It’s hard to express just how important good housing is to a person’s Peace Corps experience. The problem for Peace Corps is that everyone’s standard of what good housing is varies.
My housing situation with my host family has been ideal. It gives me extra practice for my Russian. It allows me to keep informed of events in the community. It provides three people I can ask questions in case I need help with directions or local history or pretty much anything else.
It also provides my family a very detailed look at just exactly what Americans are like.
My family and I were a good match. I am thankful Zulhar identified them to my school.
A volunteer in my general area hasn’t been so lucky. His host family asked him for 400UAH last summer for food, more than double what my family requested. His host mom’s relationship with him seems very different, too. This makes him uncomfortable and prevents him from having a place he can retreat to for relaxation and reflection.
One of my other friends had several host families before she found one where she could stay. Even then, it still isn’t ideal. Worst still, when she had problems and tried to bring them to people’s attention, no one would listen. Other people were moved to better sites while she was left to struggle against the stream.
Yet another friend was in an apartment as soon as she was allowed by Peace Corps to move in. Unfortunately she had to get her water from the communal well and carry it back home. In the winter when her heat went out, someone came and took her toilet (she was told there was some connection between the radiator-based heat and the plumbing) and left a bucket in its place.
Another friend sat huddled in her room frantically calling for help when someone showed up in the dead of night and demanded to be let in.
Ultimately, the volunteers dealt with these situations with resilience. All of them are mostly settled today in situations that they can deal with. I wish there were a magic housing wand that could be waved to create good host families and living situations here. When volunteers arrive, we are prepared to deal with all manner of challenges. It’s tough, though, when besides dealing with your primary assignment you have to battle for a place to call home.