It's strange. In August I actually read some David Sedaris and then The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Very different books, but very inspiring for me to write more stories about Kazakhstan, and maybe try to actually write more "stories" than blogs. But since then, I haven't really written anything. I'd like to say it's because I've been busy, but I have managed to watch a LOT of movies lately. I have been working a lot though as well. Some things of note I in life or in general.
1. I started Russian tutoring. Yes, it's my second year, and I just started. But really, that's better than a lot of volunteers. The accountant that works with our organization teaches me for an hour a day for free in the mornings. The goal is for me to be able to read Russian. Like Tolstoy or Pushkin or something. Reading is hard because there a lot of words in books. I can speak just fine with people, but hardly know any actual words, especially concrete nouns. And I'm learning Russian cursive, which is incredibly useful.
2. I posted pictures on my picasa site. PICTURES HEREMost of them are also on Facebook, but for those without Facebook, you can see them there. Included is a picture of my girlfriend Acela. We've been dating for a few months now. She works at my organization as a volunteer and is studying to get a Master's in Ecology.
3. What do I do at work? It's hard to describe. But this week I led two English clubs, did tutoring on how to write essays, started a business English course, finished a grant application to teach English to impoverished children, helped with publicizing an exchange program, finished writing a script for an English play, and helped a guy prepare his documents for an American visa.
4. Last spring, I helped work on a book about volunteerism in Kazakhstan. I assisted with one chapter; my friends did a lot more. You can check it out for free here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19492259/Kazakhstan-Volunteer-Handbook
5. I found out how extensive peacecorpswiki.com is. It has some interesting stuff about Peace Corps, including volunteer salaries (wait, we're volunteers, we'll call it a stipend then or a living allowance maybe) for countries all over the world and early termination rates for countries all over the world.
6. One of the more interesting articles was this one http://peacecorpswiki.org/images/LudlamHirschoff.pdf. Its a long document written by some former volunteers about how to improve the program. Included in this document is the fact that Peace Corps misreports the ET rate by using very fuzzy math. They report annual ET rates rather than cohort rates. So if I say 15% of people serving in Kazakhstan ET, you may think that 15% of the people who come leave early. But nope, they mean 15% of the people serving there in that year. So in reality maybe 30% of the people that come leave. I think it's ridiculous that they use these numbers, and really can't imagine how it is illustrative of anything.
7. The report also had this shocking (in my eyes) fact: "In FY 2008 the Peace Corps reports that it received 13,041 applications, but only 4,265 survived the medical and legal clearance process to become “qualified.” Of this pool, 4,123 were invited to training. This means that from this pool of “qualified” applicant, all but 142 or 96.7% were invited to training." And they claim that Peace Corps itself did not have this statistic already generated. I certainly hope that Peace Corps has some metric like this. To say that the application pool is competitive may be a stretch. I don't know if they tout a 25% ratio anywhere, but I don't think they say 96% of people who are in good health with a criminal history will be accepted.