So, everything has changed. The Peace Corps urges its volunteers to maintain flexibility and a sense of humor and my fellow trainees and I certainly received our first test of this when we were informed that the Turkmen government would not be allowing us into its country. That’s right: we were scheduled to fly out the next evening, had been planning for months and rearranged our lives, and suddenly we wouldn’t be going.
Naturally this came as enormous shock to each of us. When the announcement was made, I couldn’t believe it, wondering at first if it was some sort of joke. It was a surprise to the Peace Corps staff as well, as Peace Corps has had a stable presence in Turkmenistan since shortly after the end of Soviet rule. The Turkmen government offered no explanation, just gave what amounts to a denial of our entering the country to begin training. Finding out only hours before, the Peae Corps staff decided to have us all complete the scheduled registration process so that we were now officially “trainees”; they explained that this will allow them to speed us through the process of getting reposted to another country, to give us access to health insurance for a little while, and take care of other expenses like travel.
Now I am back in Portland indefinitely. Peace Corps flew us all home the next day, and although I am disoriented, I feel fortunate that, as a recent college graduate, it is not a huge stretch for me to move back in with my parents. Unlike some members of my group, I hadn’t made huge life changes in preparation to depart yesterday: I didn’t sell a house, quit a job, or end a long-term relationship.
The good news is that I spoke with a Peace Corps staff member who is trying to identify a spot for me with a group that has just begun training in another host country. She seems confident she will be able to post me soon, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and sticking close to my computer and phone. Not that I have much else to do in Portland anyway, though if you are around, I love to see you!
I will update this blog with news about my new post as soon as I know it for sure. I had been mentally preparing for Central Asia since last October and I am somewhat disappointed that I won’t be going there—it’s definitely not a part of the world that would have been on my radar to visit otherwise—especially not Turkmenistan itself–and I was looking forward to experiencing a people, culture, language and history that would have been totally outside of my realm of travel experience. That said, I can acknowledge that Turkmenistan, for me, wasn’t meant to be, and that instead I’m excited to have the privilege of a completely different experience in another place.
All in all, I got a free trip out East and got to meet some great people. It’s ironic how we were all bonded through this communal traumatic experience, and now we’re being split up. I’m eager to hear where everyone ends up and what s/he decides to do. The quality of the people I met bodes well for those involved in Peace Corps as a whole, however, so I’m looking forward to meeting my future group and forging some lasting relationships.