I changed sites. The reasons are complicated, but not. I felt like my organization was not providing me with enough quality work. The director was having a lot of things going on and was being pulled in different directions by his bosses. I spent most days sitting in our office trying to find things for me to do or planning projects that would never be implemented. Back in March, my manager gave me a deadline: work by June or you’re moving.
I had fought a site change for a while. I wanted to stay. I wanted to make it work. I had (and still have) this great vision for what the business incubator could be. So I accepted the deadline and thought we’d do something. Anything. And I could stay.
But then we didn’t. And I realized that I wasn’t sure if we ever would. So when my manger came to visit my site again, I said I was ready. I was tired of trying and trying without seeing any results. Without seeing any reciprocation from my coworkers.
Sadly, I was beginning to feel more integrated into my community, especially over the last four weeks. I had joined the comedy team. I have been playing soccer twice a week for months now. I made more English speaking friends and have been hanging out with them. My host brothers have been home for a while and will start to do some remodeling work soon on our house. I was going to help. Spring is here and people are more active. The sun doesn’t set so late so I can stay out later walking around. I’ll miss this place. It felt like home. My little community that no one else appreciates. I was the American here. And now I’m leaving all that.
But I’ll be closeby. Only 40 minutes (truthfully 2 hours with waiting, but 40 minute travel time.) I’ll be in Taraz, which is my favorite city in Kazakhstan. I already have friends there through other volunteers and through family and gostings and the train. I’ll move out on my own (which I wasn’t planning on doing quite yet), so I’ll cook more and eat better. Vegetables will be a regular part of my diet, especially with summer coming. But most importantly, I’ll have work.
I’ll be at Zhambyl Zhastara, an organization I’ve actually worked with a few times in the past. They focus on youth development through education, leadership, and volunteerism. I actually have a certificate in Leadership and Service from UGA, so I feel uniquely qualified to work there. They also want help marketing their programs to the community, which I think I could also be good at. They’ve had a volunteer in the past, a few years ago, but not recently. But that means they know how to work with a volunteer. They speak Russian (and English), but both of those are much better than the Kazakh spoken in my current office (not an overall judgment of the language but simply because I didn’t study Kazakh). Maybe most importantly, they have pre-existing programs and projects. I’ll be able to jump right in with helping them and hopefully eventually propose my own. They understand what a volunteer can offer and they want that.
So now I’m saying my final goodbyes at my old site. I’ll certainly miss the people. The people were always great. My acquaintances, my friends, and especially my family and coworkers. I’ll miss my morning exchange with the security guard, being jokingly pestered by the drivers, and the office culture that I finally warmed up to. This was an experience I could have never gotten anywhere else, and I’m happy to have gone through it. I’ve enjoyed it here. Thank you to all the people here who have made my life wonderful during my time in Zhualy. I’ll be back to visit.