Excitedly, Basin couple prepares for Peace Corps
Future Peace Corps volunteer Michele Devaney hopes immersing herself in Eastern European culture will teach her more than just a new language.
"Romanians have plenty to teach us," said the 30-year-old who is a planner for Summit County. "We would have been excited to go anywhere. We’re ready to go now."
This month she’ll give up her post in Coalville and prepare to move with her husband, Bryan, to a country that conjures up images of Count Dracula in Transylvania and political unrest.
"We have to find out what the community values are," Devaney said.
Bryan Devaney, who is 31 years old, expects the impacts of past communist rule in Romania to still weigh heavily on the nation.
"There hasn’t been just one government like we have had for a couple hundred years," he said. "I think communist rule was the longest."
His wife cautiously avoids prejudging the country, adding, "we don’t know how it’s going to affect us."
"I know we have plenty of misconceptions, which we’ll figure out when we get there," she said. "But we’ve read and we’ve talked to returned volunteers."
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Devaney intends to pass skills she gained working with landowners in Summit County on to Romanians attempting to build infrastructure like water systems and roads.
"I most likely will be working with a local government to help with infrastructure planning," she said. "The people there decide what they need and what they want and we’re there to help them make it happen."
A lot must be accomplished for Romania to become a member of the European Union.
"There are certain political, economical and social criteria they need to meet before they can join the EU," Bryan Devaney said. "The key is, when we leave, the locals can sustain any projects or use the skills that we teach them."
With a background in business and computers, his Peace Corps duties could involve "anything from establishing effective management skills to computer skills," he added.
The Devaneys likely will spend their first three months in Romania staying with a host family outside the capital city of Bucharest, "so we understand cultural norms," said Michele, who adds that they will receive language instruction in either Romanian or Hungarian, depending on where they’re stationed.
"We’re hoping it’s Romanian because it’s an easier language to learn," she said about the Romance language.
The Peace Corps, started by John F. Kennedy in 1961, boasts today that couples make up roughly nine percent of the organization’s volunteers, said Devaney who doesn’t expect the two-year trip to strain her marriage.
And the journey won’t leave holes in their resumes, the couple insists.
"It plugs a hole," Bryan said.
His wife added, "There are selfish reasons ultimately it’s going to make us more rounded."
"We had thought about traveling or working internationally," she said, adding that they decided to join the Peace Corps in 2005.
When the Devaneys were told they would likely be serving in Eastern Europe, the couple began examining the six nations where the organization operates in that region of the world.
Situated on the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Ukraine, more than 22 million people live in Romania.
The Devaneys couldn’t say during an interview whether they would return to Summit County.
"We have a lot of things to experience between now and then," Michele Devaney said. "We’re excited."
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.