Category Archives: Close of service

Close of Service, or COS, refers to the last three months of Peace Corps service.

A description of a service

Below is a copy of my Description of Service, or DOS. Every Peace Corps volunteer files a DOS at the end of service, whether it be an early termination or the conventional COS. This document remains with Peace Corps as it kept as the official record of my Peace Corps experience.

But it doesn’t express what my experience has meant to me and only concerns my experiences in the Peace Corps related to my project goals. So a lot of my actual experience—good or bad—won’t be found here. Note that the odd, third-person language is just the DOS is filed.

Description of Peace Corps Volunteer Service

Scott Allan Wallick — Nepal/194

After completing a competitive application processes stressing applicant skills, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, Mr. Scott Allan Wallick was invited into Peace Corps service. He was assigned for his first year of service to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at the primary level and for the second year to work as an English Language Teacher Trainer (ELTT) with primary-level English teachers.

Wallick entered Peace Corps’ pre-service training (PST) on February 23, 2002, participating in an intensive, 11-week program in Nawalparasi district, Nepal. Language training included 135 hours of Nepali (speaking, reading, writing) and 12 hours of spoken Hindi. Technical training included 110 hours of methodology, educational systems, and other large-class, low/no-cost materials strategies. As a part of technical training, Wallick completed 6 days of practice teaching two 4th and 5th grade English classes.

In addition to language and technical training, Wallick also completed 30 hours of health and medical training focusing on self-diagnosis and self-medication, 30 hours of cross-cultural and community activities, including English and math tutoring, and 17 hours of safety and security training, focusing on historical and current implications of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency.

Wallick successfully completed training and was sworn-in as a Peace Corps volunteer on May 8, 2002. For his first year of service, he was assigned to Sri Sundarmal Ramkumarji Kanya MV (secondary school) in Birganj, Parsa district, Nepal, where he was one of 22 faculty members. The girls’ school, with an enrollment of over 450 students, offered eleven grades of study. Wallick was assigned to His Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) Ministry of Education and reported directly to the school’s headsir, Hari Krishnore Misra.

Wallick was responsible for the HMG’s mandated English curriculum for the 4th and 5th grades, teaching 12 hours per week for 9 months (over 300 hours of instruction), a full school year. For his first year, Wallick’s primary responsibilities included curriculum development, lesson planning, constructing and administering exams, monitoring and evaluating students, and preparing the students’ end-term grades. Wallick shared all faculty responsibilities and also taught a computer literacy class to the faculty for 2 hours per week for three weeks.

For Wallick’s second year of Peace Corps service, he was assigned to the District Education Office of Parsa district, located in Birganj, where he reported directly to the District Education Officer, Yogendra Bahadur Basnet. Wallick was responsible for holding bi-monthly teacher trainings for a cluster of schools comprising 26 primary-level English teachers. Prior to the beginning of this second year project, Wallick worked with 11 other N/194 ELTTs to create the program’s curriculum, including structures, functions, educational topics, and monitoring and evaluation tools.

During his second year, Wallick instructed 26 teachers during 30 hours of formal sessions and provided over 200 hours of on-site assistance to the teachers individually at their schools. His major responsibilities during this program were to monitor and evaluate the progress of the teachers as well as the ELTT program (Peace Corps/Nepal’s first), design sessions based on the ELTT curriculum, provide specific support and generate motivation to the teachers, assist the teachers with classroom management, and provide and model EFL methodology.

In addition to his primary first- and second-year responsibilities, Wallick also organized and facilitated two teacher trainings at other Peace Corps volunteers’ sites. He created the curriculum for a seven-day teacher training (21 hours of instruction) in far-western Nepalgunj. The training was designed for non-teachers, as the school was also an orphanage and the teachers were volunteers.

He designed and co-executed a four-day, two module teacher training in Dharan, located in the mid-hills of eastern Nepal. The first two days (7 hours) were a general training for the school’s faculty (eight teachers and a headsir), focused on developing student/teacher relationships and expectations and establishing rules and consequences. The other two days (7 hours) were for a cluster of 14 primary-level English teachers and focused on effectiveness methods for teaching English speaking, reading, and writing skills.

At the request of Peace Corps/Nepal’s training office, Wallick assisted during two other PSTs (N/196 and N/198), instructing Peace Corps trainees (PCT) on Nepali educational systems, teaching strategies, and classroom management, for 22 hours, including example teaching four 4th and 5th grade classes for PCTs’ observation. He also mentored two PCTs during their practice teaching, providing pre- and in-class support for over 6 hours to each individual.

On two other occasions, Wallick was asked by the training office to assist during in-service trainings (IST). He facilitated a 3-hour session on classroom management during the N/194 IST. He also facilitated 6 hours of sessions during the N/196 IST, including a review of the ELTT curriculum and second-year planning for their second year.

Peace Corps/Nepal’s training office also asked Wallick on two occasions to locate and analyze potential sites for volunteer work placement. Wallick selected two schools after conducting interviews with the faculties and analyzing the schools’ data. Two volunteers were later placed in both schools and completed their first year assignments successfully and with positive experiences.

Wallick planned and organized various secondary projects while full-filling his primary project goals. He planned two children’s day camps at schools for disadvantaged communities during the 2002 and 2003 International Children’s Days. During his first year at Sri Sundarmal Ramkumarji Kanya MV, he created and mentored a girls’ club for three months, which meet weekly for 2 hours.

He provided logistical and technical support to two other PCVs for a daylong HIV/AIDS awareness rally in Jhapa district, far-eastern Nepal. Wallick also was responsible for communicating information between the office and 22 volunteers as a regional warden. As warden, Wallick received over 5 hours of training in emergency preparedness and “what if” scenarios concerning the safety and possible evacuation of those 22 volunteers from the country.

At the completion of his service, a certified Foreign Service Institute examiner tested Mr. Scott Allan Wallick and he scored an ‘advanced’ in spoken Nepali.

Pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act 22 USC. 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his Peace Corps Volunteer Service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of Government service. That service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary trial period of any service requirement for career appointment.

This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order 11103 of April 10, 1963, that Mr. Scott Allan Wallick served successfully as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His service ended on April 7, 2004. He is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order extends for a period of one year after termination of Volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities which, in the view of the appointing agency, warrants extension of the period.

Last words from Birganj

It’s early still, but the warmth of my bedroom wakes me not long after the sun has risen. I roll out of bed, walk over to the kitchen, and begin making coffee. I turn on my shortwave to the BBC and listen as I pour my coffee, stopping to rub the sleep out of my eyes.

As I sip, I look through my window to the wreckage of the abandoned dry port of Nepal. I can hear someone singing in a temple through a loudspeaker. The sites and the sounds make this place beautiful.

This is my last day in Birganj.

Moments later, I’m at Himanchal Cabin, looking over the Kathmandu Post and Himalayan Times with yet another cup of coffee and eggs and toast on the way.

With the kids working here, I joke and answer questions about the photos in the papers. They know me and sit at my table when they have downtime. I have known many of them for more than a year, a few for more than two.

After breakfast, I walk across Maisthan past the newspaper man who waves to me from his shop. I wave back.

Further down the block, there is a man who sits on his patio with a radio held to his ear. I have seen him nearly everyday since I coming to Birganj. His hair is now shoulder length.

I have never met him or spoke to him, but every time we see one another we mouth, Namaste.

I turn west for one block, and then south one more block to the Internet cafe. As soon as I walk in, the young computer nerd turns on a computer and I wait for it to boot.

After a moment, I log on and read my emails. The keyboard totters and bangs loudly on the uneven desk as I type. I send a few emails and then sign-off. I’m there for just 15, 20 minutes.

Outside, I jump on a rickshaw and head back north past Maisthan, the clock tower, and my neighborhood, Ranighat, towards the water tank area, Murli Gardens, my previous neighborhood.

I get off in front of my first flat and immediately notice that nothing looks different, except that someone else’s laundry hangs from my balcony. This is me. I am coming, I am going.

Rajesh and his family make lunch, Nepali daal bhat, and we sit together, eating lunch and drinking whiskey, perhaps a bit early. This is a goodbye I knew would be hard. I have a little whiskey and realize all those misunderstandings were my misunderstanding.

A flood of memories pours over me, and I feel shame thinking of their patience and friendliness towards me. All I do, though, is compliment the food and ask for another drink, smiling.

Two hours are gone and, as I walk back towards the main road, I stop at Mira’s for tea and a scolding. It has been nearly a week since my last visit, a period of absence that they find entirely unacceptable, and I smile as they hassle me. Still smiling, I ask for a biscuit with my tea. They tell me not to leave. They say I will forget them.

Mira, who gave me bhai tikka, I won’t forget you.

I know that in small ways, I will remember them, but I will probably never see them again.

They opened their home to me. I feel that my friendship and occasional gifts were completely inadequate, so I almost wish they would hassle me more. They don’t. They just give me more tea.

After I finish prolonged goodbyes, I walk to Ashish’s. He lives where a British VSO once lived. She was a friend and showed me much of Birganj.

Now Ashish lives in her flat. I think about my flat and the Australian who lived there before me. I wonder if this cyclical nature of volunteers coming, working, and leaving is good. We fly in, from far away places, try our best to improve things, and then leave just as suddenly as we came. Again and again.

There are already several volunteers from out of town at Ashish’s for the big farewell party. Oh, and St. Patrick’s Day.

There’s green Carlsberg beer ready and water buffalo meat cooking. Just after dark, the music gets louder and the dancing begins. This has happened so many times that I can’t help but be sad to know that this, again, is a last.

Before it’s too late, I walk alone back to my flat. The streets are empty and the houses are dark. I notice (as I always have) how the fluorescent lights hanging as along the way eerily illuminate the crumbling streets and gloomy homes.

It’s beautiful. I walk across the abandoned dry port, past a building that was bombed by Maoists, arrive in Ranighat and finally home.

As soon as I walk in, I notice my packed bag sitting in the kitchen, waiting for tomorrow’s departure. I can’t sleep, so I go to the roof to look over sleeping Ranighat.

I can’t look in any direction without remembering encounters with people, street food I ate, places I went and others I didn’t, the houses of kids I knew. They will not see me again, and soon I won’t remember many of them.

The next morning, I get in a jeep headed to the airport. After a few moments, we are outside of Birganj and passing through places like Parwanipur, Jitpur, and finally Simra.

This may or may not have happened.

I may not see the clock tower and think, This is a last. I may not notice the Bollywood movie posters that used to catch my eye.

This part of my life is over (or rather ending very soon), and I will never live again in this city full of contradictions—and that makes me sad. Very.

But a new chapter in my life is opening, and I’m turning the page, anxious for a new beginning.

Closing ceremonies

I was in Birtamod just after the Thanksgiving trip to Kolkata. I was having lunch with two guys from the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC. They were security.

On guy told me that he had been doing, well, military intelligence in Somalia for a several years before retiring and coming to work for the Peace Corps. He told me that when Peace Corps has had to evacuate its volunteers from a country, it’s usually because of families calling the office. Or a senator.

The other guy had done similar work for the armed forces, but some time ago and in Vietnam. We asked him to talk more about what he did.

Counter intelligence, he said as if that was a complete explanation.

I wondered if he was joking, So you spent a lot of time behind a counter, eh?

No laugh.

It was convenient that they had come, because after their night in Birtamod, they were heading west and north to Dharan, where I was to give a teacher training to a government school faculty.

Jen talks with Sunil, her counterpart at the Dharan nagar palika.

Jen talks with Sunil, her counterpart at the Dharan nagar palika.

I was helping out another volunteer from my group, Jen, who was working in youth development but found time to teach English classes at this school and who wanted some help developing the skills of its teachers.

(The teachers in Birganj had clearly expressed their disinterest in what I had to offer, or at least doing those things, so I thought a change of venue might be good; though I was worried.)

I thought, If this training sucks and if the teachers fall asleep of if another student vomits while I’m teaching, then I have to start being critical—maybe it’s me.

I was going to use this training to evaluate myself for better or worse. It was the placebo.

When the Washington folks dropped me in Dharan, I quickly found out that the lovely ANNISU-R had called a bandha for three days—exactly when I had scheduled my training.

A view from the north hills across Dharan.

A view from the north hills across Dharan.

When I met with Jen later that day, we immediately walked over to the school to see what we could do. The headsir told us that he was planning on asking students to come to class on Saturday so they could finish their exams, and meant there wouldn’t be time left for the training.

So we rescheduled. I left the day before the bandha and got to Birganj safely. I sat around my flat for those three days with not much to do, wondering exactly when I’d be working again.

Fast forward a month later. Our yearly All-Vol conference had just finished in the middle of January, and I’d been asked by my program officer to go up to the N/196 group PST to help facilitate sessions with the teacher trainers in Godavari, just outside of Kathmandu. I looked at a calendar and noticed something that didn’t make me happy

Date Agenda
Jan 22, 2004 Fly to Biratnagar; catch bus to Dharan
Jan 23, 2004 First day of training
Jan 28, 2004 Last day of training

This was troubling. I realized that the materials and the curriculum that I had prepared for the first and later rescheduled training were in Birganj. And I realized this on January 21, 2004.

I was up in Godavari and wouldn’t be getting back to Kathmandu until the night of January 22, 2004.

What in the hell was I thinking? I was going to have to conjure up a curriculum as well as the necessary materials in the few free hours I wasn’t traveling in the few days left before the training.

As soon as I got into Kathmandu, I went straight to the office, printed the curriculum I had written in Godavari and ran back to drop off my stuff.

I ate, packed my bags, and passed out. The next morning was January 22, 2004, and I had a early flight to the airport. When I finally opened the door, I was somewhat pleased that it was foggy.

If I’m late and it’s beyond my control, then I’m safe.

My flight left moments after reaching the airport.

Scott, your author, and Tony (left to right) giving instruction to the faculty.

Scott, your author, and Tony (left to right) giving instruction to the faculty.

Once we reached Dharan, I bought the supplies I’d need for the training and then tried to call Tony, who had been planning on helping me facilitate the training.

I got a hold of him and we made plans to meet the next day. The first two days were for all the school’s teachers and would have to be done in Nepali. The other days were for the English teachers in the area cluster.

I had to get in touch with the resource person. I had to find a pocket chart. I had to make flash cards. I had to revise the curriculum. I had to make a games/songs packet to distribute. I had to figure out how to speak Nepali. I had a few hours.

The next two days went well. I worked with the faculty to create rules and consequences to use school-wide as a method of classroom management and positive reinforcement, but it was tough.

I was trying to explain why each rule needs a logical consequence. I asked, What’s a logical consequence if a student is late?

Renu Miss, a bombastic Newari woman who had hugged me when I asked her in Newari, Bala du?, had answered the original question, Beat the student?

Students assemble at school on the day of Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

Students assemble at school on the day of Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

I tried to work through her answer, trying to illustrate through other examples of a rule with a logical consequence (several of the teachers were right on, coming up with some great stuff).

Then asked her if she thought a beating was a logical consequence or if it positively reinforced the rule

Well then, utpas, someone offered.

Utpas are up-and-down exercises that kids do while holding their ears.

So I didn’t quite reach everyone, but school and class rules were made and the faculty eagerly discussed making banners and posting signs in each classrooms.

One teacher, also a little hesitant in being so explicit with the students queried the other teachers, asked How about we give them the rules, but keep the consequences secret?

Once again, I realized hadn’t explained it as well as I should have. The language was an obstacle.

A student gives another tikka during Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

A student gives another tikka during Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

In the end, the rules were made and the teachers as a whole were excited. After the final (second) day of the training, everyone was complementary on the evaluation.

I felt like I had done something good. That the students were suddenly going to understand exactly what teachers were expecting from them and vice versa. That made me feel good.

When the English training sessions started, I felt relived, since Tony knows English education backwards and forwards, and I would be able to relax for a while.

Tony really commanded the majority of the English training, and I just popped up between segments to provide an activity that the teachers could use in class. My favorite was something that Trey and Tony had developed called ‘paragraph sandwich.’

It was basically a formulaic approach of brainstorming vocabulary and then fitting it into a modeled descriptive paragraph.

Jen was made an official assistant teacher to Tony and I during the training.

Jen was made an official assistant teacher to Tony and I during the training.

I thought the teachers could use it for their 4th and 5th grade classes, but after running through the demo and writing a paragraph as a group, most thought it would work well for higher secondary level.

They offered their concerns, which I thought I addressed well—but still, I couldn’t sure.

On the last day of the training, two teachers, Krishna and Hari Sir, approached me just before we started the last session. Krishna had actually been a student of Hari Sir’s years ago at that very school in Dharan.

They told me that they had tried the sandwich paragraph in a 9th grade class, and it had been a success.

The idea of collaborating, together, a teacher and his former student, trying an activity that I had modeled for them, just blew my mind. Usually the stigma between teacher and student is . . . well, prohibitive of such activities.

Imagining those two teaching a class together, trying new techniques and basically working to become better teachers—together—just overwhelmed me.

At the end of the training, when the teachers presented Tony and I with ties (quite nice, actually) as tokens of their appreciation, I felt like I had somehow found the right people, done the right things, and had actually made a difference.

And it was the first time in two years.

Finishing touches

During training, one of the hardest and seemingly most necessary things I wanted to communicate to my host family was that I missed home. I missed home. I missed my friends. I missed pizza and beer as dark as the nights in my new, lightless neighborhood.

But the best that I could do, after two months of Peace Corps’ astounding language training, was to tell them, Ma yad garchhu, I remember.

And what do I remember now? Have I changed after two years in this wonderful and flawed organization? Am I better? Did I climb Mount Everest? Did I build a bridge with cave-dwelling, sun-fearing villagers? Wasn’t I supposed to be sick constantly? And what about the United States?

Aren’t I supposed to realize that, at heart, I am a cave-dwelling, sun-fearing villager who could never live like I had before?

I thought I was a PCV. I thought I was the alpha male, able to adapt to anything, pick up a language on the way, and figure out how to be successful in seemingly ‘difficult’ circumstances.

To me, the adjustment after Peace Corps seems a lot like being a PCV a second time. Once in Nepal and then again in the US. Hopefully it’ll be as much fun the second time around.

I’m trying to figure out exactly how right the Peace Corps shrinks will be at forecasting hard times. They told me I’d be sick, which I really wasn’t. I mean, not any more than I would have been if I’d stayed in the US.

Yes, I did have diarrhea, but I’d had that in the US, too. I didn’t need Nepal to get indigestion. Plus, I never got ill enough to really complain about it. Except that one time during the monsoon when it was well over 110° F and the power went out for over a day.

Which was awful.

While I can’t really start to look back at my Peace Corps experience and the very strange and interesting culture that surrounds it quite yet, I can say that for me, my experience as a PCV was completely unlike what I had preconceived.

In a country of mud huts with thatch roofs, I never lived in one.

In a country of sprawling rice fields, I never commuted through one.

In a country of extreme poverty, I never really experienced it.

Sure I saw it. I passed pale corpses dead from the previous night’s freeze. I watched one morning as a set of tractors demolished shanties I used to see from my kitchen window. I fingered bullet holes in the waiting room of the airport. I heard bombs. I saw the muzzle flashes from weapons in the distance before going to bed. I taught shoeless children and paid half-naked rickshaw drivers. I was mugged and robbed.

But I never really experienced the things that gave Birganj its edge. I was always safe, far removed from the real things that change people.

Even when I rode in the backseat of an army captain’s car while he had a Browning 9mm shoved down the front of his pants, explaining how not a month ago the Maoists had attack him at this very spot and killed several of his men, I was safe.

And I can’t think why.

I’m in Dharan, and I’m finishing the training that the ANNISU-R said I couldn’t finish a month earlier because they were trying to keep eastern Nepal closed for some reason, to prove some point to someone somewhere.

I’m here, and I’m thinking about where I’m going to be, what I’m going to be doing, at some point in the future. Sometimes I think about April, when I finish as a PCV. Other times, I think about two years ahead. Future hazy, check back later, as the Magic 8 Ball used to say.

The one thing that I want to do, though, is have one last breath of what I loved about Nepal, outside of what I can get in Birganj. I want to see Birtamod and remember all the crazy people who flock to Andrew, the PCV who lives there.

I want to walk the quiet, dying streets of Rajbiraj and remember dogs, Christmases, and paan. I want to pass along the quieter parts of the East-West Highway, remembering that not all the trees have been cut down yet.

I want to jump off the bus as it pulls into the Birganj bus park with rickshaws swarming about, remembering that in such a place, I can be happy.

I remember Moser’s songs about unrequited love. I remember Andrew’s long hair, which looked awful. I remember Liz being shy, even though we were close, and I guarded one of her secrets—and a hilarious secret at that.

I remember being on Laurel and Kara’s patio, drinking coffee and eating André’s dry biscuits. I remember waking up in Yvette’s living room even before the sun has risen and then making that dusty, cold walk to catch a bus going somewhere.

I remember the apples in Mustang, drinking hot chocolate with Beth in a place she (for some strange reason) thought was nice.

I remember drinking jar at 8 a.m. with my host family in Gaidankot, then telling my language teacher, in Nepali, that I was drunk, which they always thought was a joke since it was 8 a.m. and I was speaking Nepali.

And I remember sinking that damn boat in Fewa Lake, laughing all the while.

I remember the first walk through the Birganj bazaar, not sure if I was in an Indiana Jones or a Mad Max movie, but knowing I was going to be OK.

I remember my first night in Birganj, staying in such a bad hotel that I even surprised myself. I remember being woken numerous times in a shady hotel in Thailand by roaches crawling over my body. And that had become a vacation.

I need to go to Jhapa and see the green, lowland tea fields one more time. I need to stay a night in Rajbiraj one last time, because I didn’t know that my last visit there was going to be my last visit there.

I need one more cold Coke from a wet glass bottle on a hot, sticky day in the Itahari bus park.

I want more foggy mornings spent over coffee and newspapers at Himanchal Cabin in Birganj.

I have to see more smiling faces of eager students—and teachers.

I have to experience everything again, so I can remember.

And yet there’s no time.