Monday, December 19, 2011

Life In The 'Baijan: A Year in Review

This year was supposed to be my biggest yet, not to be outdone by anything before it. For the rest of my life, it was to stand out as one of the best. I was on the journey of a lifetime, living out my dream, going where no one (literally) had gone before. Yet after everything that has happened in our world this year, my own adventure doesn’t seem so significant anymore. From royalty and retribution to toppled despots and empowered masses. We’ve seen wars ended and icons lost. We’ve wrestled with fiscal uncertainty and privacy, as well as with the power of Mother Nature. It’s been a year like no other! It will certainly be remembered, but not in the way I, nor anyone else for that mattered, had envisioned it.
Looking over all of it made me feel so small, so inconsequential. Admittedly, this stung a little bit. I guess I figured my service would be headline news!
However, when I actually sit back and try to recap 2011, other than making my head spin, I realize that I never did expect this to be a big deal to anyone but myself. The fact that it wasn’t is exactly how it should be. Sure, we PCVs try to do as much good as possible while we’re here, but in a strange place with limited funding, how much can we actually accomplish? The truth is, more than changing the world, the Peace Corps changes us.
Reviewing the year that was, I begin to appreciate what I’ve done, just as much as everything else that has happened in our crazy world! It’s not these great events of 2011 that impress me most; it’s the little things that remind me why I’m here, that remind me that we’re all in this together.

MY highlights for 2011:

One of the highlights of my service has actually been my family and friends back home. I have a support group at home larger and kinder than I ever knew. My family and friends have sent me packages and written me letters. They have sung to me over the internet, called me on my birthday, donated to my projects, visited me, and continued to include me in their wonderful lives. To those of you reading this, you know who you are. I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

Not including Azerbaijan, I have travelled to three new countries. I have made so many new, lifelong friends.
I have seen many of my students blossom into wonderful young adults. And I have seen parents so in awe of their child’s ability and passion that they ignore cultural norms and accept change, encouraging their children to strive for things they themselves never could have imagined.
I’ve seen my little brother, albeit through Skype video, transform into a great man (although don’t tell him I said that or his head will grow bigger than it already is). I even saw my parents sell my childhood home.

The changes have be too many to count, but as I settle in and prepare for my final 11 months of service, I am grateful for what was and excited for what will be.


  1. Congratulations on your first year of service. You may never know the impact you have on the lives of others....but they will remember you long after you leave. You have made a difference in many of their lives and they will also be changed by you...even if all they ever learned was how to play softball!!!

  2. You're right Jake, I am a pretty great guy. And I'm also still upset about the selling of the house but I think I'll make it through. I'm just really sad I never got to say goodbye to Walker and Texas Ranger...TR for short.

    You've done wonderful things for the children of Balakan. These things might not be headline news around the world but they are for your whole community, especially the kids. They will forever remember you as that short, white, red-head, American guy who was bad at sports but that also showed them that they have the whole world in front of them and that they really do have the ability to do whatever they want.

    Per aspera ad astra!

    Lots of Love,


    This wasn't spell checked because it is too early in the morning...don't judge.