|By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-232-99.balt.east.verizon.net - 22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 10:44 am: Edit Post|
Peace Corps Volunteer Scott Allan Wallick in Nepal
Peace Corps Volunteer Scott Allan Wallick in Nepal
Violently Sentimental Garbage
If at any moment throughout the day I could write down the fleeting impulses caused by my upcoming departure (34 days before departure), psychoanalyzing my anxiety would be much simpler. Exactly when I got it into my head to join the Peace Corps is something I wish I could remember, probably because I was more articulate about it then than I am now. How many times have I heard people half-heartedly proclaim they're going to join the Peace Corps? It's enough to make me vomit.
Somehow the collective social consciousness thinks of the Peace Corps as something like the French Foreign Legion but for conscientious objectors. Are you failing in college? Out of jail with nowhere to go? Unemployed but unwilling to live with your parents? Hell, join the Peace Corps. What I've learned about Peace Corps volunteers is that they are a group who, as a generalization for example's sake, have their lives in order, insomuch as they are willing, transitory expatriates; however, I can't deny the opting out factor. At a time when my future plans are discussed openly at family functions, joining the Peace Corps is an easy decision (usually answered with an "Oh").
I've never met anyone who has joined the Peace Corps (or the US armed forces for that matter) because they clearly had a successful, immediate future ahead of them. And as I put behind my comfortable, collegiate life, I realize that the rest of life isn't necessarily any different than before. I've chosen a cheap, unique, and elite graduate school: I turned in applications, went to interviews, and even took a few tests. Just as I was nervous leaving for college, so am I now. Just as I met smelly people who hardly could read or write, I will in Nepal, too. My worries are no different than at any other time when I moved: nervous about making friends, regaining my ties to old friends, adjusting to a new lifestyle, and the terrible realities of dysentery.
I've been lucky to have the support of friends and family, which hasn't gone unnoticed. My good friend Randy sent me a farewell card with a few quartets from T.S. Eliot's The Dry Salvages:
Fare forward travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus.
When I arrive in Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport (once named Gaucher, meaning 'cow pasture'), the newness of everything will invigorate me. Thinking of it now gives me an anxious sense of happiness. When the waters are still, let us mock the storm. Maybe I'll just join the French Foreign Legion if this Peace Corps thing fizzles.
Sunday, January 27, 2002
Flight Itinerary (An Asian Sampler)
A few days ago I received my "Begin to Learn Nepali Language" booklet and audio cassette. I've realized quite suddenly that I'm going to be learning a foreign-foreign language. Perhaps it should be renamed, "Learn to Speak Nepali in Your Wildest Dreams." I can't even imagine it: in the near future, I'll be reading and writing Nepali. There's some handy phrases in book (these are actual phrases to be learnt) like
Are there poisonous snakes around?
I don't know Nepali culture, please teach me.
Mother cooks delicious food.
I will not eat today, I am not feeling well.
Last week I made my flight reservations. My parents suddenly realized I was leaving the country and not going camping. (My mother insists I bring a compass in case I "get lost" and who knows, maybe she's right.) For me, it was a great relief. Once I get on the plane, there's no turning back. Before I fly to Kathmandu, I'll attend a 'staging' in San Francisco with other Peace Corps volunteers heading to Nepal (I've heard it's around 58 people). After a day of being introduced to life as a Peace Corps volunteer we'll head to Kathmandu.
I'm not sure how many actual hours it'll take us to get to Kathmandu from San Francisco, but because of time zones and the International Date Line, we arrive in Kathmandu around 48 hours and 20 minutes after leaving San Francisco:
FEB18 SFO/NRT 12:25/16:45
FEB19 NRT/BKK 17:50/22:25
FEB20 BKK/KTM 10:30/12:45
So that means 21 days before departure. I'll stretch my legs while I can.
Saturday, February 09, 2002
Forget Me Not (The Packing List)
It doesn't make sense, packing for two years. Where do I put the ironing board? Begin thinking of how'd you'd pack for two years with a limit of 104 lbs. and you'll realize how much you're going to live without. I imagine some Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) will be stuck in an airport explaining why he's brining a pizza slicer onto the plane. I'd be smart enough to pack mine in checked luggage. Peace Corps (PC) says that most volunteers bring too much with them.
Our baggage limit equals about three to four large duffels stuffed with clothes (or cutlery). There's a chapter in the PC handbook called ?How to pack for two years,? which is an interesting idea, but when I talked to returned PCVs (RPCVs), I was told, "That's a terrible idea. Who told you to pack for two years?" Suddenly the hypothetical question, "If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one book/shirt/album/etc, what would it be?" is a packing mantra. The RPCV meant is that I shouldn't pack as if I were on vacation, because to pack enough mouthwash for two years would require a crate.
Instead, I should pack as if I'm moving to a very far away place. The things I take with me are the things I'm going to cling to as I transition into PCV life. Think Lawrence of Arabia. He went to Arabia dressed as a British officer. He left looking like an Arab. It's an extreme example, but I think that a great part of the Peace Corps is dressing and living in a similar manner to the people of Nepal. Soon I'll be shopping for clothes in the great Nepalese markets (or are they bazaars in Nepal?), which are known for their rugs, but what about shoes? In Nepal, cows are sacred ? hardly shoe material. So will my dress shoes be canvas? If such things exist, they do in Nepal.
Here is what I'm taking. It's a long list so skip it if you like:
* 2 pairs of cotton slacks (The wrinkle-free type)
* 2 pairs denim jeans
* 3 dress shirts (I have to look 'professional' while on the job)
* Blazer *
* 3 t-shirts from my college
* 15 pairs of socks *
* 10 pairs of boxers
* 3 undershirts **
* Rain slicker (which I forgot and ended up buying one that was fine in Kathmandu)
* Fleece jacket
* Wool gloves
* Warm hat (Thanks to Steph G.)
* 2 pair of shorts
* Baseball cap
* Long underwear (I almost bought a red one-piece with the poop hatch, but chickened out) *
* Pair of hiking boots (Bring light boots, mine were too heavy)
* Pair of Teva sandals (I think Chacos are better)
* Pair of dress shoes
* Pair of sneakers
* Tape recorder with two blank tapes
* 4 tapes of music **
* Shortwave radio
* Solar AA battery charger, 12 batteries, and a battery tester
* My camera (And the famed Quadcam)
* World almanac
* Homer's Iliad (Lattimore translation, of course)
* Journal (I received six journals as presents, which my parents will mail to me)
* Travel body and hand towel (Like a chamois)
* Medium sized backpack for trekking (It's a frameless Lowe Alpine Mountain 70 and it was one of the best things I brought)
* Maglight flashlight
* Security wallet (I prefer the type with a belt loop that is kept between your waist)
* Peace Corps Handbook & Welcome to Peace Corps/Nepal
* Stainless steel flask (For booze)
* Nalgene bottles (I wish I'd brought and extra Nalgene that was a half liter) **
* Fistful of locks (Both the luggage and gym locker type)
* Small sewing kit
* Small first-aid kit
* Small bottles each of shaving lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, floss, etc.
* Teach Yourself Nepali with a couple audio tapes *
* Ultralight sleeping bag *
* Fleece blanket (A nice silk sleep sack would have been better, though I love my fleece blanket on the cool nights)
All this fits into a garment bag and a large, wheeled duffle bag. The garment bag and my camera case I will carry onto the plane. I read somewhere that 1 out of 200 pieces of luggage never reach their destination. There will be 58 PCV on the plane to Kathmandu, which makes that statistic pretty grim.
For the previous list, the asterisks denote
* Items I just shouldn't have brought, or brought so much of
** Items I should have brought more of
I've had several folks write me for advice before they left for Nepal.
Mainly, I think three things are important to consider when packing:
* Pack light and I mean really, really light and you'll be so glad you did
* Try to only bring two bags you'll actually carry
* Bring as many comfort items as you think you'll actually use, like music, books, art supplies, Frisbees, stationary, journals, games, etc
I am glad that I brought some nice clothes with me. I think many of the woman who I know wished they had nicer, conservative clothes, since woman typically spend their days in the kurta surwal, the Nepali dress for women. Peace Corps has several good books on learning Nepali, including Teach Yourself Nepali, and Nepali in Context. The tapes aren't available from Peace Corps, but you can easily have them copied (shops that will dub tapes and CDs are plentiful). A PCV here will have them. Hell, I have 'em.
Here are some things that I wish I'd brought from the States with me:
* 110 to 220 voltage converter
* Quality NiMH battery charger
* Pinochle cards
* Nylon zip-off pants (Several pairs)
* Lexan coffee press (If you bring one that is glass it will break)
* Coffee (It's available here, but you'll do without during training besides Nescafe?)
All of these items I have had sent to me here in Nepal and have arrived intact. Arranging having a laptop sent around the world was tricky, to say the least (the service cost me buying a friend a fine meal in Kathmandu ? thanks again, Colin). I'm still thinking of things I should have brought and shouldn't have, but nothing major. My main advice is pack light. Pack light. Pack light.
Sunday, March 03, 2002
Suddenly an Update
Currently I'm in Kathmandu (KTM) under interesting circumstances. If I could only sit down and write about all my experiences so far in Nepal I would have a proper letter, but that'll have to wait for snail mail. Pre-service training (PST) is still underway in distant Narayanghat, but as another trainee fell ill, I found myself on a plane to accompany her to KTM. Many have fallen ill to varying degrees, but I am one of the few who've remained entirely healthy, at least physically speaking (bouts of depthless depression sometimes are trying).
She who is ill had difficulty walking due to weakness and also developed a light sensitivity, causing her to wear a shirt over her head (making it even that more difficult to walk as well as attracting more attention than usual). So I ended up (the circumstances are another massive letter) being the one to 'carry' her to the Narayanghat (Bharatpur, actually) airport and then to Phora Dubar, the Embassy's (and Peace Corps') medical HQ. It was tiring. I had to stay awake with her the night before we departed, administering (in the dark) antibiotics and another mystery drug that's purpose I never understood.
It's been a long 24 hrs. But I'm in KTM, the city I love to hate (it's a terrible city, Jill Chaskes was right) and have met up with a few other Peace Corps volunteers and we're going bowling tonight. Tomorrow morning I'm catching a taxi to the KTM airport and I'll be on the first plane back to Narayanghat and, alas, PST.
Things are looking up and I am speaking the language quite well. Not to be a braggart, but I am in an 'advanced' class, whatever that's worth. I spend my days speaking Nepali, which is strange. That means I'd almost be trilingual. Who'd thunk it? Well, bowling awaits. And please write. I would love music (tapes); however, I'd be happy with anything.
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Namaskar from Nepal. Here's a short update since I have the time to write. I forget what I've mentioned previously. I do much writing to many people. I've lost track. Life in Nepal is constantly spiraling out of control, or at least the illusion thereof. So my new home will be Birganj as of 8(ish) May 2002. Look it up on map, it's probably there. If not just imagine a straight line due south from Kathmandu and when you hit the Nepal-India border ? BHAM! ? home sweet home.
Currently I'm here in Birganj looking for a flat. There is a volunteer from my group who has been placed here as well, along with another volunteer who has been transferred to Birganj from Maoist Central. Seems that the Maoists might soon be inclined to burn down her school. So the two ladies are living together and I'm thinking of a place by myself. There are two volunteers who live in Birganj and will for another 14 months. They've been great by showing us around town. I've had it pretty easy, really.
Flats in Nepal are usually a section of a house where a family lives, meaning you have a separate part of the house with several rooms. I'll probably have a bedroom, common room, kitchen, patio, and then a toilet of some fashion. I found a place that was great, except for the kitchen. Scary. I've been running errands in Birganj. We're supposed to visit a few offices to make our presence known (and approved). This morning we went to the DEO (like a superintendent's office) and the CDO (like a governor of sorts), both moderately fruitless, but very telling of the next few years.
Life in Birganj, like I've said before, is truly a mix of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with Mad Max: Enter the Thunderdome. I'll let that run around your imagination.
Adjusting has been difficult and overtly enjoyable. Nepali people are incredibly patient and talkative. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people on buses and tempos about which fruits they prefer, whether or not tomorrow'll be hotter, or if water buffalo milk is better than yak milk. They'll talk to you about anything.
For all of you that have written, I've read your letters dozens of times. (The same with the online posts, which are wonderful.) Life is going to be just fine here, even though Peace Corps life can seem like a meat grinder. The other PCVs are incredible people and the experiences are life changing. I think I'm meeting some people for momos (Tibetan dumplings) in a few minutes, so I'm going to go.
|By Scott Allan Wallick (user-0cev9rq.cable.mindspring.com - 126.96.36.199) on Thursday, November 04, 2004 - 2:10 pm: Edit Post|
This site has moved to
|By Anonymous (oxford.oup-usa.org - 188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 - 3:24 pm: Edit Post|
And then moved again!
|By candace (ip70-178-213-217.ks.ks.cox.net - 184.108.40.206) on Friday, August 24, 2007 - 9:41 pm: Edit Post|
hi, Scott, does the PC accept seniors as volunteers?