Sunday, November 16, 2008

Becoming a Real Volunteer

Friday was the culmination of our Pre-Service Training: the Swearing-In Ceremony. Volunteers all over the world go through the ritual of gathering at a ceremony to take the oath that officially makes someone a volunteer. (It?s the same oath the president and army officers take, isn?t that neat?) Each volunteer also got to bring two host family members as well, which is a great way to say thank you for all that they have done for us during our first three months at site.

Halfway to Almaty, with the bus full of trainees, host family members, and an obscene amount of luggage (as many of us would be leaving right after the ceremony), our bus had slight mechanical problems. We pulled over to the side of the road as our driver opened up the back hatch and started working on something. I was excited about the fact of possibly missing swearing in altogether. It would have been a fitting way to close out a PST that began with a ten-hour delayed flight from Frankfurt. However, our driver did manage to fix it, and we continued the journey into Almaty.

I?m glad to say that the ceremony itself combined elements of both American and Kazakhstani festivals. Meaning it was a little hectic, not completely rehearsed, but overall entertaining. I am now officially a ?volunteer,? (because apparently when I was working in the community before, I was only a ?trainee,? whatever that means. You can expect a rant on how calling us volunteers when we do get paid confuses the idea of volunteerism that we are trying to promote here in Kazakhstan.) Our whole OCAP group also butchered a song written by our language LCF Dasha. There was a video taken of it; I hope it ends up on YouTube one of these days.

But for me, the most exciting part of the swearing in was the wonderful spread of food at the reception. Free food. And lots of it. And good food. And fruit. Oh, it was glorious. While most people were beginning to scour the tables for goodies to take home or on the train, I was still going strong on the current meal, maybe helping number six or so.

Too soon perhaps, but inevitably, we had to say our final goodbyes to our host families and other volunteers as we headed off to the train stations. PST had ended. Our little American bubble of friends was coming to a close. I was excited. The Real Peace Corps was about to begin.

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Richard Morgan said...

Meriah sent me the group photo of you guys--looking good!

Good luck Hotard; sorry I won't be around to hear any of these stories personally.

Not sorry that I'm drinking ice water right now. Not sorry at all.

Richard Morgan said...

One more thing: I was just watching the Amazing Race. They were in Almaty! I got to point out things I knew to the folks.

hannah said...

I'm curious - is it the oath to uphold and to defend the Constitution? If so, it's the same one we Foreign Service officers take... but we're supposedly quasi-military, anyway, so who knows?

Porter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Porter said...

Hello Michael,

You may not know me, as we've never met, but I am a current MI student here at ISU and have been appointed the task of address confirmation for you first year volunteers. So... if you could go ahead and let me know where you send your package, that'd be greeeeeeat. My email is Thanks. Hope all is well in Kazakhstan.