26 December 2010

Pole sana for the emo-fest to follow...

A few things have been on my mind quite a bit lately. One of which is the notion of people back home forgetting about me while I’ve been over here. [Yep, you can definitely thank Mr John Mayer for this little emo-fest. Culprit: Edge of Desire and the line, ‘There, I just said it: I’m scared you’ll forget about me…’] There are a select few who tell it (that they miss me and want me to come home) to me often, but I sometimes wonder about their sincerity. It’s not as if I doubt it, I just wonder if they’re saying it to make me feel better, since I obviously AM missing them, or if they genuinely mean it. Like, do they randomly think about me, who I’m with, or what I’m doing? Do they get random flashes throughout the day of stupid shit that we’ve done that reminds them of me or see things and think ‘Aw, Sarah…’? ‘Cause I know that happens to me every so often, like I mentioned in the previous entry. I don’t mean to come off as selfish, honestly, I don’t. You guys know me, unless I’m on stage, I do not like exorbitant amounts of attention. (Sometimes you wouldn’t think that about me, would you?) I’m just genuinely curious about what it’s like on the other end of the spectrum when people are gone.

I feel as if my life is at a standstill, where I’ve diverged from ‘the path’ we’ve all started on over the past few years, and everyone else has just barreled right passed me, leaving me in the dust. Part of me thinks that when I go back, they’ll be so far ahead and I’ll frantically try and catch up, but then not quite make it before heading off to Kyrgyzstan. And I know that peoples’ lives naturally progress and I can’t ask them to put their whole entire lives on hold while I figure my shit out, I just feel ostracized and alone because of it. And when you’re already thousands of miles away from everything you know, being pushed further is never a fun thought.

Sometimes I feel that some of the relationships and friendships I have in my life right now are so incredibly one-sided. I try so hard to keep in contact and touch and interested and yet there’s hardly anything in return. Is it because they don’t care? Or they have more important things to do? Or they’ve honestly forgotten that I’m no longer an immediate part of their lives? Or is it because they’re scared/nervous/intimidated/unsure that I’m doing something different with my life; going against the ‘normal’ path of life after finishing uni? If the last one is the case, isn’t that something you’d want to actively try and keep track of? Learn about it as much as you can, be excited for that person and try and come to the point in your own life where you’re as comfortable or enjoying exactly what you’re doing. I don’t know, maybe that’s the idealist/hippie in me, but I just feel like we all should be learning from each other and feeding off experiences of others and yourself, to try and become the best person possible. If there’s something that I’m doing that you want to do, DO IT! Life is too short for you to just continue on placating yourself in order to do the ‘right’ thing all the time. If you want to go geek out at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand ‘cause you’re a huge LOTR fan – GO! If you want to volunteer in a small African village with a bunch of gorgeous, precocious children – DO IT. What’s stopping you?

Toni and I had a discussion about this the other day, in terms of readjusting to everything and knowing how to interact with people. She thought that one of the reasons why she got into so many quarrels with her friends when she last visited home was because their priorities were no longer the same. They all had ‘grown up’ in the sense that they had aged, but they were all obsessed with completely different things: the friends are infatuated about the swanky car, spoiling the kids, making the most money at your job even if you hate it, etc. Whereas Toni, having lived in Africa for two years now, thinks about things that her friends could care less about – footballs for the kids on the beach, markers and coloured pencils, how ridiculous it is to spend £60 on a pair of shoes. Is this making any sense?

I really do love and miss those people I’ve left at home with my whole heart. I’m enjoying what I’m doing here, but obviously still wondering about life back home. Does that mean that I’m weird or too attached and haven’t been able to let go as quickly?

On a seriously more silly, light-hearted note, I am DYING wanting to know what’s going on with Fringe. My friend Ben gave me up to episode four of season three off of his hard drive (of which I only have two more ‘new’ episodes to watch!), but everyone else is now waiting for number 10, which isn’t until JANUARY! Four days before my birthday, to be exact. I would normally be alright with this fact – as I really can deal with the lack of pop culture/TV/whatever – but this season is getting SO GOOD. And my recent rediscovery of Tumblr as shown me what happened in episode 9. Oh. My. God. Are you havin’ a giraffe?! That conversation happens and I’ve missed it? Poor Peter and Olivia! And there are rumors that there may not be a fourth season? Yeah, not ok with that. Why do I always catch on to the good stuff when it’s on the brink of no longer existing? Sigh. Well done, me.

And how was Matt Smith in his first ever Doctor Who Christmas Special? Did he deliver? Were Rory and Amy in it? Aw, how was Michael Gambon as Scrooge?! I SO wish that I didn’t have to wait until February to see it. Haha. Oh well, I’ll get over it (hopefully). I guess I’ll just have to listen to Eleven’s Theme on iTunes over and over to suffice until then. ;)

Well, that was enough of a geek fest for you all, I’m sure. I apologize for that, I just had to get it out, even though I don’t know any of you that even know what the hell I’m talking about. Haha. Here’s me hoping that all of you had the very best Christmases – what swanky stuff did you get? – and missing you oodles!

23 December 2010

A very merry un-Christmas.

Who would’ve thunk it that I’d be writing this entry, the day before Christmas Eve, after just having walked the beach, talked to my rasta boys, and gotten a sunburn? Three months already, too! Crazy how life works out, eh? And just think: some of you poor saps are freezing your arses (yes, I realize I just wrote that the British way; I blame my incessant hanging-out with Toni…) off in Chi and Omaha and DC and wherever else you may be while you’re reading this. Not to rub it in or anything. ;)

I’ve definitely been going back and forth a lot recently between being severely homesick and then loving the hell out of this place. Days like this, where I wake up whenever I want (or whenever rasta boyfriends need to get hold of their girlfriends who don’t have working phones so I have to play messenger), experiment with making yummy milkshakes, and then take three-hour long walks on the beach while hanging with friends, remind me just how much I love this place. Seriously, I don’t think I could be in the more perfect place for this particular moment in my life, as cliché as that sounds. I just need the pace and the whole mentality of Jambiani right now. I need to be able to joke with the boys about how rubbish my Swahili is; to give the Masaais a hard time about how hard they try and pump mzungus to buy their jewelry; to see the smiling faces of the kids as they shout your name while you’re walking around the village; to just sit in the sand and read a book, thinking about absolutely nothing.

With that all being said, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I desperately want to go home, just so I can have a large glass of cold, skim milk (oh my God, that with a warm Christmas cookie right out of the oven? Yes, please!) or just so that I can text a friend something insanely stupid after a night out and have it not cost a trillion dollars. It’s really hard to explain – I feel like a giant pendulum going from one extreme to the other. And not being able to articulate why this experience of being away from home has been more trying than any others is maddening as well. I just can’t do it. I’ve been away from my friends and family for longer than four months – um, hello, Edinburgh? – so why is this time so difficult? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been doing ordinarily mundane things during a day and then had an incredibly vivid flash of something/someone in Chicago or at home. I’m going to be an optimist and say that I’m like this because I’m missing my family and friends at this festive time of year, as opposed to me not being able to handle the separation. Gotta knuckle down and toughen up before good ol’ Kyrgyzstan comes my way.

Speaking of Kyrgyzstan, oh, the Peace Corps and I are going to have some good times with one another, I can tell. Luckily, my trip to Dar and the US Embassy wasn’t a COMPLETE waste, as my application has been sent off (barely) for my new passport. However, the visa I need for Kyrgyzstan is proving to be the problem, one that no one can really tell me a definitive answer on how to solve said dilemma. And, of course, since we’re America, everything’s now shut for the holidays until 29 December. YES. I either get to a) go to Pretoria, South Africa and find a Kyrgyzi (seriously, what the hell is the shortened version of this country’s name?!) embassy and do it there, b) wait until I get back to the States in the middle of February and just do it while I’m visiting DC – however that brings everything quite close to the deadline of my departure date, never a good thing – or c) somehow come up with another option that doesn’t require me to come back to the States early and do it there. Never a dull moment, huh?

OH! Guys, seriously, pay attention. So, I’m reading this book (it’s number 10, so far), called Night Train to Lisbon. The copy which I’m reading is actually quite rubbish – isn’t the whole point of an editor that you don’t have any typos?! I mean, come on! – but parts of it have really made me stop, put the book down, and really think about what I’ve just read. One of the lines that has really gotten to me is this one: ‘Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us – what happens with the rest?’ RIGHT?! How awesome is that? Like, of all the decisions we make day after day, what happens to those paths that we don’t take? And if we turned back time to take that other path, would we still turn out the same people? I don’t know, this is just the silly stuff I think about when I have no vols here to look after. Haha.

And because I’m feeling quite type-y, I am now going to make you all suffer through a list of things I miss the most right now. You’ll more than likely laugh/roll your eyes at some, if not all, of these things, but deal with it.

  • FRIENDS AND FAMILY – Obvious. I cleaned out my iPhoto library over the past few days and God, have we had some amazing times. I miss each and every one of you like it’s my JOB.
  • SKIM MILK – Seriously, powdered milk just doesn’t cut it when you need to make yourself a proper cup of tea or coffee.
  • TWIZZLERS – Lavy, you need to cut it with the reminders about these things. I actually salivate when you mention them.
  • MAC & CHEESE – As juvenile as it sounds, I could go for a box of good ol’ Kraft right now. Ri, get it ready for DC.
  • DECENT BEER – Love me some Kili, but Meleeny, you’ve gotta hook a sister up when I come home.
  • DOCTOR WHO – I’m actually crying on the inside because I’m missing the Xmas special. And the fact that I read Russell T Davies behemoth of a book about his experiences writing the show (it was actually fascinating!) doesn’t help.
  • SNOW – Yeah, not kidding. I know I’m more than likely going to get my fair share in Kyrgyzstan, but I could definitely go for a pile of snow right now.
  • A PHONE THAT DOESN’T DRIVE ME NUTS – After my BlackBerry was nicked, I got a replacement phone. It works, which is really all I need it to do, but it drives me mental; it’s rubbish!
  • CLOTHES – I was tired of the clothes I packed about two weeks into this whole ordeal. Haha. I would pretty much give my right arm for a pair of flats or Chucks, skinny jeans, another of my t-shirts, and one of my cardigans. Yes, please.
  • TURKEY – When you go both Thanksgiving and Christmas without havin’ a giant turkey, something is wrong. Plus, where’s the fun of it when you can’t chuck the carcass out a second story window? ;)
  • GUM – No jokes. It gives you that little kick of sugar and helps the oral fixation.
  • BEN & JERRY’S – Cookie Dough, Half Baked, Brownie whatever. YES.
  • ITALIAN FOOD – Pesto pasta, bruschetta, fettuccini alfredo, breadsticks. Basically, a trip to Olive Garden is in order for whomever wants to come. Fab 4?
  • PINKY’S – You better bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to stock up on these when I hit NZ in February. Kathryn, get ready. Or be prepared to send me packages to Kyrgyzstan. Haha.
  • HAWKS GAMES – No matter how shit they may or may not be doing right now, there’s nothin’ like being at the Madhouse on Madison.

I’m sure there are other things, but my brain is quite content at the moment (either that or it just doesn’t want to work).

Missing you all and wishing you the very merriest of Christmases. Enjoy your family time and know I’m thinking of you! And if you don’t hear from me before the New Year, have a BLAST! Have a shot for me (Disney peeps in Chi!) and ring in the best 2011!

PS – as long as this may be, everyone needs to convince me that I need to purchase a Kindle (with what little money I have left) for my PC service. The book-nerd in me will just not go along with getting ready of physical books… Gigi, this is all you!
PPS – How’s Josh Groban’s new album?

12 December 2010

Am I cut out for this?

Yesterday, one of the vols with whom I've become quite good friends - and one of the girls who endured the events of the Full Moon party with me - asked me how I managed to readjust to life back in the Western world after all of my previous time in Africa. It was such a good question, which furthered into a really good, thought-provoking discussion. It was really quite difficult for me; I don't know if any of you remember how I was last August, but it was far from an easy task. Especially with all of the bullshit that surrounds life in retail during the Holiday Shopping Season (The House of Mouse will forever be tainted to me because of my life in Zanzibar).

Basically, I told her that it's not going to be a quick fix; you're not going to be able to shut off and ignore all of the things you've done, places you've gone, people you've met, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences you've had. It's just impossible. In fact, if you were able to do so, I would personally think that there's something wrong with you. To have gone through that much only to throw it away instantaneously in exchange for a swanky new phone or the hottest fashion items of the season. I believe it all comes down to not being incredibly hard on yourself as well as not jumping down other peoples' throats and blaming them for being 'insensitive, materialistic, etc.' It's not their fault that they weren't with you in the sweltering heat, in a small classroom - devoid of desks, chairs, and school supplies - with a bunch of rambunctious 6 year olds shouting at you in Swahili. You can't recreate that for someone who is living in the middle of London or Chicago or wherever, no matter how vividly you may or may not be able to describe it.

In my case, last summer, it took me a month and a half to two months to really 'get over' my reverse culture shock. And that was with insane amounts of journaling and numerous tearful conversations with my mom and best friends. I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be for me this time around, having been gone for twice as long and only having about four weeks in the States before heading off to Kyrgyzstan for twenty-seven months. I feel that it could be that case that I'll get home (to where in the States I have no fucking clue) in the middle of February and be hit with all of the American-ness, retell my stories to all of my friends and family - already I'm dreading that; can't they all just read my blog and look at my (at the moment nonexistent) pictures on FB and connect the dots instead of me rehashing the same story 30+ times? I know I've said before that reading the blog is NOT the same as me spinning my tale with my own goofiness, but a girl can only recount her random nights dancing with rastas in rasta bars so many times - and then a few weeks later be forced into an emotional goodbye with my mom and brother only to be shipped off to the other side of the world.

With that conversation this morning, my brain hasn't really been able to let it go. I'm definitely going through a stage where I am starting to freak out about my decision for March. I haven't been able to go to the American embassy in Dar yet in order to get my visa and PC passport figured out. [And for those very few of you who know that I was in Dar for three days this week, don't assume that I got to do anything useful while I was there. I was there because one of our vols had to go to the hospital for a really terrible corneal ulcer. Never a full moment in my life, eh? There were some good things to come from that trip though. Hello, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One and then BACON; real bacon.] And it's not as if they're very helpful in being open and accessible when you need them. Closing on Tanzanian/Islamic holidays, in addition to American ones, AND only being open insanely obscure hours (weekends not included) is not very conducive to young volunteers who can only leave project over the weekend. Thank you, America.

I'm also quite worried that I haven't given myself enough time to breathe. Ending one large chunk of project/life and then jumping right into something that will be harder and longer than the previous. Will that be enough for me to take a fucking breath; to catch up on sleep and jetlage before acquiring copious amounts more? Will it be enough time for me to talk with all of my friends and catch up on the past four months of their lives before scuttling off and not seeing any of them for two more years? Will I have enough time to get my 'family fix'? I won't even dwell on the tangent regarding my grandparents, because it's depressing and will definitely make me start sobbing, even though it honestly never leaves my thoughts. Will that four weeks be enough time for me to sift through all of my experiences and mentally prepare myself for learning another language, being on my own  - in a former Soviet country, no less! - and take on this huge task of teaching and molding young Kyrgyzi (is that how they're described?) minds? Talk about daunting... Am I really cut out for this?

Side note: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. YES. This is the kind of book that makes me love the fact that I have a history degree. And makes me desperately want to go back to school for another degree so I can delve that deeply into research and learning and experiencing. If you've not read it yet, it's a fabulous book. Not quite sure how I feel about the ending, but that's beside the point. READ IT.

Know that I'm seriously missing each and every one of you. Enjoy the snow and cold for me - I seriously wouldn't mind jumping in a giant snowdrift right now to cool off! You're all in my thoughts every day and can't wait to hear everything about your individual hijinx. :) I hope you all have a bloody amazing holiday season; wish I could spend it with you.

All my love from that tiny island of Zanzi.

02 December 2010

Christmas Wish-List

Dearest and darlingest friends, I have just a small plea to make to all of you. If, and I know this is a big if - especially with the economy as it is and families of your own - you were planning on being stud muffins and thinking of getting me Christmas presents, could we tweak that idea? There isn't much I'm really going to need for my upcoming expedition to the wiles of Kyrgyzstan, so this might be a smidge more useful for your time and money. Instead, could you maybe put together a bunch of school supply kits for the nursery schools where I work? These kids are the most amazing kids on the planet and what better to spend your money on, instead of silly things I'm not going to be able to take in a few suitcases with me!

Here are a list of items that are greatly needed and appreciated:
  • Pencils
  • Erasers (both large and the kind one can put on the end of pencils)
  • Coloured pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Stickers (fun, silly, glittery ones)
  • Construction paper
  • Chalk (white and coloured)
  • Glitter
  • Markers (fat Crayola and skinny ones)
  • Paints (face and poster)
  • White and lined paper
  • Colouring books (for boys and girls - try, however, to stay away from Barbies and magic-y stuff)
  • Scissors (for both kids and adults)
And whatever else you can think of, I guess. Just please remember that it is a Muslim community, so everyone's quite conservative; which means you might want to stay away from Transformers or Bratz items... ;)

I know it's a LOT to ask, what with the prices for shipping things to Africa and it would take at least a month to get here, but it would mean a lot to me and these kids, as well as acting as your good deed of the year. Haha.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: Fringe. Totes hooked. John Noble is brilliant. Show is wonderfully, unrealistic brain candy. And seriously, when did Joshua Jackson get attractive? I'm fairly certain he's gotten much better-looking since his Dawson days... I mean, come on, dude's a lefty. What more can I say? Haha. I know it happens in almost every cop drama where there's a male and female lead, but the tension between Peter and Olivia? Definitely a proponent. JJ Abrams, your brain-children have taken over my life. And I kind of enjoy it.

All my love and best wishes.