These were travel days to the HIV Training in Cholpon Ata. The first day was travel by taxi from Talas to Bishkek. The second day was travel by PC-supplied charter bus from PC Office - Cholpon Ata. One thing to note was that for Talas volunteers it was impossible to travel to Bishkek on the same day as traveling to Cholpon Ata due to the winter road conditions being too unstable to guarantee our arrival on time.
On the PC Charter Bus I took advantage of my Russian tutor being present. We sat together and did a 3-hour lesson consisting of vocabulary drills and verb conjugations.
These are the HIV Training dates. The information about HIV/AIDS and prevention were mostly things that I had already been familiar with. What was brilliant about this training as a TOT is that we were not just told information and by nature of receiving that information expected to know what to do with it. Rather, the trainers consisted of personal stories from the trainers (all PCVs) about how they would train different type/ages of people in different environments. Also demonstrated how there are different activities that are appropriate for different topics and different audiences.
It should be noted that I recognize this as the highest-quality training I have received in PC and the curious part of this observation is that there was no local or PC-staff involvement in the daily trainings. I have said since the beginning how important I thought it was to hear directly from PCVs telling us their story, experiences and lessons learned that locals and staff can not possibly convey to us. This aspect was strong in this training and the result, I feel, was superb. I also continued to take advantage of the presence of my Russian tutor during this week and had lessons with her every night after the trainings. I also feel quite proud that for this whole training I did not interact with a single volunteer outside of the sessions. I ate with local people and in the evenings I only spent time with local people. It was a breath of fresh air.
On Friday I went to Karakol in the far east of Kyrgyzstan to visit fellow PCVs. Within 2 hours of being in town I observed a training of teachers led by Catie Scott. After this I was asked to speak at the Leadership Organization. Leadership is a group of 20 (or so) 14-20 year old students that are interested in being community leaders and volunteering their time. I was asked to speak about the Peace Corps and my story of volunteerism. I drew a timeline of my volunteering life, starting in community theater when I was 14 and coming all the way up to my Peace Corps service. I described how each experience led to the next opportunity, job opportunities, education, travel and how I expect all of this will impact my future opportunities. These were the smartest and most engaged group of students I have either met or even heard of in Kyrgyzstan. From my understanding (but limited interactions with) students in Talas it seems like students in Kyrgyzstan are “lost causes.” Karakol proved this was not the case. On Saturday and Sunday I spent my time exploring the city and meeting PCVs in Karakol. I also did 2 hours of language tutoring with the Russian tutor of Bob Scott. On Monday I met with Mark Iozzi to learn about micro finance and business finance in Kyrgyzstan. This was very informative and what I learned is that 9 out of 10 times micro-credit is a horrible idea (with the exceptions usually being within agricultural projects). He also gave some presentations and information regarding the topic and spent 1.5 hours going through it all in a quick training.
On Tuesday I departed early from Karakol and went to Bishkek. When I came to Bishkek I attended the meeting for the Rotary Club of Bishkek. The guest speaker was the President of Andash Gold and Copper Mine in Talas Oblast. I also met 3 Rotary Youth Exchange Students from the USA that are now studying in Bishkek.
On Wednesday I met briefly with Seth regarding the ongoing (and unrealized) idea of a radio drama. At this meeting he mentioned having recently seen the movie, “Bishkek I Love You,” and that he had personally met the director of the film.
After the meeting with Seth I had a lunch meeting with the international advisor for Radiomost, Bettina Ruigies. At this meeting she described for me what the seminar later in the week would be about (called Development of Community Media in Kyrgyzstan). She informed me this was a technical training about how to conduct interviews and how to create programs from raw audio.
Bettina had the idea that on Friday night we would go see a movie as a group and then take interviews from other moviegoers about their impressions of the film. She suggested seeing Twilight or something in 3D. I countered by stating I had just heard there is a really great local film and if we saw this film I might be able to get the director to meet us and take part in the interviews.
Long story short, we did see Bishkek I Love You and the director, producer and one actress joined us for dinner after the film and did interviews for about one hour. It was a great success.
The rest of the seminar was very interesting and educational. All participants received brand new Dell Laptops, software, studio headphones and professional recording devices. We also visited the National History Museum and National Art Gallery to interact with the public and to take interviews for radio programs.
At the end of the seminar, among other outcomes, it was decided that I would redesign the RadioMost website. This is a project I have been pushing for since this summer, but just now got the green light for.
Thursday evening I also visited with the Rotaract Club of Bishkek (hosted at AUCA). The meeting was canceled due to Thanksgiving but I still met the club officers for dinner.
I returned to Talas.
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