...and the fat lady sang...
Trip Start Jan 15, 2005
16Trip End Jun 01, 2005
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(The following is an expression of the sole opinions of the author, and do not reflect the opinions of the Unites States government, Peace Corps, or the Uzbekistan government.)
Due to events beyond my control, I will have to leave Uzbekistan on June 1st. This is the day my visa expires and the responsible parties in the Uzbek government have not responded to our renewal efforts. Therefore Peace Corps has begun the process for the departure of the 52 volunteers that remain of Uzbekistan 18. Peace Corps will not allow us to be here with expired visas because of safety concerns that could occur.
The visa issue has been a problem for us since we arrived and even before our arrival in January. I've written about the delay of going to my site in April, but this time it is different. Perhaps the recent events in Andijon have changed the attitudes of government here, but that is only my opinion and I don't know what is really going on. All I know for sure is that I must leave on Wednesday.
Just 2 days ago we received word that the government was not responding to our efforts to renew our visas, so the volunteers were instructed to come to Tashkent on May 27th, today. The staff at headquarters remained hopeful that a positive response would come in those 2 days, I also remained hopeful. I only told my host family and my counterpart about the situation and the possibility that I may leave and not return. I had to pack up all my stuff, close my bank account, and buy souvenirs; mentally preparing to leave but also remembering to remain positive and hopeful. As I talked with my family and counterpart about my departure and what I needed to do, I tried to always end the discussions with a smile and a "maybe I'll stay."
Everyday events happened, I went to work, talked to people on the streets, accepted invitations to guest at their homes, knowing in the back of my mind that I may never see them again. Everyday I walked to the phone station to call Peace Corps, "Any news?", I would ask with my heart in the throat. "No," they would say. Hope remained even when Friday rolled around; saying good-bye to my family, and in between the tears was words of hope. Is this really happening? I knew at the time, the reality of leaving my site, my family would not sink in until I was in Tashkent. I would have never expected this would happen when I accepted my invitation in October, and even 4 months ago when I arrived here. Now I'm faced with the reality of considering the options (both good and overwhelming) ... returning to America...my master's degree...transferring to another country...seeing my family again.
In Tashkent the volunteers gathered, we received the final word from the Country Director, he told us, "We are leaving." What? Say that again, please. My mind kicks into a new gear...now it has sunken in, the mental preparation can continue, and I can start to think about what is next for me.
I have some options to consider, though none are easy and clear cut. I can choose to go home and somehow finish my Master's Degree and I'm sure I could figure something out. Peace Corps would give me the statue, "interrupted service" and if I chose to do Peace Corps again, I would be given priority but the re-application could be as lengthy as the first time, and no guarantees from them. That does not sound like fun. Another option is to transfer to another country, either directly from Uzbekistan or first returning home to wait for my next assignment to start, depending on the placement. The other countries in the Europe/Mediterranean/Asia region have been extremely supportive and have spots available for volunteers to transfer to them. Transferring would mean starting over, another PST (3 month training), and completing a 24-month service. There are a lot of spots open for TEFL and Health volunteers, not so many for NGO development volunteers and none for those of us that call ourselves water-engineering volunteers. (I'm considered an NGO development/water engineering volunteer) So Peace Corps is looking for spots in other regions. Now that I've been in PC for a couple of months and have had time to think about what kind of work I can do in Peace Corps, I would like to peruse the water engineering side of my job description. Also, given the current situation, I feel entitled to be a little picky about where I would serve next. Maybe that's the wrong attitude, and perhaps that will change over time as this all sinks in. Ideally, I can picture myself returning home to wait for another assignment to begin later this summer, conceivably in Latin America/Caribbean or the Pacific Islands. I say this now but nothing is definite anymore.
There is still so much to find out, I just wanted to inform you of what's going on here. On Wednesday June 1st I leave Uzbekistan, and at this point, I don't know what the next step will be. Thank you for all your support, letters, and packages, while I've been here. You all helped me so much. I will keep you us to date.
P.S. Please don't send any more mail to the address I gave you. The letters that are on their way will be forwarded but the packages won't be. Please let me know if you have sent anything in the last 2 weeks. Thanks
P.S.S. I hope you are well.