This means “hello” in Turkmen, the official language of Turkmenistan, where I’ll be spending the next two years teaching Engish with the Peace Corps. Hos geldeniz (welcome) to my blog, where I will try to write at least a couple of times a month, and to keep posts short so that they are something you actually want to read. Right now I’m hanging out in Portland, freeloading off Mom and Dad, trying to prepare for something for which it is ultimately impossible to prepare.
I will depart from JFK airport with a group of about 43 other American volunteers on Wednesday, September 30, after a brief orientation (called “staging”) the previous day. The volunteers have already been in touch on Facebook, and people seem interesting and energetic. We’re flying Lufthansa, via Frankfurt and Baku (capital of Azerbaijan) and will land in the capital city of Ashgabat. Our Peace Corps headquarters will be there, and for the next twelve weeks we will have intensive Pre-Service Training in and around the city. Training will include language (Turkmen and possibly some Russian), job, culture and health and safety training.
I will be living with a host family both during training and when I go to my permanent posting at the end of training. I don’t know yet where I will be living and working in the long-term; that will be determined during training based on identified needs in different regions (welayet) and, to some extent, on my personal preferences. Typically Peace Corps volunteers live alone after training, but in Turkmenistan, as in other parts of Central Asia, people don’t really live alone so it would be culturally inappropriate (particularly for me as a single woman) to do so.
I will be teaching English to students in a secondary school. In addition to providing English teachers, Peace Corps also operates community health outreach so volunteers in my group are working in one of those two fields. The Peace Corps has been in Turkmenistan since 1993; we are the eighteenth delegation to Turkmenistan, so we’re known as “T-18s.”
I’ll remain in my permanent posting for 24 months, making my stint a total of 27 months which will conclude in December 2011. I will have time off for travel but I doubt I’ll come back to the States. Internet access will be particularly limited during training and after that will vary depending on my posting. I’m not sure how phone access will work, but I can certainly receive mail, even though packages can take weeks to arrive. I’ll post all of my contact info somewhere on the blog once I get a bit more saavy with WordPress.
Until then, sag bol! (a multi-purpose phrase that means “goodbye,” “thank you,” and “your health.”)