8. The 10 Commandments of Peace Corps Ukraine

Friday, December 3, 2010

1 December

The 10 Commandments of Peace Corps Ukraine

Today is the first of December, and I think it’s safe to say that winter weather has arrived along with the new month. As I was walking to school, the air was freezing inside my nose as I breathed in, and on my walk home, I saw that half of the small lake near my house had frozen over during the day. I don’t know for sure, but I think it was around -10 Celsius today. What is that in Fahrenheit? I have no idea. But whatever number it was equates to temperatures cold enough to freeze my breath.

Also arriving with this new month is a host of new changes for me. If you thought my life had been turned upside down when I moved to Ukraine, guess again. That was only the preamble. Now is when life really gets crazy. A week and a half from now, I leave the house and the town I have come to call home over the past few months. I find out what new city I’ll be living in. I’ll meet my counter part (a local from my town who will show me around and support me as I work in their community). I’ll be in Kyiv for a few days sitting through meetings, being overloaded with more new information, receiving the standard issue space heater, and being sworn in as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer. Then I’ll be loaded onto a bus, car, or train and shuttled off (along with everything I brought to Ukraine, plus the 50 or so more pounds worth of stuff Peace Corps supplies you with upon arrival) to my new life. And that, my friends, is what it looks like to have your life picked up, shaken around a bit, and finally turned upside down. Welcome to the Peace Corps. ;)

One of the mantras that Peace Corps repeats over and over is “be flexible.” It is one thing that PC absolutely requires of you. You can be a million different things in the Peace Corps, and a million different people. This organization attracts all types as I’ve come to learn over the past few months. However, one absolute must is that you be flexible. Because deciding to join the Peace Corps may be the last decision you make for the following two years. You don’t decide what you eat, or if you should wear a hat—your Ukrainian Mama decides that for you. You don’t decide what language you will study, where you will live, or how many hours a week you’d like to work—Peace Corps does that.

I’ve been told to be flexible from the beginning—in my interview, during my nomination process, at orientation, and all through training. And even if I don’t love the degree to which I must be flexible, I am learning to make flexibility, among other things, a new pillar of my daily life. In addition to this, Peace Corps also asks you to be open, be patient, be understanding. But these are just a few of the commandments by which Volunteers are asked to live their lives. Yet there are MANY more. And so, I thought I’d share with you the 10 commandments of Peace Corps Ukraine. Keep in mind that this is all just fun and games. These are silly commandments I have come up with, and are in no way officially issued by Peace Corps Ukraine. If you have more doubts as to this being merely my ramblings and opinions and sillyness, see my disclaimer (link to be found at the top of this blog). J

The 10 Commandments of Peace Corps Ukraine:

  1. Peace Corps is your God. There are no other authorities besides it (excepting the governmental laws of the country you serve in. Even so, you should listen first and foremost to Peace Corps rules and regulations). You shall obey the Peace Corps, do what it tells you to do, and go where it tells you to go.
  2. You will serve the Peace Corps and your country 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your behavior is on constant display—you shall act accordingly.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Peace Corps in vain. You shall not utter evil words against the organization. You may not use the official Peace Corps logo on your blog, and you must post on your blog an official disclaimer.
  4. Remember the important days and holidays of your community. Keep them sacred and plan your projects around them.
  5. Honor the countrymen of the country in which you serve. They are your community and your family
  6. You shall not commit crimes. The Peace Corps will support you, but you do not have immunity. You are not a diplomat!
  7. You shall use protection if engaging in sexual activities. 1% of the population of Ukraine is infected with AIDS. Be safe. In addition, you may not have romantic relationships with Peace Corps host country staff. Peace Corps will gladly provide you with all the condoms you need.
  8. You shall not steal, bear false witness, or commit other bad deeds. You will most likely live in a small village and, “when you sneeze at one end of the village, the baushka at the other end hears it.” Everyone knows everyone’s business…so be good!
  9. You shall teach and learn more than you ever thought possible. You shall turn every instance into a teachable moment, for others and for yourself. No task shall be superfluous. However menial the task, you shall teach about it or learn from it.
  10. You shall live simply and as the people in your community do. You shall not covet your neighbors house, because theirs is defiantly no better than your own. You shall share all that you have, and live in community with the people you live and work with, including fellow teachers, other volunteers, neighbors, and friends. You shall live and love and laugh together because doing so turns hard lives into sweet friendships.

Oh Christianity, you thought you had supplied me with all the commandments I’d need. But no…you have been usurped by the US Government. Who would have thought? Anyways, while those aren’t real commandments, they certainly are the rules (some unofficial, other official PC rules) by which I and the 350ish other Volunteers in Ukraine live our lives.

I’m kind of laughing looking back and reading over this entry. Freezing cold weather, and being on display 24/7—totally makes you want to be a PCV in Ukraine right?! Haha. Just another example of the intensity of the life I lead. And the extremely paradoxical world of hardship and inspiration that I live in.

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