October 1st marked one year in country for me. Already a year has passed since I first arrived to this isolated and mysterious place. October 1st was also the date that we were all anxiously expecting the T-18 group of volunteers. We arrived with 44 volunteers and now our T-17 group is down to 37. We had been counting the days for some months now until the new group of PCVs arrived. A year ago we had been the newbies, fresh off the plane, scared and unsure of this new and unfamiliar place. This year my group, the T-17s, would play the role of the veteran PCVs, the ones who were settled and seemed at ease in this country. But we never got that chance and most likely we will not. We found out on September 28th, two days before the T-18s were scheduled to arrive, that the Turkmen government had not granted the proper permission for them to come. When I received a text message from a fellow volunteer simply stating, “The T-18s aren’t coming”, I quickly texted her back, “Don’t joke around.” As it turns out, she wasn’t joking and it all turned out to be one big disappointment. Of course I am extremely sad about the T-18s not coming, and I was so looking forward to having a site-mate starting in December, but the saddest part about all of this is that the whole situation does not surprise me. The entire fiasco mirrors my daily battle of securing permissions in Turkmenistan, albeit on a larger scale, but there are direct correlations that I can see. First, the government acted at the last minute. Typically, I find out about everything at the very last minute here and it leaves me rushing around to try to accomplish anything. Second, the refusal was done in an indirect manner. Two days before they were due to arrive, the Turkmen government sent a letter saying, “The T-18s are invited to come the Fall of 2010.” At first Peace Corps thought that it must be a typo, but there was no mistake. Instead of completely prohibiting the trainees to come, they have been delayed—similar to me going to the train station, asking about tickets and being told to come back tomorrow, then going back the next day and being told to come back the following day. This pattern will continue, and in the end I will still not have any tickets. Third, there was no concise reason given about why the volunteers can’t come. Last week my counterpart went to get her wedding registration and the lady told her to come back the next day. There was no explanation given, and the languid lady just went back to drinking her tea. My counterpart went back the following day and was told that she should have come sooner because it is now too late to get the registration by the wedding day. All in all the system is nonsensical from my point of view. But this doesn’t change the fact that this system is what runs this country. I didn’t expect the cancellation of the T-18 group, but the way that it paned out does not surprise me in the least bit. I am trying not to feel too sorry for myself because I have lived one year here without a site-mate and I will survive the next year by myself, too. I also don’t blame anybody or any institution because I don’t completely understand the reasons behind the decision. I do feel badly for the T-18 group who had done all of the material and emotional preparations for leaving, only to be told at the last minute that they wouldn’t be coming at all. I clearly remember the emotional rollercoaster that I went through the last few weeks before departure, and a last minute let down would have been enough to send me into depression. I also feel sorry for the Peace Corps staff that has been working non-stop to prepare everything for the 49 expected T-18s. I had no idea the extent of the work that happens before our arrival and I marvel that some of the Turkmen staff were able to work through Ramadan month while fasting and barely sleeping. The Turkmen staff are so dedicated and so believe deeply in the Peace Corps program that they travel all over the country to find homes and workplaces for us, always with our best interests in mind. I know that the T-17s are all sad and angry that things have turned out this way, but we will figure out how to keep going just like we have up until this point. It might be a little lonely at times with less than forty of us here, but I imagine that by December 2010 we will be a very tight group of friends. I think that in the next fourteen months we will really find out how much we can take care of each other, support each other, celebrate victories together and mourn losses. Despite the setback, we will be okay…it is another product of “the system” and knowing how to handle “the system” and maintain our sanity and happiness at the same time is a highly unrecognized PCV Turkmenistan talent!