Hey all! So I am officially back in T-stan and in general it’s good to be back. The flights were interesting and long. I ended up having to have a day layover in Istanbul and was unable to save money by sleeping at the airport, which was my cheap idealistic dream. So I had to venture out into the city for the night and part of the day on Monday. It was a really nice morning in the city once I figured out where I was going and I ended up finding the Blue Mosque and a few other random mosques in the area. It was so crazy to be there though because Islam is really prevelent there. I mean there was literally a mosque on every corner so around 1pm during the afternoon call to prayer there was literally about 50 priests over loud speakers throughout the area calling everyone to prayer. It was kind of really beautiful as you could hear it progressing throughout the whole city. So anyways, I ended up having to spend a bit to get a hotel there, but all in all it was worth it to strech my legs a little bit.
As I said I am now back in T-stan and for the most part it has been a good week with one exception, which I will go into a little bit later. Let me first go into a bit of the good stuff! First off everyone at my school and in my community has been really supportive, I think many of them thought that since I went home I wouldn’t come back as they had a volunteer before who went home without much notice and did not return. So I was given a huge welcome by my school, family, and community in general for having returned. My teachers and students are also really excited to have me back in the classroom and working too which was a huge plus. I also want to give a little plug out to the student at New Lothrop High School as I had given a speech to some of the students there and they had written letters to my students here in Turkmenistan. I have had difficulty getting a lot of my students here interested in learning English, but when I told them that American students wanted to talk with them and wrote them letters they all became very excited about the letter project. So thank you Mrs. Thiel and Mrs. Czymbor’s classes for letting me come in and speak with you and for writing some wonderful letters. I hope to get some responses back to you guys soon!
Now onto the low part of the week and a crushing blow. This week was supposed to be a joyous week as we were to welcome a new group of volunteers into Turkmenistan, the T-18s. We have been preparing and anticipating the arrival of new volunteers for basically the whole summer. Well, on Tuesday I recieved a call from our Program Training Officer telling me that the T-18 group would be delayed due to problems obtaining Visas to enter Turkmenistan. This was a little odd, and then on Wednesday I recieved a call from our Training Manager saying that the T-18s would not be arriving at all as they had been declined Visas. This was a huge surprise to our Peace Corps program here. I can’t really say why the Visas were denied because I can only give some sort of speculation, and I do not want to report anything without having facts. So thus I am going to leave it as that, the T-18s will not be coming to Turkmenistan, but the Turkmen Government did say that they would welcome 50 new volunteers in 2010.
This whole thing has been really hard for me to grasp because it’s just so surprising and just overall sad. I feel as though it is important for me to have that realization that new volunteers were arriving and become a veteran volunteer. I was excited to look over the hardships I had had over the past year and the positives that came out of it. I was excited to share the knowledge that I had about working here to a new volunteer and just help them through their struggles. My heart also really goes out to the T-18s that had sold their cars, quit their jobs, bought things specifically for service here, said goodbye to their friends and family, got on a plane, actually had their staging in Philadelpia, and be told that they would not be going to their country and would have to board a plane back home. My heart breaks for them and I cannot fathom what I would do if that happened to me.
So T-18s I want to let you all know that we here in Turkmenistan are devastated, not just the volunteers but even the Host Country Nationals. It was a huge shock to everyone and we are devastated. I wish you all the best in finding new placements. Please stay strong through this hardship and do not give up hope on Peace Corps. You will all make amazing volunteers someday.