Sunday, July 02, 2006

Red White and Boom

Happy Independence Day everyone! I hope you are all enjoying some excellent fireworks and BBQ!

Someone was speaking to us at one of our technical training days and she told us about a very successful A12 who was getting ready to leave in July (we call this Close of Service or COSing). The A12 was interviewed and asked how she had been so successful-or what kind of mentality she had maintained. To this she replied: “I fought passionately to be busy”. Right now, as I am only a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) I have no problem staying busy. They run us from language training to Vanadzor for central day trainings six days a week. The days are long and challenging but I enjoy it because I thrive on a busy environment. The real fear, and I think I speak for all trainees, is what happens on August 15th when we are sworn in and sent on our merry ways. This coming Thursday each trainee will receive an envelope with his/her site assignment. This is a very important day, and for many a day when we need to seriously consider our futures. The envelope will answer questions that have been haunting us for months: where will I live? Who will I live with? Will I have gas/electricity/running water/an outhouse? Will I work in a school or be placed with a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) counterpart? Who is my counterpart? Is he/she nice? Will my village be small or big? The list goes on and on…especially for someone like me who doesn’t handle ambiguity too well.

Our first practicum went very well. It was Monday the 26th but we will be working the month of July on our follow up community development project. We held a focus group of 9 girls ages 7-18. This age range wasn’t ideal as our target demographic was teenagers but it worked out well because they were very open to answering our questions and participating in our PACA tool. PACA is Participatory Analysis for Community Action. There are four tools that the Peace Corps uses to evaluate community needs. Interestingly, these tools remind me a great deal of the concepts I studied in school. Although they would not translate well to American business, they serve as highly-effective information-gathering tools. We had the girls complete a daily activity schedule and then we gathered the information to discover what their needs/interests are and what they do in their free time. Dennis and I completed the practicum and felt like we had two very positive aspects working to our advantage: 1) the girls have a lot of free time, even the 18-year-old doesn’t do too much because they are all enjoying their summer rest from school. 2) They are very curious about Americans. Just based on that curiosity alone I do not anticipate any issues with attendance in our future classes. This week we brainstormed ideas about topics for our classes/exercises for the girls. We looked at what they wanted to learn about and decided to do a self-esteem workshop that would equip us with personal information we need to know to develop three 60 minute career development courses. Many girls wanted to talk about the future and we feel this is an excellent way to reinforce their potential. Dennis graduated with a degree in psychology so he will contribute information that he’s studied and I will research ways that we can teach the girls about finding work and preparing at the university. I’d like to provide them will an excuse/opportunity to seek mentor relationships from successful women in the village or have them do an informational interview on women who work in careers that they may like to pursue. Vardushik, for example, will go to Vanadzor to learn about nursing in the fall. I think it would be great for her to complete an informational interview on one of the nurses at our local polyclinic. We have a lot of work to do, however, as Dennis and I have never taught. We are learning in technical training about lesson plan and curriculum development and I’ve checked out several books from our resource center. I’m really looking forward to our self-esteem exercises when we can have the girls lift one another up. This is much more lasting than anything I’ll tell them and sustainability is my main goal. I’m 22 and I still remember being in the youth group with Sonny when we gave one another a ‘pat on the back’. Pat on the Back is simple to do; it just takes a piece of paper taped to the back of each participant. Everyone goes around and writes compliments about the person who’s wearing the paper. In fact, to this day I still pull out my paper and read the nice things people had to say about me.

Anyways, I digress. Lala is a wonderful cultural facilitator who has a passion for life and a passion for her country. Every time she presents she makes us realize how fortunate we are to be working here. She’s the kind of person like the father on My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the man who says that all words come from the Greek language. Lala would say: “It takes 76 grains to make hatz (bread), 66 of them originated in Armenia!” She’s great. The very first day of training she introduced herself and quoted Bob Dylan. This past week she introduced the brilliant rule to us. Everyone knows the Golden Rule but the brilliant rule says: “Treat another person the way he would like to be treated.” This is a great exercise to get into and something I will surely take from this experience and hold on to in the future. If we always practice the golden rule we are constantly treating people how we would like. If, however, I step back and don’t think of myself…I mean if I truly consider what the other person would want and then do it, I turn my concentration from me to they. This is what we need to do in our work.

One last thing: Lala often teaches us quotes, songs or poems from famous Armenian scholars. There is a famous Armenian saying that I want to share with you. It perfectly describes the way I feel for you at home; those whom I care so much about: “Call me on your days of happiness. On your days of sadness I’ll come myself.”


Anonymous said...

I think I have your blog schedule down now. I just got home from church and anticipated an blog update so first thing I did was pull it up and there you were:) It's very hot and humid here. I'm not certain Red, White and Boom will have good weather but we'll see. It sounds like your staying busy and I'll be praying for your site assignment which comes this week. Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

Hi SarBear!
We'll continue to keep you in our thoughts regarding a favorable assignment. I guess it's too much to ask for a potty and heat! But I understand you have a chocolate and p-nut butter stash. Keep up the good work. Love, Uncle Tom

Anonymous said...

I hear through the grapevine you're picking up Armenian well - congratulations that will make your work more productive. I also am excited to read about your project with the young people - you already know and have experienced that self-esteem for anyone comes from knowing that you've done your best and the people you are serving appreciate and benefit from your work. KWF Love Dad

tigran said...


I am teaching Becky Armenian, and hopefully when we see you next year, we can all converse in Armenian.


Anonymous said...

You just can't stay away from those nurses can you??


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I went to Red White & Boom for the first time ever this year, and it was fantastic! Lots of rain before and after, but it held off for the fireworks. Glad you are getting along well, and I LOVE that Armenian quote you ended with. :)
~Lara from FM

Anonymous said...

Dear Sarah-san,
Saul-san just brought over your wonderful handwritten letter. I could not wait to log on and show him what a blog is. Now we will be hooked for more exciting news about your adventures. We wish you well and send you positive energy and prayers for safety and success.
all of our love,
Gina and Saul