"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trusting the Process. Embracing the Unknown.

So I've been getting a lot of the same general questions, most of which I have come to terms with not knowing. Two things that I think are imperative to this whole this experience will be trusting the process and embracing the unknown. But it is always to good to have some clue as to what I am getting myself into. The Peace Corps has yet to disappoint, and sent me some material the other day. Most of it would be pretty boring, but some of it will help you to understand just exactly what my time will be like.

Pre-Service Training (PST) 
When I first arrive, I'll have a two-day orientation, called the Arrival Retreat. It's designed to provide an overview of Peace Corps Ukraine and the Training Program. I'll be also be assigned to a language program (Ukrainian or Russian). I'll have a chance to get to know my cluster-mates (the other Trainees who will live in the same training community (cluster) and learn in the same language group with me). I will also meet my Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator who will be our teacher in the cluster as well as other people who will teach guide training during the pre-service training period.
On September 28th I'll go to my training communities (small towns and villages in the Kyiv Region) with my cluster. There I will meet my your host families in whose homes I will stay for the next 10 to 11 weeks!!!

I'll live with my host family for approximately 10 and a half weeks. Four to five other Trainees will also live in the same cluster with different families. Peace Corps Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitators and Technical and Cross-Cultural Facilitators will be living in the training communities and helping me learn the language and get adjusted to the local culture and working environment. I'll be visiting local schools or higher educational institutions, youth centers, orphanages, NGOs, local government administrations to participate in on-going internship activities similar to what I will do at my sites.

I'll have daily language classes (3-5 hours per day Monday through Friday), which will include small group classes, individual tutoring, field trips, self-directed learning activities and technical language. My technical training will include training sessions, workshops, internship activities, practical assignments and community activities.

During PST I'll have regular opportunities to meet with another cluster of my track and share experiences. However, most of my time will be spent in my training community, which gives us a possibility to benefit from the community-based training and enhance community integration skills.

The Peace Corps Country Director, Programming and Training Officer, TEFL Lead Specialists, Training Manager, Medical Officers, and Safety/ Security Coordinator will be traveling to your clusters at different times throughout the pre-service training to meet with me, assess how the program is going and address any specific needs or issues.

At the end of PST, I will get my permanent site assignment and will be sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. The US Ambassador to Ukraine will lead the swearing-in, and Ukrainian Government officials will welcome us as colleagues and community change agents. For that day and several days thereafter pictures of me and the other new Volunteers may appear in the national news media. My counterpart from my permanent site will be present at the ceremony and officially welcomed into the Peace Corps family as well. Following the ceremony, I will go with my Counterpart and take the road to the village or town where for the next 2 years I will live and work!!!

Communication (with the States) will be somewhat hard, but that goes with staying flexible and embracing the limited interaction I do have. But in the case of communication, the old adage “no news is good news” most definitely applies. There is no Internet access available at the PST venue, and I may not be able to make international calls. Preparing for  limited communication and preparing  family for the fact that I probably won’t be able to call or email them for the first few days in Ukraine was something I was told. But once I get settled into my training community, I'll have access to public phones. It’s possible to make collect calls to the US from local pay phones (MCI, Sprint, AT&T). Internet access is available in most communities.

Family and friends are not be able to mail packages to your attention for the duration of PST. Peace Corps/Ukraine cannot be responsible for property mailed to Trainees; delivery of boxes and packages sent will be declined! In the event of an emergency, they will accept letters mailed to my attention. After PST, once settled in my permanent work site, I will send out the mailing address where I'll will be able to receive regular mail and packages and communicate this to family and loved ones.

After the initial introductions, I'll have a briefing by our Administrative staff during which I'll receive my first installment of “walk-around” allowance. This is a small amount of cash in the local currency called “Hryvnya” (1 US$ = approximately 8.00 UAH), which will cover incidentals and personal hygiene items during the pre-service training period. After my bank account is open during the initial weeks of PST, I'll get a bank card and will be able to withdraw your “walk around” as well as “host family” allowances using ATM's.

So that may have been a little too much information, but at least you kind of get the idea of what life will be like until the middle of December. Can you tell I'm excited though?! Now, it's time to really focus on packing!

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