June 29, 2005: Headlines: COS - China: Married Couples: Bowling Green Daily News: Erin and Brian Barger head to China as Peace Corps Volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Peace Corps China : The Peace Corps in China: June 29, 2005: Headlines: COS - China: Married Couples: Bowling Green Daily News: Erin and Brian Barger head to China as Peace Corps Volunteers

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Erin and Brian Barger head to China as Peace Corps Volunteers

Erin and Brian Barger head to China as Peace Corps Volunteers

It’s a dream Erin, 25, has nursed since she was a young girl, she said: to travel to faraway lands and help people who need helping.

Erin and Brian Barger head to China as Peace Corps Volunteers

Couple headed to China

Bargers to spend two years in Peace Corps

By Rachel Adams, radams@bgdailynews.com -- 270-783-3256

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

It’s a muggy Tuesday afternoon, and Brian and Erin Barger have just returned from a walk around their Bowling Green neighborhood.

Normally a husband-and-wife stroll around the block doesn’t make headlines. But Tuesday’s walk may be the last time in a long time the Bargers see their Kentucky home – they leave early Thursday morning for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps.

It’s a dream Erin, 25, has nursed since she was a young girl, she said: to travel to faraway lands and help people who need helping.

“The Peace Corps is a way to share our gifts and our blessings with people who just don’t have as much of a chance as Americans (have),” she said.

The timing is perfect, Erin said – Brian, 28, just finished his assistantship at Western Kentucky University (he’s also finished his thesis for a master’s degree in experimental psychology), and Erin found a replacement for her position at Kaleidoscope, a program at WKU that works to bring the arts to underserved young people.

“We’re both free and clear, really,” she said. “That’s a nice feeling.”

The first stop on their 27-month journey is San Francisco, where the Bargers, who married June 5, 2004, will have a two-day orientation session. From there, they travel to China’s Sichuan Province to go through two months of training, including a crash course in Chinese. At the end of the training period, Erin and Brian will be assigned to a city in China, where they will work in a university setting to teach English to rural Chinese workers. What city they go to depends upon their language proficiency and teaching ability, Erin said.

“It’s kind of a leap of faith at this point,” she said, but later added, “I feel strongly that the China move is right for us.”

Erin has a slight advantage over Brian in the language department – she spent 10 days in China last year, long enough to make a few friends and learn some Chinese phrases.

“Ironically, I was very thankful that Chinese was a language I would never have to learn,” she laughed.

Brian plans to tackle the language the same way he tackled his schoolwork – study, study, study.

“I figure, after having to ask for the bathroom and ordering food ... that necessity will help me pick up what I have to pick up,” he joked.

Inside their small house, which the newlyweds bought last year, the furniture is mostly gone. Empty picture hooks jut from the living room’s orange walls. The hardwood floor is empty but for a few boxes, a pretty pillow, some framed photos. A green-striped loveseat will remain behind for the people renting the couples’ home while they’re away, but Erin and Brian sit on camping chairs, the kind that collapse to fit inside a drawstring bag.

They’re each allowed 80 pounds of luggage, which figures out to a backpack and small rolling suitcase each. Essentials include clothes, a portable CD player, a laptop and Bibles – the couple has a strong Christian faith. They also have to carry chest X-rays of themselves, although neither Brian nor Erin is quite sure why.

Whatever their purpose, the X-rays nearly sent Erin over the edge. The couple initially applied to the Peace Corps in September, after which they received packet after packet of medical forms. After they’d had “every centimeter of our bodies examined,” Erin said, the couple was relieved to be finished with the application process. In May, another packet arrived, announcing they had to return to their doctors for more tests, including the X-rays.

Erin was ready to quit, but Brian encouraged her to complete the last of the paperwork.

“I foresaw that this was going to be a train of paperwork,” Brian said. “At that point, what’s another (packet)?”

The chest X-rays sit in yellow envelopes in the couples’ living room, ready for inspection by any official who cares to see. Family and friends have said their good-byes; the mattress and box spring have been carted off, a donation to the International Center; and most of Erin and Brian’s things are in storage at a friend’s house.

“I don’t know if you can ever really be prepared, but that’s kind of the point,” Erin said. “You’re agreeing to problem-solve quickly and be extremely flexible.”

No matter what may come their way, the Bargers’ faith in God will outlive any hardship, Erin said.

“I believe that God has completely opened the doors to this ... I believe that anything He wants us to do is going to work out,” she said. “I’m not really afraid of anything.”

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

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Story Source: Bowling Green Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; Married Couples


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