Archive for November 2, 2009

Peace Corps Volunteers Oath and other matters

The following is what I heard 64 Peace Corps volunteers say in their swearing in ceremony on Saturday morning this past weekend.  Serious and yet exciting to see determined, young people make such a long term commitment in this great land of Kazakhstan.

I,____________(name) do solemly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely. And without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. And that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps, so help me God.

The Honorable Richard Hoagland spoke about his own adventures as a volunteer in the 1960s in Africa in a very remote and isolated area.  He recalled how a diplomat from the American government came out to where he lived to meet with him.  He asked the diplomat what he did as a diplomat, he didn’t get a very straight answer.  In fact, Hoagland told the older gentleman that some day he would like to be a diplomat himself and now he has been an ambassador in three different locations, Astana Kazakhstan being his third assignment.  Hoagland later found out WHY the diplomat had taken all the time and effort to find him in an out of the way place where he was living.  Months later he learned that there was to be a revolution in his area and the diplomat wanted to make sure the young and yet to be Ambassador Hoagland was okay.

This ceremony reminded me of when, back in the summer of 1993, we had the FIRST swearing-in ceremony for the 30 plus Peace Corps volunteers that I was a TEFL trainer for.  I was overseeing their technical training before they were sent out to teach English in different directions of Kazakhstan. 

I remembered how I had dined with my husband at the American ambassador Bill Courtney’s place several times on social occasions when the American embassy was in Almaty and not Astana as it is now.  I asked Ambassador Hoagland if he was in contact with Bill Courtney and told him about what I was doing in Almaty and what my husband was up to.

I met others and congratulated and took photos of the three new PCVs that I have gotten to know. I wish them all well: Noelle in Mambet, Anna Rodgers in Samankol and Denise Nyffeler in Shakhtinsk.  What they do as Americans representing their country in the hinterlands of Kazakhstan is a bit different than what I do as a EFL teacher in a westernized university in Almaty.  They will have to be paid at the local level of living. They will continue to learn the language of either Russian or Kazakh to form bonds and friendships with their fellow teachers and students.  They will find out how to be a diplomat in a country not their own.  They will be in villages that have little to no resources, perhaps even an apathy towards education.

I, on the other hand, am here in an academic environment that has its own culture. We have on our campus all the bells and whistles that you would expect to find in a western university, with computers, projectors and the latest in electronic databases. Every university in the U.S. has this and it is assumed to be used. 

“Computers will not replace teachers, but teachers who use computers will replace teachers who don’t.”

In the U.S. and elsewhere, we have tenure and promotion based on how much writing is published and also based on student evaluations.  However, as I wrote in my blog the other day, we have more and more of the Kazakh culture taking over the academic culture where it will not look much different from the other state universities here in Almaty.  Just a matter of time…

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