surprise today. When I booted up my computer this morning, I started receiving a lot of “Happy Birthday” emails from friends that I have not heard from in a long while. Many were friends from my parents’ church. It was a nice surprise. Thanks mom.

And thanks to all who wished me happy birthday. It was great to hear from you.

CFEA surprise lunch

Everyone likes surprises. Today I had mine, for 20 of my interfraternal friends gathered for lunch to help me celebrate my thirtieth birthday and my nearing departure for the Peace Corps.

I have long known many of the people who gathered for lunch today through the College Fraternity Editors Association. When I became editor of Lambda Chi Alpha’s alumni magazine in 1995, I lacked many of the skills and resources that were needed to do my job well. But thanks to CFEA and its members, I was able to quickly learn from my peers, who were each challenged with similar tasks and responsibilities at their fraternal headquarters. In time, I ended up chairing several CFEA committees and eventually served on its board for three years.

I have been very fortunate to make many interfraternal friends through my career with Lambda Chi Alpha and as a vendor in the fraternal market as a WeAlumni.com and Carden Jennings Publishing employee. But many of my most cherished friends are those who I have had the privilege of meeting through CFEA.

Thanks to all who came today; it was a great surprise. And for those who couldn’t come but wanted to, thanks for sending your greetings and best wishes as I prepare for my next adventure.

On a side note, I might add that all of the recent focus and attention that has gone toward my Peace Corps assignment has been a great distraction from the fact that I’m going to turn 30 tomorrow. I can’t believe that I’m going to be 30. It sounds so old.