Turkmenistan - One Man's Journey for Peace

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, October 16, 2002 - 2:38 pm: Edit Post

Turkmenistan - One Man's Journey for Peace

Read and comment on this personal web site of a volunteer who is currently serving in Turkmenistan at:

One Man's Journey for Peace*

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

One Man's Journey for Peace

Some of you may already know by way of the grapevine, but I have recently found out where and when I will be leaving for my Peace Corps assignment. Although I had expected to go to Africa and talked it up quite a bit (yes, I did convince myself that I would be going there) I was invited to serve in a vastly different region of the world that is equally as different and even more unknown than Africa (well at least to me...and probably most of you!). You may be wondering, "Well, why don't you just hold out for an African country. I mean after all you wanted to go there so badly." Well, I must admit that there was an initial shock that lasted for at least a weekend and I was running around in a frenzy trying to comprehend what it would be like going to this rather foreign country. After all, I knew nothing about the area. After some initial research though I realized that discounting one country (and therefore potential experience) for another is not the point of joining the! Peace Corps. My motivations for joining are still being fulfilled by going to another area of the world. I will still be challenged in a myriad of ways, I will still find insights about myself and other people/cultures in the world, I will still be able to travel (and to equally exciting places that Africa would have afforded), and this way I won't run the risk of getting malaria or ebola or AIDS.

The Peace Corps has invited me to Turkmenistan. It used to be a part of the Soviet Union and it is surrounded by the Caspian Sea (which is really the world's largest lake), Iran and Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan and Kazyikstan to the east and north. At first, I thought that the country would be very inhospitable and in some ways it definitely will be. The summers are scorchingly hot with dry heat rising up to 120-130 degrees thanks to the fact that the country is 90% desert. This will be the time that I'll have to keep reminding myself how much I hate humidity! The winters can get rather cold, but not any worse than this area (it actually is a wee bit warmer...of course lack of heaters will make it seem otherwise). The rest of the year is supposed to be "pleasant", so that's "promising". Fortunately, I will get to experience this "pleasant" weather when I go (I leave a few days after Labor Day).

Turkmenistan is also run by a nice dictator. Now, I know what you're thinking...what's a "nice dictator"? Well, a "nice dictator" only allows for a 70% poverty rate in his country and likes to rename cities after himself and develop a cult of personality, like Lenin...but he DOES spend lotsa government money on building rotating statues of himself and large palaces so people know he's the big man. Luckily, the Peace Corps has developed good relations with him (I think it's because the PC has been able to better develop education in the country and we're free labor). I did read somewhere that he planned on stepping down by 2010, however. And to his credit he does seem to want to promote the Turkmen culture which was suppressed while the Soviet Union was in charge (of course this may be more political than anything else). The Peace Corps has been present in the country for just over 10 years and my group is supposed to be around 50, which will interestingly enough mulitiply! the total number of PC vols by 5.

Perhaps the biggest assest to the country are the people. I've spoken to a PC volunteer who served from '95-'97 and have been reading from various sources; the people (by and large) are curious and inviting to Americans. They are constantly asking volunteers to eat at their homes and share their lives. And I'm quite happy to say that they aren't huge into religion. The country is 90% Muslim, but they practice it like my family practices Catholicism...we go to church on the big days like Christmas and Easter (well...okay, we used to do that). Oddly (and I mean this in relation to their leader), they do not believe in extremism or fundamentalism. In other words, I do not need to worry about religious conflicts in the country because the people don't care enough to make a big stink over it.

The government is neutral and intends to stay that way. The US will probably ensure it's security on some level too because it has a vested oil interest there. It is known to have one of the largest untapped oil reserves in the world.

Since the country is in Central Asia, that also means that I have many different options for travel...currently, Istanbul is one place I plan on visiting. I've thought of Moscow, China, and the other surrounding Republics too. Needless-to-say, I do not plan on heading south.

My job while in service will be teaching ESL (English as a 2nd Lang) to students and teachers. I guess I'll be paired up with a teacher there and will work closely with him/her. I will be attempting to learn Russian and Turkmen. So that means I'll be able to work as a spy for the KGB some day. I hear they still exist and love the american work ethic. Speaking of Russian things, I'll be developing the vodka portion of my palate. If anyone has any ideas for how to do this, please send suggestions.

Well, I think that covers some of the basics.

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