The Peace Corps: A New Beginning in Kyrgyzstan by Boone Mill

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The Peace Corps: A New Beginning in Kyrgyzstan by Boone Mill

The Peace Corps: A New Beginning in Kyrgyzstan by Boone Mill

The Peace Corps: A New Beginning in Kyrgyzstan by Boone Mill

The Peace Corps: A New Beginning in Kyrgyzstan

Boone Mill

On April 22, 1997 I received a huge piece of mail. I knew what it was the minute I looked at it. With excitement, I realized that my final quarter at the University of Washington would come to a rapid close. Immediately I called my mother and father and alerted them of my early departure from school. Being normal parents, they wished for me to walk at graduation. After promising them a trip home for a family celebration, they wanted to know everything about my new home for the next twenty- seven months.

Then the hard part came. I had to say "farewell" to my church congregation in form of a testimony. Upon finishing the speech, I received a standing ovation for the first time in my whole life. Emotion gripped me as I outlined my reasons to leave the United States: the desire to serve less advantaged people, a chance to be a minority in another country, and most importantly of all – gain an economic perspective of the changes taking place in the former Soviet Union. In addition, many friends, while excited about the opportunity, thought my departure from the states was rather sudden – June 3. I agreed, but the thought, as of this writing, has not sunk in yet.

From what the Peace Corps provided me, Kyrgyzstan is implementing market reforms that have resulted in greater poverty. In fact, their teachers have not been paid in months and if they are paid, it is in flour and/or vodka. I see my role as an agent who will enable them to successfully complete their market reforms. I have no illusions of creating immediate success; rebuilding an economic system is a long-term process.

My new mission: teach English to secondary students in Kyrgyzstan. According to my job description, I will be teaching 14-17 year old students for about 20 hours per week and assisting native teachers in improving their methodology for teaching English. I have no doubt that I will have the opportunity to teach them about American culture, economics, and democracy. These elements have made the United States one of the greatest countries in history. Yet, I will have to explain some of our problems: racial tensions, voter apathy, and moral degradation. I am sure the Kyrgyzst people will engage me on these topics. And to navigate a fine line, I have to keep silent on my political views, which lean towards the Conservative/Republican side, because the Peace Corps has a non-proselytizing policy.

One of the biggest challenges for me will be my youth. Kyrgyzsts respect seniority and gravitate toward older Peace Corps members. Since I just turned twenty-three years old, but look like twenty years, I will be one of the youngest members of the Peace Corps in terms of age and appearance. Instead of having youthful exuberance as an asset, it will be a handicap for me in my new home. In addition, the Kyrgyzsts of my age will be married and beginning to have children. Upon arrival, I will be questioned about being single. I am proud to be a bachelor and have no plans at this time to get married, especially in Kyrgyzstan.

While not teaching English, the Peace Corps has several projects set up to keep me busy. Past activities have included setting up resource centers, and my favorite project, organizing a Little League Baseball league. I hope to use my economic skills to assist young Kyrgyzsts in becoming entrepreneurial in their new market oriented system. I also hope to teach them the skills necessary to succeed in their market economy and in the global market economy. Through these projects, I hope to explain the logic and reasoning behind the economic reforms of transforming from an agricultural to industrial system and from a command to a market economy.

While I will be enduring many challenges and trying times, I hope to teach English to the next generation of leaders, who will use this knowledge to integrate into the world community. When this country turns the corner someday, I can say that I helped that country to succeed. Also, I want to bring back a part of Kyrgyzstan to the United States, especially their hospitality. From reports, their hospitality is second to none. I just hope I do not have to participate in too many cognac-toasting sessions and four hour dinners. When I arrive in the United States, I will have an international flavor and an added maturity from dealing without the conveniences that most of us, including myself, take for granted like plumbing and eating fresh fruit everyday.

I decided upon the Peace Corps when I interned in Washington DC. One day I visited Arlington National Cemetery to see John F. Kennedy’s grave and see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After completing my agenda, I saw the Peace Corps 25th anniversary set up while waiting for the Metro Monorail system. It was there that serving in the Peace Corps came to mind. Over the summer, I decided to apply to the Peace Corps in the Fall Quarter. Around December I had an interview and thought if I would be going over, it would be as cooperatives advisor, helping new companies to get off the ground. During the interview, I mentioned that I informally tutored students in English during my early work experiences. Immediately, the recruiter told me that I would have an excellent opportunity to participate if I would tutor formally. After Christmas Vacation, I started tutoring two ESL students and this Spring Quarter, I started to participate in ESL classes as a conversation partner. I am not sure how tutoring or helping conversation classes will get me ready to teach class, but I am sure that my resourcefulness will help me to become a superb teacher during the next two years.

In my final weeks, I have started to accelerate on my assignments. I will finish all of my course work by June 3rd and take off that night following farewell parties from my friends and church. I am thankful that I do not have finals in three of my classes, but final papers due on the last week of class. This will be the first time I skipped in four years of college. I guess there is no time like the last quarter of my last year. In between I will get my wisdom teeth pulled and some minor dental work completed. In addition, I will be assembling the next Undergraduate Board to continue the Board’s great tradition.

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Story Source: University of Washington

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kyrgyzstan



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