Apologies for the break in blogging – I went on a long-anticipated vacation to the Philippines to visit my middle school best friend Jessi, and then to China to see my family (seemingly every member!). I will share pictures from my travels here soon, but first I wanted to put up a series of long-overdue Q&A posts for the incoming Kaz-22 generation of PCVs (and the new PiA fellows…and whoever else is currently faced with the somewhat scary but exciting prospect of moving to KZ in the near future!).
Before I begin however, I must first share a true tragedy. In early June, I heard from the first new Kaz-22, destined to serve in the new generation of Kazakhstan volunteers by the Peace Corps powers-that-be. Her name was Mary, and she found my blog and read it seemingly from beginning to end. Over the next month, she emailed me with a variety of questions (as I invited all future volunteers to do), ranging from the easy-to-field “How much living allowance will we get?” to the harder “Are volunteers happy?” and many things in between. I referred her to the Kaz-22 Facebook Group, of which she was the first actual Kaz-22 member, and the Kaz-22 Google Group, so she could read the shared responses of all the current volunteers answering questions there now. I also asked her if I could post an edited Q&A of our e-mail exchanges to benefit other potential PCV readers, and she said of course.
Before I left to China, I got an email from Mary that floored me. She thanked me for answering all her questions and said she’d taken the liberty to send me some things off the care package wish list I’d posted on my blog. She said she looked at it as “giving back,” since in the karmic cycle of Peace Corps, she would soon be the one missing a taste of home. I was so touched by the gesture, which was both thoughtful and totally above and beyond the expected, as we had never even met.
But when I got back from China (where facebook, Google Groups and blogs are all blocked), I went online and saw a disturbing message on the Kaz-22 facebook group. It was about an accident in which a future PCV Kazakhstan was killed by a drunk driver. The first name popped out at me, and I clicked on the link with a feeling of disbelief: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/24152466/detail.html. The last email I received from her had been just a week and a half before.
These next few posts are dedicated to Mary. I got her package two days ago when I got back to site. It was perfect, and so incredibly kind. I am sending a letter and some Kazakh things to the return address for her family, but if they should read this first: from us PCVs in Kazakhstan, we are so incredibly sorry for your loss. And for ours – Mary would have been an amazing volunteer, and an honor to serve with.