October 1, 2001: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: Evacuation: 911: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Personal Web Site: Katie Lavoie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan from September 2000 to September 2001 when we had to be evacuated from the country

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Turkmenistan: Peace Corps Turkmenistan : The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan: October 1, 2001: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: Evacuation: 911: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Personal Web Site: Katie Lavoie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan from September 2000 to September 2001 when we had to be evacuated from the country

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-13-244.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, January 16, 2005 - 2:30 pm: Edit Post

Katie Lavoie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan from September 2000 to September 2001 when we had to be evacuated from the country

Katie Lavoie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan from September 2000 to September 2001 when we had to be evacuated from the country

Katie Lavoie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan from September 2000 to September 2001 when we had to be evacuated from the country

Given the unusual and unexpected circumstances under which the other Peace Corps Volunteers and I had to end our service in Turkmenistan, I just wanted to say a few words about the situation.

First, I wanted to say that Turkmenistan is very different from Afghanistan. Now that I am back in the U.S., sometimes people ask me if Turkmen women must wear veils like Afghan women. The answer is no. In Turkmenistan women are not repressed like in Afghanistan - they work and study just like they do in most other countries. There are people of many different nationalities who live in Turkmenistan, although the majority are Turkmen. And the large majority of Turkmen are muslim. So yes, Turkmenistan is an Islamic society.

I lived in a small village and I would often in the quiet of the early morning or evening hear the call to prayer coming from the village mosque. It came to be a very peaceful and comforting sound to hear. I also remember many summer evenings as I was preparing dinner outside with my host mother hearing my five-year-old host sister belt out her own version of the call to prayer! My host brother went to the mosque every day to study the Koran with aspriations of becoming a mullah. Prayer is a part of everyday for most Turkmen, as after every meal or snack most Turkmen say a prayer with their hands cupped in front of them, then wash their hands over their face. When someone asks "How are you," a common answer is "Good, thanks to God." Traditional Turkmen women wear scarves on their heads and never cut their hair to be a good Muslim. Old men wear large hats and grow beards. Turkmen typically do not eat ham or pork, and from time to time people give food to their neighbors and family as a way to practice their faith. During Ramadan many Turkmen fast from sunrise to sunset. These are just a few examples of how the muslim faith is an integral part of everyday Turkmen life.

Turkmenistan is a very peaceful country and I have never seen any elements of Islamic extremism that we so often see on television these days. After the terrible tragedy on September 11, there was an outpouring of sympathy and concern from the Turkmen people. The people of Turkmenistan - both our friends and even those we did not know but came into contact with - expressed their deepest condolences to those of us Americans there, and after the 11th there were many bouquets of flowers laid in front of the American embassy in Ashgabat.

I almost always felt safe when I was in the country. Granted I didn't go out at night by myself or anything like that. Of course, the events of the 11th did change things. Turkmenistan shares quite a substantial border with Afghanistan. It is hard to know exactly what goes on at the border. Although it is officially closed (the last I heard anyway), there is a drug problem in Turkmenistan - mainly heroin and opium - and those drugs come from Afghanistan. So we know that people are crossing the border. Even though I was living as a part of my community in a rural area and most likely could have gone on with my life there for another year without incident, just knowing how the world has changed I don't know if I could have gone on about my daily life there feeling completely safe.

One thing I hear talk of on the news these days is the fact that the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other countries may not understand why the U.S. is bombing Afghanistan. They do not understand the American people or the intentions of the American government. After all, since we are bombing their country, what reason do they have to believe that the American people aren't hateful warmongers? When I hear about this it makes me regret that they may have such a negative and inaccurate impression of Americans, but at the same time it makes me feel good that I had the opportunity to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan. Friendship between the American people and the people of countries around the world is what Peace Corps is all about. For many people I met in Turkmenistan, especially the people in the village where I lived, I was the first American they had ever met. There were so many positive interactions and relationships between all of us volunteers and our communities. I really do believe that person-to-person friendships such as those facilitated by Peace Corps contribute to greater understanding between the people of the world and to peace. It obviously does not prevent certain dire situations but nevertheless I feel that it is important work.

I would have liked, and fully planned, to be able to reach the end of my two-year service in Turkmenistan. It was very sad to have to leave prematurely. Under the circumstances though I know it is best that we left due to Turkmenistan's shared border with Afghanistan and the situation which now exists. However, rather than being sorry that I was not able to spend two years there, I feel fortunate that I was able to spend an entire year there. Through all the friends I made and experiences I had there, I learned and gained so much that will always be with me, and I have a deep gratitude to the Turkmen people for letting us American Peace Corps Volunteers into their lives.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.

January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 8 2005 No: 367 January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Zambia RPCV Karla Berg interviews 1,374 people on Peace 7 Jan
Breaking Taboo, Mandela Says Son Died of AIDS 6 Jan
Dreadlocked PCV raises eyebrows in Africa 6 Jan
RPCV Jose Ravano directs CARE's efforts in Sri Lanka 6 Jan
Persuading Retiring Baby Boomers to Volunteer 6 Jan
Inventor of "Drown Proofing" retires 6 Jan
NPCA Membership approves Board Changes 5 Jan
Timothy Shriver announces "Rebuild Hope Fund" 5 Jan
More Water Bottles, Fewer Bullets 4 Jan
Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker runs Solterra Books 2 Jan
Peace Corps Fund plans event for September 30 Dec
RPCV Carmen Bailey recounts bout with cerebral malaria 28 Dec
more top stories...

RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Turkmenistan; Evacuation; 911; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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