So what is an NGO Advisor with the Peace Corps? First off, an NGO is a non-governmental organization. Volunteers focus on increasing NGO capacity and sustainability; creating strategic and funding plans; raising public awareness; and conducting community outreach. They are also involved with recruiting; supporting trainings; motivating volunteers; developing mission statements and other agency documents; working with boards; mentoring and building the skills of staff; and increasing the quality and effectiveness of the NGO service.
I won’t know what organization I’ll be working with until I get in country. I also don’t know where within the Kyrgyz Republic I’ll be living just yet. Heck at this point I don’t even know what language I’ll have to learn.
Over the past week I read through several blogs of previous volunteers serving in Kyrgyzstan. This helped ease some of my concerns and also freaked me out a bit. I knew when I signed up that I could end up in a very remote area; that access to electricity and running water was most likely not an option; and Internet access would be very limited. Here are some things I’m looking forward to and some I’m a little nervous about:
- Beauty – the pictures I have seen show a country that is stunningly beautiful with mountains that are simply incredible. Many PCVs spend down time hiking which I’m totally looking forward to (though I need to get my butt in gear and get in shape!)
- Personal hygiene – with no access to a shower, personal hygiene is not a priority and that concerns me just a bit. I don’t want to smell bad or have an itchy head
- Culture – being immersed in a new culture for 27 months is very exciting to me
- Food – being a vegetarian in a mostly meat based society makes me nervous. I know how to handle it in the US but I don’t want to offend my host by refusing to eat. And vegetables are almost non-existent in the winter.
- Pace – the pace of life there (and in most other countries) is much slower and this is very appealing to me after a long Type A career (and life!)
- Language – quite frankly the language scares me. And typically 5-6 people are chosen to learn Russian so I don’t even know if I should start trying to learn Kyrgyz or not or just wait
- Chai tea – according to the blogs I read a lot of chai tea is drunk in the country which is awesome cause it’s my favorite tea
- Winter – it will be cold and I don’t do cold. I tend to hibernate in the winter. I just keep telling myself ‘layers’
- Internet – there will be limited internet access and I see this as both a positive and negative
- Packing – I’m the queen of packing lite for trips and have it down to a science, but packing for two years in two bags with a maximum weight of 50lbs each? And that includes hiking boots, winter clothes and anything else I need to survive over 2 years? I’m already stressing
All in all I know the positives will outweigh the negatives in the end. My fears are normal for anyone who is leaving everything behind and moving to a foreign country. And none of these ‘fears’ or concerns are going to keep me from living my dream.