Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Hearts and Thoughts

On Sunday morning my fellow volunteer, Emily Balog, was driving home with her boyfriend after spending the weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with her Training groupsmates.  Their car somehow went out of control, hitting a minivan containing a music group headed towards the capital.  Emily died instantly, several others are still in the hospital in critical condition.

I didn’t know Emily well, we chatted a couple of weeks ago when she asked me for material about nutrition and health classes she wanted to start in her community.  I did know her well enough to know she was a talented, passionate, creative person.  She will be greatly missed by the Peace Corps  family.

Even those volunteers who don’t know her have been profoundly affected by this loss.  Peace Corps Paraguay is an great extended family.  Your g-mates and vac mates become your immediate family, RPCVs are like grandparents and great aunts and uncles, and everyone else in-country will back you up at the first word if the need arises.

It is astounding the amount of trust that instantly develops between volunteers.  I like to joke that the only people on earth who can actually understand what I’m saying at all times are other volunteers.  During our darkest and most challenging times during our service, our volunteer network pulls us through.  Whether it is having 2 hours conversations in 10 minutes increments (we get the 1st 10 minutes free a call, so we set timers to cut the call just before then), dropping everything to go visit a friend in need, hosting a friend and binging on True Blood, Arrested Development…, we do whatever is needed to take care of one another.  Losing part of that community is devastating.

Tomorrow is the memorial service at the Peace Corps office.  The admin team is being very generous and offering to reimburse travel and hotel expenses for volunteers who would like to attend.  I am really thankful  to live at a post that takes care of us so well.

Good bye Emily.  You will be missed.

PS: I’m pretty sure a considerable number of volunteers knew about the accident before it was announced to the family.  Most volunteers have the sense of courtesy to transmit this information via phone, but some posted took to Facebook.  Those posts were removed when volunteers realized the family hadn’t been informed, but the Spanish ones on her wall stayed posted.  I can only hope the family didn’t see the messages before hearing from Peace Corps. 

Since online culture and etiquette is still being developed, I’d like to put it out there that perhaps in the future people should avoid outing a story like this for at least 24 hours.  The family and close friends are going to need at least that amount of time to be contacted and start making their own calls.  Personally, I waited to post until I saw there was a new story in one of the Paraguayan papers.

I will say I'm happy that people have been good about distributing the various news stories without linking them to her profile.  It would be very irritating if the same story describing the accident was posted repeatedly on her wall.  That or her privacy settings are keeping it from happening.  Either way, puntos for everyone using facebook tagging respectfully.


Shaz Peace Corps Volunteer said...

So sorry to hear about your loss ... I am serving in Belize and travel a lot with my job. It is sometimes crazy driving here but not like in South America ... my heart goes out to all you. Best to you all.
Shaz in PC Belize

Karen said...

AƱete! Peace Corps truly is an extended family of people who I have counted on for support. So lucky to be a part of it.

L Jolley said...

Thank you for your thoughts. @Shaz, drive safely.