Thursday, September 25, 2008

Managing Expectations


There is a web site:

You can go there and send me free text messages. Any time. All the time. All you have to do is click on the 777 and then type in my number: 3238192.Then type any message and hit OTPRAVITb. You can copy news headlines and send them. Sports scores. Funny jokes. Whatever. If you're bored at work or in class, then just send me a line. :)


We talked about branding this week during our technical training sessions and it got me thinking about the Peace Corps brand. When people think Peace Corps, what usually springs to mind? Adventure. Service. Culture. Excitement. That’s what I think. I think that’s probably what most people think. At least the good stuff. Some people may think hippies. Fun in the sun. Language training. Frustration. Probably some other stuff.

Well, some of that’s true. Some of it’s not. At least not in the first four weeks of being in country. And of course a lot of it depends on site assignment. Peace Corps training at least is work. Lots of work. Lots of studying. And there’s not a lot of free time for crazy adventures around the world. I’m sure (I hope) there will be more over the next two years. But I’d like to compile a list of some ways my life has changed so far:

I’ve started text messaging.
I iron my clothes.
I shave three times a week.
I take my shoes off every time I enter a house.
I wear nice clothes every day and tried my darnedest to keep them as clean as possible.
I don’t greet people on the streets.
I try not to talk too loudly on buses.
I make my bed every day.
I keep my room cleaner than I have in the past ten years.
I read leisurely read books in the evening.

Is that adventure? Maybe not in the traditional sense. Life is certainly different. And that’s a biased list. I am learning a lot about a new culture, learning two new languages, having to negotiate prices at the bazaar, etc. But the focus of this post is on to discuss some unexpected aspects of Peace Corps in Kazakhstan.

Ultimately though, when I really think about what Peace Corps is, I think cultural exchange. And it would be stupid to think there are only two cultures out there: American and non-American. There are hundreds, thousands, millions. Every country, region, city, family has slight variations in culture. And one of my main goals as a Peace Corps volunteer is that I want to experience a new culture. And not just observe it. But live it. (With my yellow sunglasses still on, for all PC people out there.) So yeah, people may think Peace Corps. Oh mud huts, walking to get your water, mosquito nets, no cable TV. And in some places that’s true. But that’s not life everywhere. And that’s not life in Kazakhstan. Life in Kazakhstan is formal, indirect, subdued, and not completely impoverished. Is my lifestyle here what I expected when I signed up for the Peace Corps. No. Am I having to “manage my expectations?” Yes. Is it disappointing? No.

I am here to experience Kazakhstan for whatever that means. And if part of that means eating candy and cookies at every meal, well then, I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and dive right in.


Deah said...

wow look at u a neat and tidy! that is the most elaborate way to txt! i am sure u will get tons of stupid stuff from me..... good luck with language learning..... and ironing thats probably more difficult.

Margie said...

I will have to learn how to txtand txt you