September 22, 2002 - Carthage Press: A Volunteer returns from Russia

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 22, 2002 - Carthage Press: A Volunteer returns from Russia

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, September 22, 2002 - 7:20 am: Edit Post

A Volunteer returns from Russia

Read and comment on this story from the Carthage Press on Russia RPCV Zach Carnagey whose service as cut short this past August as the the Russian government "saw no reason to issue" a renewal of Carnagey's visit at:

RETURN FROM RUSSIA: Carthage resident back home after teaching abroad*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

RETURN FROM RUSSIA: Carthage resident back home after teaching abroad

By Ron Graber / Of The Press Staff

Technically, Zach Carnagey was not kicked out of Russia.

Officially, the Russian government "saw no reason to issue" a renewal of Carnagey's visit, which cut short his United States Peace Corps assignment this past August.

Despite the unexpected end to his trip overseas, Carnagey speaks fondly of many aspects of his time in Russia, especially the friends he made during his year teaching English to Russian students in grades 7-11.

"They were absolutely incredible, and fantastic," said Carnagey, now back in the United States. "I couldn't have asked for a better group of people."

Carnagey, a 1996 graduate of Carthage High School, said helping others has always been important to him, and he decided to sign up for the Peace Corps after hearing a friend talk about the program. Carnagey said his parents, Larry and Joann Carnagey of Carthage, were supportive of his trip, and were glad to hear that their son's assigned post in the Russian Far East was a civilized, modern community.

"I've lived with the philosophy that the only way to live in happiness is to help others," said Carnagey, who joined with the rest of his group of 36 volunteers on July 4, 2001 in Philadelphia. Following a 36-hour trip, Carnagey was introduced to his host family for the two-month training period, during which he would learn about life in Russia.

In 1991, Russia invited the Peace Corps to send volunteers to help small businesses develop in the former communist country. Current Peace Corp volunteers are in Russia at the invitation of the Ministry of Education and work in the schools teaching English.

Carnagey said he especially enjoyed teaching the high-level students, who often met up to four times a week in the classroom where Carnagey refused to speak Russian.

"In my classes, I only spoke English," he said, adding that the technique can cause some frustration among the students, but the end result is rapid learning and advancement.

Carnagey said students in Russia have an amazing knowledge of facts, such as history and geography, but are unfamiliar with critical thinking and other such ideas.

In addition to informing Russian teachers about alternate teaching methods, Carnagey introduced students to unique ideas by assigning poetry and short stories, and by bringing in outside resources, including books by American author Shel Silverstein.

"Anything I could to make them think," Carnagey said.

Living accommodations in Belogorsk were adequate, although things such as hot water, gas and electricity were intermittent. Carnagey said he felt bad because his pay was better than that of the Russian teachers, who sometimes went for months without receiving a paycheck.

"It's a really bad situation," he said.

Also frustrating was dealing with Russian bureaucracy and infrastructure.

"Russia is the most inconvenient place I can possibly imagine," Carnagey said. "A trip to the bank was always a nightmare, and often took between two and two and a half hours."

Calling home took most of a day.

As a foreigner, Carnagey and the other Peace Corps teachers received a lot of attention, and were often beseiged by children.

"The kids were always asking for our autographs," Carnagey said. "We felt really kind of embarrassed."

Others felt differently. Carnagey said he was not "hassled," but was often asked to present his papers and documents for inspection.

"They are an incredibly paranoid people," he said. "People thought I was a spy, and even in the papers we were accused of being spies."

In early July of 2002, Carnagey's group of 27 remaining Peace Corps volunteers went to China, because applications for a Russian one-year multi-entry visa need to be issued out of country. After several days of waiting, the group learned that only eight people were issued visas.

Carnagey said negotiations were attempted, as what was expected to be a seven-day stay in China stretched into 35 days. In the end, the group was sent home, and Carnagey arrived back on U.S. soil in early August. At last report, he was still waiting for his belongings to be sent back from Russia.

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