When I got my final assignment in Toktagul Center one of the first things that I said to my new counterpart Ainora was I wanted to be a resource. More than anything I wanted to be able to open myself up to whatever opportunities presented themselves. I was going into an unknown situation wherein I would be following in the footsteps of past volunteers. In fact one of my counterparts is a 30-year teaching veteran who has had four or five previous volunteers. Of course at the time that I sat down with Ainora I did not know this particular fact. Not that it would have affected what I said six months ago but it did turn into a fortuitous set of circumstances.
I am coming up on six months in Toktagul and I can honestly say that I could not ask for a better situation than the one I have. Maybe I’m just in a reflective mood what with the year coming to an end, but I honestly believe that I could wait a month or two and write this same post in January or February if it came to it. It just feels like everything is starting to coalesce into something definable. Plans that weren’t even an itch in the back of my brain are a reality, becoming a reality, or looking like they might just become a reality in the near-ish future. Now all I have to do is stay committed to the process.
The Process being that thing that has to be done to take an idea from Thursday afternoon daydream to Monday morning on the weekly schedule, fact of life. Many a dream has died on the vine because it couldn’t survive the process, and that’s okay cause it just makes life easier further down the line. If the teachers, students, strangers, and leaders, who I work with in Toktagul, had said yes to all of my ideas when I first got to site I would currently be drowning in go-nowhere nothings. Bad ideas are bad ideas, but they aren’t necessarily bad per se. All the go-no-where’ notions I had over the summer gave me a better idea of how I could work within my site. Instead of trying to come up with the homerun pitch I started working on smaller more malleable projects.
During phase one of service training your Program Manager will ask you what sorts of projects you might or might not want to work on at your permanent site. Seven months ago I had a bunch of vague ideas swirling around in my head and not much else. I can remember walking out of training sessions trying desperately to think of a project that would last for the duration of my service, and coming up empty. I was going to be teaching English, doing an English club, and working with my counterpart on various teaching related seminars. How was I supposed to know what sort of project was going to fit with my other responsibilities, and would be something that students/area leaders would be interested in?
Looking back on it I’m actually pretty thankful that I’ve always been bad at planning for the near future. At my site this chronic weakness is actually a bit of a strength. When a random project or unexpected task comes up I just pivot my schedule instead of trying to work it from the other direction. After all these years me refusing to plan ahead is finally starting to pay off.
More to come…
 Fingers crossed.
 A “counterpart” is the main person you work with during your Peace Corps service. Volunteers may have more than one depending on need and resource availability.
 A Program Manager is basically a cheerleader and a drill sergeant all mixed together in one job title. They keep you on task while also helping you as you move through your service.