Since opening it’s program in the Kyrgyz Republic in 1993, two years after it gained it’s independence from the USSR, 647 Peace Corps volunteers have served there. Currently, there are 142 volunteers donating their time there. The Peace Corps, formed in 1961, has shipped more than 187,000 volunteers all over the world to promote a better understanding between Americans and the 139 different countries they have served.
Johnson is one of 224 Massachusetts residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and with every passing day, she realizes that life is vastly different within the former Soviet Bloc. But despite the frustrations of not knowing the language just yet, scorching heat, a stint of flu and strep throat, living in a home with no running water, and limited contact with the outside world, Johnson is loving her new life and the memories she’s making.
“Years from now, this experience will help define who I am and what I am capable of,” Johnson wrote. “And when I’m old and grey, I will call up my old Peace Corps friends and we will reminisce about...the beautiful mountainous country for two years we called home.”
Johnson earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and women’s studies from the University of Rhode Island in 2005 and decided to pursue her dream of serving in the Peace Corps. She departed on July 5 and the Kyrgyz Republic will be her home for 27 months.
After a “grueling” two-year application process that also included interviews and medical clearance, Johnson was finally awarded a spot in the program. Calling it a day she will never forget, she arrived home on a rainy day in March 2007 to find a package waiting for her at her doorstep. She tore into the paperboard and packing tape and read the words “Congratulations, you’re invited to serve the Peace Corps in the Kyrgyz Republic.” Johnson, the daughter of Mike and Denise Johnson of Haverhill, had no doubt that this was her destiny.
To get updates on Rebecca Johnson’s travels, check out her online blog at www.switzerlandofthestans.blogspot.com.