Friday, May 13, 2016

Change in Venue! The Send off party is now at Nussbaumer park!

A last minute change!  The Send-Off party is now at Nussbaumer park from 6-8.  People will be there at 5:30 in case you show up early :)

Here is a map to the new venue.

Monday, May 9, 2016

It has been too long since we posted!  How time flies.  Well the good news is the Fairbanks/Northern Peace Corps Friends group will be having a Send Off Party for potential and known Peace Corps applicants.

Please join us Saturday May 14th from 5:30-8:30 at Pioneer Park!

April 7, 2016


Special Event:
Fairbanks Peace Corps Send-Off Party

Saturday, May 14
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Pioneer Park Pavilion
2300 Airport Way
Fairbanks, AK 99701

Calling all past, present, and future Peace Corps volunteers as well as family, friends, and inquiring minds, too. Join us as we share success-in-service stories, learn about volunteer experiences, and celebrate those preparing to depart for Peace Corps assignments overseas. This is a great opportunity to have your questions answered, and learn more about volunteer positions around the globe. This a potluck gathering and guests may, but are not required, to bring a dish to share.

To attend this free event, please RSVP by May 12 to Northern Alaska Peace Corps

Friday, February 27, 2015

A quick update

It has been too long since we wrote a new post, sorry about that.  This is just a quick update on the group and some events in Fairbanks.

Our first big event came this year with a visit (our second one in an academic year!) from Peace Corps recruiter Stephanie.  We are so lucky to have a recruiter visit not once but twice in such a short amount of time.  Stephanie was able to give a lot of classroom talks at UAF and she led a panel of RPCVs at the Wood Center in a talk about the Peace Corps.

March 1st through the 7th marks the celebration of the creation of Peace Corps and its 54th anniversary as an organization.  If you are an RPCV, this week is a great time to share your experiences with the Peace Corps in your community.
Some recommended activities are: school presentations, blog posts, panels, and informational talks.

In May the Northern Alaska Peace Corps Friends is planning a send off party for those in Fairbanks who are leaving for the Peace Corps.  If you know of anyone who is leaving for their service in the coming months please feel free to contact us so that we can send them an invitation to the send off party.

Words of Wisdom 4

Country: Korea, 1968-1971          
Words of Wisdom--Three quotes from Dr. Seuss: 

Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. Ninety-eight and three-
quarters percent guaranteed!  

Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act. 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas, New Years and then Old Christmas, Old New Year's

My name is Carolyn, I was a English education PCV from 2010-2013 in the Republic of Moldova.

When you are living abroad holidays take on new meaning.  Maybe you let them slide by without celebration or turn them into something big with as many other PCVs as you can find.  Or (if you're lucky) you get on board with local celebrations and traditions.  In Moldova you get a chance at all three.

Most Moldovans belong to the Russian Orthodox church, which continues to follow the Julian calendar for religious holidays.  The country of as a whole uses the "newer" Georgian calendar for the year, which is the one most people are familiar with.  So while the Georgian calendar puts Christmas as December 25th, the Julian calendar is saying "wait, wait, wait--Christmas is still 13 days away."

For PCVs this means 2 Christmas celebrations and 2 New Year's celebrations, a good mix of familiar traditions and newer Moldovan ones.  My friends and I would get together and watch sappy Christmas movies, eat too much food and exchange gifts.  We made a new little family and did some kitschy holiday crafts.  Then we would go back to our host families and prepare for another round of holiday traditions and too much food.

One of my favorite memories is of making Christmas cards for my friends, host family and co-workers.  For me, homemade Christmas cards are my traditional "getting ready for Christmas" activity.  My first year I decided to write some of the cards in Russian for my Russian speaking cohorts and I asked my host-mom for help. The first thing we established was that Americans said "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" while Moldovans have a universal "Happy New Year" because, guess what, that is the big holiday for them.

New year's day, January 1st, became the winter holiday under the Soviets.  It is the changing of the year, it isn't religious, and it was something that could be instituted around the USSR.  So people look forward to giving and receiving gifts on January 1st, while the Orthodox calendar took care of the religious holidays later in January.

Christmas for Moldovans is a very religious day.  I know that for many Americans it is just as religious but somehow in Moldova it seemed that the religious aspects of it were...clearer.  And the traditions of course, are very different.  Groups of children (usually boys) go door to door singing traditional songs (more like chants) while wearing masks.  You give them money and ceremonial bread (Kalatch) in return.

Old New Year (or Orthodox New Year) takes place on January 13th and follows a pretty similar pattern but you get the added bonus being blessed with a mixture of seeds throw at you for good luck.   One of the really fun things about Old New Year is that you are usually back in school, so the whole week is filled with seed throwing.  You don't clean the seeds up either, that would be bad luck.  So you walk around going "crunch" for a couple of days.

I enjoyed my two sets of holidays.  I had time with friends, time to travel, and time to be with my host family.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year....and С Рождеством , с новым годом!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A view of Ghana-part 2-Thanksgiving

This is a continuation of Peter's post on Ghana.  I hope you enjoy this view of Thanksgiving abroad.

After hearing about everyone's stories from site at our three month Reconnect-IST (In-Service Training), I decided that I have no reason to complain. I'm in a gorgeous area, I have internet access, and my classes are not too big (largest class is about 25). I struggled with classroom management early on, but for the last month, things have been going pretty well.
The week before Thanksgiving (Nov 12 - 16), I wanted to have a class test in my math and science classes, but unfortunately the Ghana bug got me and I had to stay home from school on Thursday (when I was planning on giving the science test and grading the math review homework) so that pushed my test back until Monday or Tuesday. On Monday I don't have any classes scheduled and enough teachers came that I couldn't sneak into a class and give my test, so I just planned on giving the test on Tuesday. But just before we closed on Monday, the headmaster of the primary school came up to tell us that our schools (EP Primary and JHS) got the honor of weeding (cutting the grass) the clinic which is about as far away from our schools as you can get in Bodada. Also he told us that we would go over there at 8:00am and that the students were supposed to get the day off of school after that. This honor was bestowed upon us by Chief Nana Abo IV, who is also the Ministry of Education supervisor for the circuit of Bodada, so there was no getting out of this work. My headmaster said that I could give the tests to Godwin (my counterpart and fellow math and science teacher) to administer on Wednesday, Godwin wasn't so keen on grading those tests for me. I wanted to leave for Thanksgiving dinner with the Ambassador in Accra on Wednesday, so something had to give. We agreed not to tell the students that they were supposed to get the day off of school after the weeding, and we would give the tests when the work was finished. This ended up working out fine, but it's just an example of the planning and emphasis on time and scheduling in Ghana. The results were encouraging, one student got 97% on the math test, and I think 80% was the best grade on the science test.
Thanksgiving in Accra was awesome. I stayed with a State Department employee who works at the Embassy, and it was so great to stay in his American style house with TV (I got to watch some NFL games!), air conditioning, running water, hot water, 2 fridges, a freezer, Doritos, cereal with milk, and hamburgers. I couldn't have asked for a better homestay in Accra.
Thanksgiving dinner itself was fun because I got to see almost everybody from training and I met over 50 other PCVs. And the food...two buffets full of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans (unfortunately it wasn’t green bean casserole with those "fried onions" on top), cheesy cauliflower bake, and salad (which I didn't have room for on my first trip because it was at the end). I had two full plates of food, and a little more turkey. It was great although I don't know if it was quite up to par with Ma’s cooking (mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green beans especially). Then they brought out the desserts: pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie. (Sadly there wasn’t any of Ma's apple crisp with ice cream). It was great and I nearly ate myself into a coma. But everyone else wanted to go out to a bar and party, so I tagged along. We went to an Irish pub in Osu, and I posted up at the bar and watched the Lions' game and didn't drink a drop (even if I had wanted to, there was no room in my stomach for anything).
Before I left Accra, I went to the main Peace Corps Office to pick up packages from my new favorite aunt and uncle (Cathy and Dave) and my always favorite mom (Ma). After a little searching in the mail room, I found both packages and did my best to downplay the contents to the horde of once-again-ravenous PCVs who call themselves my friends. "Oh just some food and stuff, probably nothing too good," I said, knowing full well that the boxes were full of goodies like candy, beef jerky, and processed cheese. Everyone seemed to understand and backed off once I said I was going to wait to open them until I was alone. Processed American food is worth its weight in gold among volunteers, so yeah, I wasn't about to open that up to the masses. While at the office we were told to get our flu shots (mandatory) and any immunizations we still needed (final Hep-A for me).

That's all for now; I’m back in Bodada. I hope you can tell that I'm doing pretty well here and that I'm settling in at site. After leaving the Buem area for the first time in ten weeks, I'm hooked on seeing more of Ghana, but while I’m here I know that I can always find peace in the mountains. Thanks for reading.

A view of Ghana

Note: My name is Peter Vanney, and I was an education Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana from

2012 – 2014. I lived in Bodada-Buem in the Volta Region, and I loved it. I’m currently getting

my MS degree in statistics from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

I can hardly believe that I'm six months into my service. Some days drag on, but overall the time flies by. Next week school is mostly just a formality, and all of the teachers will be recording grades while the students take their last final exams. Before I get into retelling some highlights of the last month, I want to write about what I did today.
During the week I read The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and I became inspired to lace up my hiking boots (not a nice Italian pair unfortunately) and climb a mountain. Since today is election day in Ghana I got the day off from school, and I had the perfect opportunity to climb my mountain. I wouldn't say that The Dharma Bums turned me into a Buddhist hipster, but it did reaffirm my thoughts about nature and peace. After reading The Dharma Bums I wanted to have that again, and I knew all I needed to do was climb one of the many mountains around Bodada.
I think I have more shoes than any other male Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana: Chacos (can't be a PCV without a pair of Chacos), running shoes (I thought I would be jogging more), boat shoes (my brown dress shoes), black Adidas (I can dress them up or down), soccer cleats (I thought I would be playing a lot more soccer), flip-flops (known as Charlie-waters or shower slippers here because you wear them while bathing), and last, and until today least, my hiking boots (they're just so versatile I couldn't leave them at home). I digress, but I think it's funny how many shoes I have, and I like to laugh at myself. Anyway, I had hiking boots just like Japhy and Smith, so at 8:30am I laced them up, picked a peak, put my water bottle and camera in a bag, and started my journey. After walking to my school, I realized that without a cutlass (machete for those of you who aren't privy to Ghanaian English) I was just going to have to follow the farm trails and hope I got to the top of a mountain. So I looked around again and spotted a small corn field almost at the top of a peak that wasn't too far away. I followed the main trail and turned onto a smaller trail when I thought it was time. Just 20-minutes after starting my journey, I was in that cornfield I had spied from the school, and I loved it. Looking around, all I could see was jungle, hills, and the occasional corn field. I took some pictures, but they really don't do it justice. Then I started back down the mountain knowing full-well that I wasn't finished with my morning adventure.
I got back on the main path (10 inches of packed and worn dirt, kind of like good single-track mountain bike trails) and continued away from town. I ran into the first Ghanaian I had seen since I started. Fridays are taboo days (no one is allowed to go to farm, something to do with local gods and resting, and you get fined if you're caught) so I hadn't expected to see anyone. I greeted the man in Lelemi, and he asked me where I was going. I shook my head and told him "Ni sa walk." which means "I'm going walk." He just laughed and asked me if I was going "back-back." I didn't really understand what he meant but said yes anyway, and we continued on our respective ways. He just chuckled to himself and said, "Obruni." I probably really surprised him. He probably hadn't expected to see anyone, let alone a white man who greeted him in the local language. Ghanaians don't really go for hikes, so he probably thought that was strange too. 
Shortly after that I started to walk through a cocoa farm, and decided to help myself to a cocoa pod. There were tons of ripe pods, and no one was going to miss one, but I felt kind of guilty anyway. I decided that I would ask around and figure out whose farm it was and befriend the owner. Fresh cocoa tastes nothing like chocolate, more like an intense pineapple/mango sweetness with the texture of snot, and I love it. I just needed a nice coconut to top it all off, but I made do with my stolen cocoa pod. I walked on, crossing a small stream (that Ghanaians probably call a river) a couple of times, and just enjoying the beauty and serenity of everything. I came to a fork in the path and decided to go up instead of following the stream, so I climbed to the top of another "mountain" and continued along the ridge. I came across a small pineapple farm, lots of peaceful looking bamboo groves, and eventually a palm wine and akpeteshie farm. I was really hoping someone was at the palm wine farm because a couple calabashes of sweet palm wine and a chat with a local farmer would have topped off my adventure perfectly. I called out “Agooo (which means “knocking”) but no one replied with “Ame;” the farm was empty.

I walked on a little further, and I was hoping to find a trail that would take me down to the road or some other trail that I could loop back on, but I had no such luck. Judging by the big ridge on the opposite side of the road, I guessed that I had hiked almost three miles from Bodada, but it was a very pleasant three miles, and I wasn't disappointed about having to follow my same path back to town. My only regret was that I had no one to share my experience with, and I got a little lonely before deciding to write about it in a blog post today and share it with the world. Bodada is truly a beautiful place, and everyone should come visit me here (fellow PCVs in Ghana and everyone back home with $2400 for the plane ticket and 2 weeks of anything you want to do).