Thursday, August 18, 2005

swearing in

Soon, I'm going back to my site, and I'm a little happy to return. I've enjoyed training, although my job description was not very fleshed-out. I conducted some sessions, one on team-teaching, and one on Russian swear words. I also did a lot of translating, which is good because it helped my Russian skills. I mostly enjoyed telling the trainees about a lot of the cultural challenges they will face at their sites, and which they have merely gotten a taste of during training. I spent a lot of time just getting to know the new trainees, who will be volunteers tomorrow (tomorrow they swear in and become official PC volunteers). Swearing-in is - informally - an big pat-yourself-on-the-back for the trainees, and - formally - a reiterration of Peace Corps goals in Kazakhstan, and actually swearing the federal oath to defend the constitution of the United States. This is standard for all government employees, but many agree that it is too serious for Peace Corps volunteers, who, although they are representing the US, don't find themselves in situations where one could literally defend the Constitution of the United States. One trainee asked if this meant that he be required to defend President Bush and his policies, which, of course, is ridiculous since many liberals and democrats have taken this oath and oppose Bush outright. Our nation, generally speaking, doesn't depend on one particular president's views, policies, or personal interests, that's why the oath is to defend the Constitution. But he is still our boss.

Training is a difficult process, and this training saw it's fair share of people who didn't think they could cut it and packed off homeward. Every day is packed with information, and trainees run a gauntlet of technical sessions, language classes, evaluations, tests, immersion teaching, hands-on teaching, lesson planning, community development projects, all while trying to survive with minimal language skills and a slowly-expanding cultural knowledge. No one has died yet. That's good. So the trainees deserve an informal pat on the back. This training was more difficult, because they wanted trainees who weren't serious to leave during training instead of afterwards to avoid investing so much into developing a site that would eventually be abandoned.

Before, PC staff has had to do two trainings every year, one for educational volunteers and one for community and organizational development volunteers - which seems like an enormous amount of stress and work - but now are switching to only one training every Fall. I, however, will not be here to see how one training works out, because I am leaving in about 10 months.