Sunday, June 29, 2008

Folks & Friends


Nome is a happening place. Well, maybe not as happening as other Alaskan cities, but much more than others. Last weekend, Nome celebrated summer solstice with its annual Mid Night Sun Folk Festival.

Mid Night Sun is not just one exciting day of activities, but encompasses 3 days of music, vendor fairs and raft races. Nomites and visitors alike enjoy a weekend of seeing old friends, making new friends and enjoying the talent of Nome. I was incredibly lucky as Meghan Mahoney took time from her lazy summer schedule (she's a teacher) and flew in to share in all the festivities.

We had a great time listening to Nome musicians, enjoying the vendor fair, and stuffing our faces with delicious yummies at the Folk Fest Bake Sale, which we were asked to organize.

This week, we are off to Juneau for the 4th of July!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bed Bugs Bite - Azerbaijan Style


Previously, I reported on a great option for travel sheets/ bag liners. After reviewing several peer created packing lists, checking out the weather in Azerbaijan, and learning that the Peace Corps provides a sleeping bag, I am revising my previous post.

Thus, I started searching for a travel sheet that would keep me toasty, packs small, weighs even less, and washes well and what did I find? Sea To Summit's Reactor Thermolite Liner.

This thing weighs 9 oz, packs into a 3 x 5 inch stuff sack, adds up to 15 degrees of toasty goodness, and it has a 4.5 star rating on REI's website and a 5 star rating with MooseJaw.

Heck ya for BPD, Bug Protection Devices.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Resources Resources


Looking for some Peace Corps Info? Check these out!

Peace Corps2 Yahoo Group: A yahoo group of over 4,500 people interested in the Peace Corps. A great online resource that can answer almost any PC-related question.

PCAzerbaijan Yahoo Group: Another yahoo group dedicated to all things Peace Corps Azerbaijani.

AzerbaiJane: A Peace Corps' teacher blog.

From the Land of Fire: An Azerbaijan Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer blog.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Aspirations

The Peace Corps requires each Invitee to answer several questions regarding one's aspirations for service. Here are my answers:

A. The professional attitudes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to fulfill, during your Peace Corps service.
My professional attitude encompasses humility, adaptation, competence, leadership and separation.
As a professional, I acknowledge the range of my abilities. I am dedicated to professional growth and welcome constructive criticism, critiques and advice. I practice adaptation, as every work environment is different. Adapting my professional self and actions to fit the criteria needed to achieve project goals, meet deadlines, and serve those around me results in producing the best work product possible.
I express competence in my field by using my educational background and my previous experience in youth development. I use my educational background to understand youth development theory. I use my past experiences with youth populations as youth in every community have unique needs. To meet those needs, past experience with youth populations is not only beneficial, but also essential.
Professionalism also incorporates leadership. In a previous graduate course, I read several leadership texts and attended leadership seminars, which assisted me in developing my leadership philosophy. In the class exercises, I identified important traits a leader must possess. In working with youth populations, it is imperative to view oneself as a leader.
As a leader, the group is my responsibility. Although, I identify with group members and value their input, I also understand my relationship with the youth is not to be the most popular member, but to assist the group in achieving goals. The demands of a leadership position are different and maintain professionalism is extremely vital to the success of a leader (and the group).
Additionally, a leader assists others in developing their leadership skills. As a professional in youth development, it is my goal to assist those around me in developing their professional attitude and develop the skills needed to become a leader in their own community.
Being a professional also involves separation. As a professional in youth development, I consider myself always “on the job” and act accordingly; however, I know it is important to maintain my health and energy outside the office. Furthermore, when working in a professional environment, it is inevitable stressful situations will occur. I strive to maintain a professional attitude and focus on keeping my professional relationships and views separate from my personal relationships. Although, I may disagree with another’s professional opinion, I will strive to maintain a friendship and positive relationship with that person outside the office. Separating my professional self from my personal self allows me to accept constructive criticism and critique graciously and focus on being a highly valued and contributing team player.
Thus, my aspirations for my service are to continue my professional development in youth services and young adult marketing. I hope to continue developing my skills in working with people from different cultural backgrounds, as that is the work environment in my home community. In addition, my service will supplement my graduate education, as I am a part of the Peace Corps Master’s International program. My service experience will earn me credits toward my graduate degree and will assist me in becoming a more capable and well-rounded master’s student.
Personally, I hope to learn a new language, experience a different culture and serve others. I am excited about sharing my experiences and culture as my Alaskan / American background is uniquely different than that of other Americans. The opportunity for cross-cultural communication, positive reinforcement of American peoples, and opportunity to experience a culture while immersed in it is very exciting and presents a rare challenge. I am proud to say I am ready to accept that challenge.
B. Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
In developing a working relationship with my host country partners, I plan to approach the relationship as a facilitator and provider. My beginning strategy will include developing a clear picture of our project and project goals, defining responsibilities and expectations, and developing a strategic plan. Additionally, it is important to focus on resources and positive community influences before identifying potential barriers.
As a facilitator, it is my responsibility to encourage, support, and assist in achieving outlined goals. A facilitator does not work to achieve their own successes, but instead focuses on the needs and wants of the community. My role as a facilitator will be to assist the community achieve its project goals.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, it is my responsibility to not only assist my host country partners in achieving project goals, but to make goals that without my presence would be impossible, possible. This may include teaching English, organizing youth groups, or painting a youth facility. My time and energy will be donated and therefore other funds and personnel will be available to complete other project goals.
In addition to these strategies, I hope to learn how to relate and effectively partner with my host country partners during my pre-service orientation. Learning from those around me is essential to understanding the cultural dynamics of partnership building.
C. Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
As a person with a multiracial background who was raised in an Alaskan indigenous community, developing strategies for maintaining my own personal identity while assimilating and adapting to other cultures is extremely important. My adaptation strategies currently include curiosity, investigation, exploration, evaluation, self-evaluation and reflection.
My curiosity stimulates my inquisitiveness resulting in my enjoyment of discussion and dialogue on a myriad of topics. I am a proponent of research and enjoy being well informed. I explore all available facets of a topic and often perform an evaluation through journaling and discussion to develop my own opinion. Once my opinion is developed, I continue to reflect and incorporate additional information, thus allowing the processes of information gathering to be dynamic.
In addition to these strategies, my parents taught me the value of maintaining an open mind and impartiality. My parents stressed the importance of acknowledging my upbringing and cultural background as a limiting factor in accepting other belief systems and value structures. These lessons allowed me to understand how my value system and belief structure are not default systems of analysis.
It is my goal to continue to develop to my adaptation strategies while serving in the Peace Corps by remembering the lessons of my parents and learning from others around me.
D. The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
During pre-service training, I hope to gain a more culturally accurate view of Azerbaijan peoples. Prior to beginning pre-service training, I have accumulated information from available resources, such as the internet and Peace Corps publications; however, this information may not accurately describe Azerbaijan culture and peoples. I hope to gain accurate information through pre-service training, contact with local people, and personal outings, prior to being placed in my service area.
I also hope to gain an understanding of culturally appropriate professional and personal behaviors, values, expectations and activities. It is my goal to become a resource in my service community and without understanding cultural personal and professional expectations, it will be difficult to accomplish this goal. Additionally, I hope to become proficient in the Azeri language, thus allowing me to communicate effectively with my service community and host partners.
Finally, I would like to spend pre-service training assimilating to my new home. I anticipate experiencing relocation anxiety, homesickness, and other emotions associated with life changes and hope to use the months of pre-service training adapting to my new environment and surroundings. This will assist in making my next transition into my service area easier and more fluid.
E. How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.
As my service in the Peace Corps is part of my University of Alaska Fairbanks MA in Rural Development degree, I believe this experience will enhance my educational knowledge base and assist me in becoming a diverse and informed student and community member. As the University of Alaska Fairbanks approaches Alaska issues in an American and Alaskan context, my experiences in the Peace Corps will assist me in identifying different approaches to rural development issues faced by small communities.
It is my intention to utilize my Peace Corps experiences, higher education degrees and professional expertise to continue youth development within western Alaska. Reference material on Azerbaijan indicates many similarities between Alaska and Azerbaijan youth populations and community involvement in youth development. The professional and personal experiences, knowledge, and skills I gain from working with Azerbaijan youth, community, and government organizations will assist me in continuing to develop and enhance Alaska’s youth services.
In addition to professional development, my service in the Peace Corps will assist me in developing additional tools in cultural adaptation and assimilation. As Alaska is culturally rich and diverse, learning from indigenous knowledge structures is of extreme value. It is imperative to develop adaptation and assimilation tools. Learning how to incorporate other culture’s knowledge, Alaskan indigenous knowledge, contemporary knowledge and my own cultural knowledge and background is extremely important to me. The Peace Corps will assist me in challenging and enhancing my own adaptation strategies, my own beliefs and will assist me in becoming a better person.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

That's My Jam


As I said before, I'm keeping busy.

Next week's adventure: guitar lessons.

As some of you may know, I have played the guitar off and on for years (more off than on). Over the next few months, I plan to get back into the strummin' action with private lessons (with Sarah H. owner of the Bearing Song).

I am pretty excited about getting back into the swing of things and cannot wait to wow you all with a private showing (via YouTube) - that is, as soon as I know how to play more than a couple scales and Tom Dooley.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yum Yums


Welcome to my new blog category: Löki Lovin': A Call to Action.

But what do I need? Recipes!

In the suggested packing list for Azerbaijan, the Peace Corps lists a small cookbook, but I have an even better idea - a compilation of all my family and friends' favorite recipes to bring with me so that whenever I make your favorite dish I get warm and fuzzy inside!

So, I am asking you to email me your favorite recipes! Don't worry, I will post them so you can see what I plan to eat for the next two years.

(Don't forget, I am lactose intolerant and Azerbaijan is alcohol intolerant)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Preparation Begins


99 days and counting...
Here is a checklist of upcoming activities:

1. Submit Visa & Passport paperwork to Peace Corps office;
2. Update resume & write "Aspirations" statement;
3. Order 3 months of all prescriptions. Schedule teeth cleaning;
4. Insure personal property;
5. Complete Power of Attorney & Living Will documents;
6. Start packing list & order necessary items (got to love internet shopping);
7. Arrange travel to orientation & visit family members;
8. Arrange absentee ballot (super important); and finally,
9. Enjoy my last American dirty martini!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Engage!


In my quest to get rid of extraneous possessions before my PC service begins, I decided to sell my truck. For those who don't know, my dad bought my truck.

He then shipped my truck to Nome.

It arrived Monday (hale and whole, if a bit dusty). My dad has sworn on his juggling pins that he will not exchange my vanity plates (they read Trekie) as I want those same plates to be available when I return to Alaska.

I was pretty excited when it arrived as my truck was full of things I had left in Anchorage: my orange apron, my orange Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer, the Joy of Cooking...

Thanks Northland Services for barging that bad boy (aptly named Enterprise) up here!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Worth Waiting For...

On September 21, 2008 my Peace Corps Azerbaijan adventure begins.

BBC News: Azerbaijan Country Profile

Lonely Planet: Azerbaijan

Wikipedia: Azerbaijan

Peace Corps Wiki: Azerbaijan

Friday, June 6, 2008

Reach Out & Touch Someone


Since Wednesday, I have been floating on cloud 9 and no wonder, I am about to embark on an incredible adventure that will surely be a life changing experience! In all my excitement, I forgot to check MyToolKit to see what new things were posted. I was elated to find a PDF entitled Staying In Touch: Peace Corps Family and Friends. This handy document explains how you (my family and friends) can contact me while I am serving and how you can make your eventual (yup, eventual) visit to my service site.

This document could not have come at a better time as Aggie had asked me how she was going to contact me while I was PCing. Using the wonders of my Google Account, I posted a copy of the document on my Google Docs' page. If you want it, click the link below!

Staying In Touch

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Where Are You Going?


Original Post Deleted

I KNOW, I KNOW!
Guess who just got a phone call? Guess who just heard the leave date September 20th? Guess who was just told they were going to be a Youth Development Facilitator for an NGO? Guess who was told their approximate area inbetween Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the Caucasus Mountains (funny huh Kristine)?

Guess who is so excited and wants to tell someone, but nobody is answering their phone: ME!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing


Soon...I hope...I will hear some news (any news), but until then, I am keeping busy. Today was a great day for a run and wonderfully enough, it was also the annual Stroke-N-Croak!

The Stroke-N-Croak is a fun mini-triathlon in which either teams or individuals participate for a chance to earn a wicked sweet tie-dye t-shirt.

I had the distinct pleasure of being the runner for the NPE Team (Nome Pool Employees represent you-all). My piece lasted approximately 39 minutes and involved a 4+ mile run (who knows the exact distance of the +). Although, I am a little sore now, I had a great time. I can't wait for the next fun run (Mid-Night Sun - June 21).