Know My Velocity

My Peace Corps Experience in Ukraine

  • My name is Casey and I'm going to Ukraine with the Peace Corps to help develop non-governmental organizations. This is my adventure, and I'd like you to know my velocity.
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And we have invite.

Posted by defyphysics on January 3, 2011

So last Thursday, four days ago, I got the invite in the mail.  Up to that point I only had a vague notion of where I might end up.  I had a nomination to Eastern Europe, of which could change upon getting an invitation.  I opened the massive invitation package to find out where 27 months of my life will be spent outside the United States.  It happened to be the Ukraine.  I’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t have expectations” in the Peace Corps about 20 times already, but I’m beginning to believe my nature requires me to build expectations.  I also have a firm and rigid expectation that those expectations will be blown to smithereens by reality, for better or for worse.  So I had all these expectations of what Peace Corps would be, but for some reason Ukraine was not one of them.

Admittedly, almost all my knowledge of Ukraine and Ukrainians come from horrible Hollywood stereotypes of angry Russians from when the cold war was still warm.  Ukraine was also one of the few countries I haven’t gotten to know somebody from at work.  At work, many of my preconceptions of a country’s people were blown away by meeting and getting to know them.  From this, I have learned to never expect people to be a certain way.  It’s another case of expecting your expectations to be way off.  This is indeed the case with Ukraine and I’m still months away from even setting foot in the country.  After doing some research I’ve found Ukraine to be a beautiful country chock full of history, beautiful architecture, a rich heritage and splendid hospitality.  I went from being a bit indifferent to Ukraine to being extremely excited to visit, work and get to know the people there.  I’m pretty excited to learn the language; it sounds absolutely stunning.  It won’t be easy, but it will be thrilling and challenging to learn a new language with characters that look more like shapes than sounds made by mouths.  I can’t wait until those shapes turn into sounds coming from my mouth as I read the language.  I know, easier said than done right?

I’m also filled to the brim with excitement about my Peace Corps job, which is community development.  Basically I’ll be doing all the things I learned and did in my Masters program, except in real life with real organizations that may or may not have heard of the tools and methods I have learned and “mastered”.  What will also be interesting is to observe their methods of operating an NGO, and learn things I never learned in school, and may have never learned in the states.  They say its always good to have people look at a problem with different world views, but I think I can bring to the table a “halfway around the world view”, and learn to view the world from their perspective, even if its just the NGO administrative world view.  But oh yeah, no expectations, right. One can hope though!

My departure date for staging in the states is March 21, and my pre-service training in Ukraine starts March 23rd.  The date is both too far and too soon for me at the moment.  So much needs to be done, and I dread saying goodbye to my family, friends and creature comforts, but I know I’ll be embarking on my greatest adventure to date, hopefully make a small difference in a faraway land, and take on a massive challenge I hope to handle with grace, intuition and fortitude.



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