What else am I doing here?

We’ve added a new page to the blog.  You can click on our Kyrgyz Adventure Map to more easily see where we’ve been in Kyrgyzstan and find the blog posts about that spot.

In a previous post I shared a little bit about what I’ll be doing here.  I’m still trying to figure things out but I wanted to write a bit about what I think the other half of my work here will be.  My primary organization is called NGO Danko and they’ve done all types of projects in the past.  The organization has been around for 16 years and worked on many different projects ranging from humanitarian aid to refugees and migrant workers.  However, they currently have zero projects – in Kyrgyz parlance a ‘project’ usually means a funded and finite project, aka, a grant – but they do have a beautiful resource center built with the help of a previous volunteer and funded by US AID.  The resource center has new furniture, 7 new computers and a projector all very nice by the standards here.  Because Danko now has this resource center and myself (I basically doubled the staff size) my counterpart has been brainstorming things we can do here.

 

The front of Danko, doesn't look like much from the outside but it's great inside.
The front of Danko, doesn’t look like much from the outside but it’s great inside.

We’ve started off with two main ideas we’re getting started on.  The first is a photography class which I’m really looking forward to.  We’ll teach the class to up to ten local youth at a time (14-18 year olds I think.)  We have a lot of logistics to figure out such as how to get cameras (or only open it up to kids who do have them,) how often to meet and just how exactly will I teach them.  I have a lot of ideas for the class and I’m hoping I can tie it in with some of my other projects I’m getting started on.  We hope to start a semi-annual photo exhibition and perhaps it will lead to some business opportunities for the kids and Danko (finding income streams is a constant need for NGOs here.)  More importantly than teaching kids photography, I’m hoping it will give them something to look forward to and something to take pride in.  The kids here have so few opportunities to be creative and do things for themselves.  There’s also very few opportunities for people outside of Bishkek or Osh to see anything with the arts (except for random concerts); my counterpart thinks people around the city will be really excited to attend an exhibition.

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Summer Camp!

Peace Corps loves summer camps.  I had the (mostly) pleasure of participating in two back-to-back summer camps a couple weeks ago.  I originally volunteered for one, a TOBE (more on this later) camp, but after another camp was left shorthanded I decided to help with that one also.

 

We got the kids to the 'impossible chair'
We got the kids to the ‘impossible chair. The first camp I helped with was a sports camp put on by the American Corner in Karkol.  American Corners are little clubs in many countries across the world, Kyrgyzstan has 5 or 6 of them.  Sponsored by the US Embassy, they serve several purposes including providing fun activities for local youth, English clubs and ways for locals to learn about the US and opportunities to study there.  Every year the American Corner in Karakol puts on two sports camps, one in summer and one in winter.

 

At the camp, the kids were split into four teams.  I led Team Seattle, obviously we ‘won.’  The 5 day camp was filled with sports, hanging out at the beach and teaching the kids about topics like leadership and teamwork.  My team was awesome.  My kids were creative and really fun to hang out with.  Most of the kids had learned quite a bit of English and they were some of the most ambitious kids I’ve met.

 

As the sports camp was winding down, the TOBE camp was beginning.  They overlapped by a day but conveniently for me were at the same location so I easily moved from one to the other.  TOBE was an entirely different type of camp from the sports camp.  TOBE stands for ‘Teaching Our Boys to Excel’ and goes along with GLOW camps (Girls Leading Our World.)  These camps are funded by Peace Corps grants and entirely planned by current Peace Corps Volunteers, many PC posts around the world host these camps.  The idea behind these camps is to teach boys in Kyrgyzstan about a variety of topics they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed too such as leadership, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS and sex ed.  All of the volunteers’ counterparts also came with us to this camp.  The camp was conducted entirely in Kyrgyz so our counterparts were instrumental in making the camp a success.

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It Was Originally a Joke…

It was originally a joke, but here is my blog post about why I don’t have time to blog.

They said we would have a bunch of free time after we completed our first phase of Pre-Service Training (PST). We had had full day schedules and then homework and requisite family time, so we were looking forward to a less intense daily routine once we got to our permanent site. This has not been the case.

I can’t complain too much because things have been fun and interesting, but seriously, things have been busy. Between (unsuccessfully, I think) trying to improve my language skills so I can communicate with my counterpart (I can’t learn Kyrgyz fast enough, there is so much I’d like to say), trying to keep up an exercise routine (I eat way too much bread, sugar, and fat to not attempt at least), cooking for ourselves, learning how to make jam before the fruit is all gone (raspberry and cherry, check!), and packing for or going on our next adventure (2 weekend getaways in the mountains, 1 jiloo experience with Eric’s organization, and a weeklong summer camp), I can barely find time to brush my teeth (don’t worry, I’m doing this and flossing too).

Not to fret, though. I am still keeping track of my experiences, my highs and my lows. I’m also recognizing that they’re both transitory and it’s hard to write with real conviction what I actually think – my mind keeps changing. For insight on what my days have been like, here’s an excerpt of the notes I’ve kept.

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