29 November 2011

Turkey is not just a sports term...

Yeah, it’s been a long time coming. Have been dealing with some things that are not blog-worthy, so I’ve been partaking in radio silence. Hopefully things will work themselves out and I’ll be able to keep you guys better updated. And you better your effing bottom dollar that I’ll be blogging the bejesus out of my Morocco trip with Mom (that is happening in… exactly 30 days!), so don’t fret. But for now, please let this cheesy, late, but rather necessary, list of things that mean the world to me. I hope that you all had bloody wonderful Thanksgivings, enjoyed spending time with your families, and ate fucking amazing food. [Seriously, I don’t know what it is, but I am going through MAJOR American food withdrawals right now. Would kill small parakeets for this exact meal slash combination of food: a piping hot bowl of my Mom’s homemade Chex-Mix, a whole gallon of cold, Skim milk, a chicken Caesar salad, either a: Pepperoni Lover’s pizza from Pizza Hut (with breadsticks) or one of my dad’s spiced pizzas, and a box of Ho-Hos. Yes, there would obviously be leftovers, which would suit me just fine. If I could get that, I would be the happiest of campers.]

So, without further ado:
Things for which I am thankful

·      My family – Without them, I would literally be a giant mess. Their unconditional love and support through of my crazy adventures never ceases to amaze me. You guys are legitimately the best. Could not ask for more awesome parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, fake families (Elliotts, this means you guys!) etc. And let’s be honest with ourselves, where else would I be able to find a family that would laugh hysterically at me as I spilled Coke down the front of my shirt ‘cause they get that I was trying to reference our favourite film?!

·      My friends, old and new – You all have provided me with countless years of amazing memories and inside jokes. I could NOT imagine my life without any of you. I wish that I had the time and brainpower to thank every single one of you individually, making sure to include all the memories we share, but I don’t. So, just know that I love and appreciate the bejesus out of you. And how flipping lucky am I to have so many friends from all around the globe? To know I’m always welcome (I hope?) anywhere in the world I am if I need it – Australia, New Zealand, Zanzibar, Kyrgyzstan (who would’ve thunk?), the UK, Germany, Sweden, etc… Thank you all for your relentless patience and for making me smile and laugh every single day.

·      My Peace Corps experience – Yes, there have been ups and downs about what I’m doing here, but I would not change it or give this up for the world! I absolutely, 100% made the right decision on that tiny island of Zanzibar over a year ago, when I wrote ‘yes’ in that email. I am only eight months in, with a year and a half left, and I have already met some of the most amazing, inspiring, and wonderful people; both American and Kyrgyz alike. The crazy kids have worked their way into my heart, where they’ll stay for quite some time and they have all become my family. When people have seen you at your worst (vomiting into fountains and sick as a dog with giardia), they start to become something more than just friends. I could not imagine getting through this experience without the kind words of encouragement from the 18s or commiserating with my fellow 19s. We’re all in this together (get it, HSM – Kathryn!). There are no words to describe how much I am growing as a person and how much I am learning about myself. Be prepared, more than likely, a completely different (although somehow exactly the same) person will be returning to the States during the summer of 2013.

·      Never having gone hungry in my entire life – One of the vols mentioned this as one of the things for which she was thankful at our Talas-giving this past weekend. And I’m really upset with myself that this isn’t something for which I am CONSTANTLY thankful. As much as I complain about food here (if I never have to eat the fat from a sheep’s ass ever again, it will be too soon), I am fed every day. The same can be said, if not infinitely more so, about my life back in the States. There are so many people on this planet that go two or three days, if not longer, without having a proper meal. If I cannot immediately remedy this problem of global malnutrition and impoverishment, the least I can do is be appreciative of every single thing that I put in my mouth [which right now includes a shit ton of Doritos my mom sent in her last package]. This also makes me want to work harder to rectify this problem in my future.

·      Useless and mindless pop culture/media – yeah, admit it, you knew that this was going to be on here somewhere. I’ll be the first to admit it, and I have before, I am a pop culture sponge and probably watch too much of it. However, that’s one of my personality traits and you get what you get. :) I will forever be that girl who can recall Colin Firth’s daughter’s hairdresser’s name (but really, I don’t know that one). Most of the time I’m proud of it. In this case, though, I am thankful for it ‘cause it’s strengthened one of the things that makes me me and gives me a chance to connect with other people. You KNOW that if there is EVER anyone who knows what the hell 10th Kingdom is that I am going to be one of his/her best friends. And I’ll be honest with you guys, all this stuff also helps one get through cold-ass winter nights when the power is off – that is, until one’s computer battery runs out…

·      Books – Firstly, if anyone is interested in interfaith relationships, pluralism in America/the globe, or social justice work, I highly recommend Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith. One of the most amazing reads ever. Incredibly personable prose and it didn’t drag, which is always nice. Makes me want to be more active with social justice (possibly with his org?) and do more for the world. And obviously makes me miss Chicago like.it.is.my.full-time.job. With that being said, I am so thankful for the temporary escape that reading brings me. And that people have the talent to write such beautiful pieces (most of the time) of art and to share it with the world. Not only that, but the fact that reading books brings people from all walks of life together in order to discuss a specific one, whether it’s in a formal book club or drunken rant sessions at apartments on the weekends. I feel that reading reflects on life as well: there are so many different genres of books, all of which appeal to different groups of people. We’re all just a giant amalgamation of awesomeness. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wish that there were more my brain could articulate right now (there are definitely more things for which I’m thankful, but can’t think of any). I also don’t want to get too cheesy, sentimental, or preachy on you guys; that’s not why you check this out. Haha. With all of the above being said, I am so thankful for each and every one of you and all that you bring to my life. Would NOT be the girl I am today if it weren’t for you guys. Always thinking of you and wishing you the most amazing of holiday seasons.

PS – Hopefully a more coherent, work-like update will come to fruition soon. Fingers crossed.

18 October 2011

Students, stuff to do, and spies - oh my!

While sitting in one of my classes today, waiting for them to finish working on an exercise from the book, the call to prayer echoed throughout the village. And it reminded me just how much I love hearing that every day. Yes, at 4 in the morning during Ramadan it was a bit grating, but most of the time – so beautiful! Which then got me thinking about how much I can’t wait to be able to hear it and understand the whole thing. Or experience it somewhere like Jerusalem, the West Bank, Egypt, etc. Seriously, couldn’t tell you exactly what it is that I find so fascinatingly beautiful – the words and language, the melody, the message behind it, the unity it brings… More than likely it’s all of the above.

Of course, this all made me super excited and anxious about heading to grad school to focus on this and then spend the rest of my life (burusaa) working in the field. Just think of the havoc I could cause doing something like this. Or the pictures I could take and then DO SOMETHING with. Or even just be able to travel and learn more about the world! As excited and ready for that next adventure in the UK, hopefully, to begin, I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that it won’t happen for another 20 months. Obviously, I’m good to go right now, but I have prior obligations; I’m finally getting projects started here. Leaving now would be the worst thing I could do for myself and the people in my village.

Now, when I say I’ve started projects, I really mean that quite a few have magically (and suddenly) ended up on my lap. As overwhelmed and swamped as I may feel with all of these projects now on my To-Do list, it feels so damn good to think that I am actually doing something now. All those months of passivity and inactivity were really getting to me mentally. I mean, I understand that 7 months is really nothing when looking at the whole picture of 27 months, but when others are executing projects, writing grants, attending trainings, having amazing language skills, and rocking at everything they do, it gets to you. One of the things that I have to constantly keep reminding myself (thank you, Steve Root and your blog entry on the same subject) is that each PCV has a completely, 100% different experience than another. I cannot keep comparing myself or my service to anyone else. I just have to do everything I can, the best that I can, in my own life.

What follows is a brief summary and breakdown of what’s going in my life at the mo’.

-       While I’m not in charge of the grant writing or other such logistics, I’m helping organize the housing for the run that’s happening in Talas next month. But let’s be honest, housing for 40+ people is no easy task. Also going to be working with one other vol to help photograph for the event. Hello, working-on-my-portfolio! If you have seen my note on FB, you know what it is and why, but if you haven’t: a whole bunch of vols from around the country are coming in and running a half marathon, 10k, or 5k in order to raise money (through donations – we’ll be pimping the link ASAP, please be patient!) and awareness about heart disease and nutrition among Kyrgyz people. The money we raise will be used to put on a training-of-trainers (ToT) next year on the subject, hoping vols with then go back to their oblasts and villages to create health and nutrition clubs.
-       The newest project is one my friend told me about just yesterday. It’s not a giant one, but still requires getting funding through writing a grant (EEK! My lack of grant writing abilities is starting to really get to me.) and a bunch of planning. Basically, it would be a three-ish day camp, focusing on English, over winter break. I’m hoping, that since whomever I work with and I can pick when it will be, my Morocco trip with Mom (OMG!! We’ll come back to this in a few) won’t be a problem. More updates on this one as they develop.
-       But the one I’m most excited (and fucking terrified) about, and will probably take the most out of me, is this really cool dance thing. I will be creating a dance – a mix of hip hop and modern – with some different dance groups in Talas City. We’re designing this for an organization trying to bring up discussion about bride kidnapping. In my head, the dance will have a storyline similar to that from Centre Stage (right, Ri?): boy meets girl, she plays hard to get but really likes him, bad boy sees her and tries to ‘kidnap’ her, both boys fight, girl gets in the middle and almost dies, which then leads the bad boy to realize his mistakes and turn to the good side. If things work out, the dance will be taken around the oblast (and maybe the country?) to festivals. So excited to finally be able to concretely choreograph something and for a worthwhile cause! However, the same things that make me pumped also scare the bejesus out of me – SOMUCHPRESSURE. This could be a defining project in my service; can’t fuck this up. And people I respect are counting on me to do amazing things with this. Oh baby God.

In other news, everything else is going relatively well. School is in full swing, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good thing ‘cause it keeps me busy and it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Good thing ‘cause some of the kids are amazingly talented, motivated, and just make me feel like I’m doing something helpful here. Good thing ‘cause that means that I’m also working on some clubs as well. The clubs have been going well, I guess. They’re technically English/dance/theatre clubs, but we have been focusing on dance and fun Halloween stuff for the younger and older kids, respectively. Hopefully they’ll work out and I will continue to enjoy ‘em. :)

Bad thing ‘cause it means early-ass mornings (we all know what kind of a person I am; if not, the answer is: not a morning person!), without coffee – homegirl can only wake up so much earlier to get ready without having to worry about making instant coffee too! Bad thing ‘cause I’m finding out what my frustrations are within the school system here. I don’t like the grading system. I’m finding it super hard to not be taken seriously by students when I’m on my own because I’m not scary enough or I’m the ‘cool’ teacher (this one’s new to me – never been the ‘cool kid’). I’m hoping that once my students and I better know each other, my counterpart and I get more comfortable with teaching, and the year progresses that everything will work itself out. Fingers crossed for me, will you?

Now for the fluff:

‘Of all the gin joints, in all the world, she walks into mine…’ Yes, that’s right, folks: come this December, the mother unit and I will be heading across the pond (for her, for me it’s just across a gihugic landmass) to good ol’ Morocco. We’ll be there over New Year’s basically just taking in all of the ‘major’ sites and tourist attractions. Casablanca, Rabat, Fez (if only Eleven could come with…), Marrakesh, riding camels to and spending the night in the Sahara Desert. Yes, please to all of the above. So excited to have this to look forward to – will serve as my 9-10 month marker and cheesily enough, the legit longest I have gone without seeing my mom. Miss the balls out of her and CANNOT WAIT to see her. Also, my camera and I are freaking out in excitement about the pictures I hopefully will be taking. Get ‘er done!

And I know that you’re all very much intrigued to know that I’ve indeed finished the entirety of Chuck, at least what’s aired already. Can I just say? Goddamn. Didn’t think that the show would be as entertaining as it was. So many crazy-ass, wonderful cameos (Dom! Sarah Connor [right?]! The dude from one of the newer Star Treks! Superman [ew, did NOT like him at all]!) and the chemistry between the cast was just too awesome. Obviously we will NOT be forgetting a certain Mr Levi… YESPLEASE. Aside from the aforementioned gentleman, I think one of my favourite things about the show is the little shout-outs to other pop culture references it had. One of my all-time favs: when Chuck is reading the 1st Game of Thrones book and says to it (something I do ALL THE TIME, talk to my books) ‘Oh come on, Eddard, you don’t let your kids keep a direwolf!’ Such clever writing. So ready to find out what happens in season 5, but not too pleased upon hearing that this will be the final season. What will I do to get me through the last few months of my service in 2013?! *facepalm*

In terms of books, finished Joseph Campbell’s Power of the Myth which was fantastic. Currently trucking through the second of the Game of Thrones series. Gosh, does that man know how to write a series. I think that Tyrion Lannister is one of the most compelling and fantastically complex characters I’ve ever encountered. And I just love little Arya with my whole being; so feisty. Cannot wait to see what happens in the books, especially with the very pretty mental images I have in my head while reading, thanks to the HBO show.

If anyone has any books they’ve thoroughly enjoyed recently, GIVE ME THEIR TITLES. Have been going through far too much television (Chuck, Castle – OMG!, Dexter, Archer, and How I Met Your Mother) lately and will need something to get me through the winter! With that being said, if you have new TV shows that are fantastic (and more than just one season), send those in my direction too. Haha.

So wishing that I could be in the States for Mike’s 21st on Thursday, but know that we’ll have many more birthdays to celebrate once I’m finished with service. Missing everyone like it is my job; thinking of you all every day. Let me know what’s going in your lives – I love hearing from you all. Hope everyone is doing splendidly. Will try and be better about updating from now on; damn Chuck just took over my life and wouldn’t let go. All my love to the moon and back.

PS – When does Daylight Savings Time end/start? So wish I could take part in it, could use an extra hour (or seven) of sleep.

07 September 2011

Let this be a warning to you all...

This blog post is here to serve as a warning to all PCVs – current and future – against the perils of giardia. I wish that I could say that ‘giardia’ is actually the name of my seductive and uber-talented Italian spy alter ego (can you tell that I’ve been watching far too much Chuck in my free time lately?), alas, that is definitely not the case. It is actually a heinous little shit of a parasite that one acquires through tainted water, usually infected by sheep (damn those stupid koy!). The little bugger (no pun intended) then creates itself a home in one’s small intestines. The ensuing results are: painfully, uncontrollable shivers, extreme loss of appetite (mostly ‘cause you can’t bear to stomach anything anyway), and setting up base camp in your nearest lavatory facility because you’re basically exploding from both ends. Graphic, yes, but I only speak the truth. All-in-all, a SUPER unpleasant experience. But you know what really makes the whole shebang all the more entertaining? Dealing with this your first week of school where their only toilet facilities are wooden boxes covering holes in the ground (granted, that’s also my situation at home, but with a rusty old frame from a bus instead of a wooden box). Oh, that and also fainting into a small – but shallow! – irrigation ditch post-bathroom trip. Yeah, I like to keep things pretty class in the K. Moral of this story is: if you’ve not been drinking it since you were a wee one, ONLY DRINK WATER FROM YOUR WATER FILTER.

First week of school – since we started last Thursday – is officially at an end. However, because of my bout with giardia, I haven’t really gotten a feel for things yet. I keep telling myself that things’ll fall into place; I’ll get the hang of things once I’m there for longer than a week. But right now, I’m just really scared. Scared that I’m not going to be a good teacher; that I’ll get far too frustrated with not being able to actually teach anything or get bored with the repetition (seriously, teacher friends, HOW DO YOU DO IT?!). I’m also scared that I’ve discovered that as much as I like hanging with younger kids, that I actually like the act of learning more than I do teaching… Which frustrates me since I can’t follow up on that feeling (we’ll get to that momentarily) – I’m here for two years to teach and to come up with secondary projects related to the aforementioned topic. Everyone has moments like these their first week, right? I wish that I could have some magic moment during teaching when I get bitch slapped by life and think ‘Oh yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing!’

As I alluded to before, I am fairly certain I’ve figured out what I want to do after my two years of service is up. I know, I know, this is NOT the time to be thinking about this, I still have 21 months to go! But, I think it’s nice to have the comfort of knowing (or at least thinking I do) what I’m going to do after, so that when the time goes, I’m not scrambling and throwing myself into the deep end without a nice pair of Winnie the Pooh arm bands (and yes, that most definitely was a shout-out to all of those beautiful people who were with me taking our little Jambiani tykes swimming in Stone Town). So, anyway, enough of the babble. The point of the matter is that I think I want to head to grad school. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to find two programs – remember, I’m just starting the search – that I’m already in love with. One is actually just a school, the SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London, where I really don’t think I could go wrong picking a degree, the problem would be narrowing it down to either Middle Eastern studies or to African. But, the school is a brilliant one and I’d be satiating this weird obsession I have right now with living in London. Don’t ask me why, I just do. As good as this program/uni sounds, at the moment, I’m leaning toward a program at my alumni Uni of Edinburgh back in Scotland. The program seems to be right up my alley and I’ve already been in contact with one of the heads of program (can you believe that he taught one of my classes when I was there three years ago, had tutorial with him, and he says he remembers me?!). Basically, it’s International Relations for the Middle East with a mandatory Arabic language component, with possible travel in between the two years to either Egypt or Jordan for research opportunities. Hell. To. The. Mother. Fucking. Yes. Where do I sign up and how long will it take?

One of the problems with finding your dream grad school program right now is this: I can’t do it yet. I mean, yes, physically I could (but couldn’t ‘cause the school year has already started), but my guilt and regret meter would be offthecharts if I were to do that. I want to go with all my heart and soul, even right now would be great, but I can’t leave this place; I have an obligation to my school, my counterpart, my new host-family (who are FUCKING PHENOMENAL, btw), and my friends here. To leave them now would just be… awful. So, basically, you’re all going to have to do with Extremely Impatient Sarah for the next 21 months. Hope I’m not too much of a pain in the ass.

Quick family update: due to circumstances that were beyond my control-ish, I moved (twice) and am now currently living with a different host-family. Guys, they’re great! SO different from the other families I’ve dealt with having been in-country. There’s a host-mom, dad, two little inis (6 and 5), and one little singdhe (1 – she always cries when she’s given to me, hope that’ll change). And while my first host-family here in Jyldyz had kids sometimes, these kids actually interact with me. They talk to me (a lot). They hang out in my room (a lot). They ask me questions about me and my stuff (a lot). And despite being normal kids and whining (a lot), they’re really good, cute kids. My host-mom is great, she’s pretty close to my age – she’s 28 – so she talks to me all the time, helping me integrate into the family and inviting me to family events. Y’ALL – I FINALLY GOT A BANYA (granted, it was a communal one – awkwarrrrrrd – but come on)! So, fingers crossed that things continue to go this way and these could be a very tolerable next two years family-wise. :)

On an incredibly random note: Y’all (why I do I keep saying this? I’m blaming Casey Palmer, despite not having hung out with her in a while), I canNOT stop watching the silly TV show Chuck. Like, legitimately. It’s not even that sodding amazing (who am I kidding, yes it is!) but I watch it all the time. If I had to pinpoint the main reason why I watch the show, it would definitely be because of Zachary Levi. Dear GOD, that man is attractive. But it’s not the only reason. As cliché and overused as the main-character-is-in-love-with-his-partner storyline is, this one just works. Maybe because it’s so tormented-star-crossed-lovers and I’m a sap for that kind of stuff, or maybe just ‘cause the acting is good. It also doesn’t hurt that the supporting cast is GREAT. Everyone at that silly wannabe Best Buy is hysterical. And seriously, can you go wrong with Mr Adam ‘Jayne’ Baldwin? Uh, the answer is no. He’s just too badass for his own good. Joss Whedon, you done well finding that kid. And even though most of the time I can see where the story’s going, I still love it, because every once in a while they’ll spring something on me that just makes me stare at my computer screen and go ‘WTF?!’ outloud. With that being said, I apologize in advance if you end up constantly listening to me enthuse about this show and its lead. I’ll get over it eventually. Just roll with the punches on this one. Haha.

Wish I had a more eloquent way to end this, but I do. So, as I send my love and best wishes to everyone, especially starting new school years, jobs, etc., I leave you with this brilliant quote: ‘In case I don’t see you – good afternoon, good evening, and good night.’

23 August 2011

Contentedly discontent.

Before I start on the ‘real’ stuff, I just have to say this: I’m fucking in love with Kyrgyzstan. This place is so beautiful; it takes my breath away pretty much every day. Guys, I WISH you could see this place. The mountains are stunning. The colours are incredible. It’s completely not the same, but at times it reminds me of Africa – the raw, basic lifestyle that just works and the intense appreciation of everything around its people. Yeah, right now it’s hot as balls, but summer’s breaking, so I’m hoping that it’ll get more comfortable. I never thought I’d say this, but I am SO excited for fall and winter to come around. My camera is already excited about the kinds of pictures I’ll be able to take during those two seasons. EEE! :)

Now for the thinking. This past week has been a really interesting one in terms of my headspace.

There was a point during the camp I worked in Issyk-Kul (the oblast with the giant-ass lake) when I was so damn content with life. I was sitting around a table entirely populated of Kyrgyz people, getting ready to break our fast for the day (only a week left of Ramadan!). These people didn’t know me, other than the fact that I was the crazy American fasting, and yet we were all brought together for this one purpose. As usual, they were all incredibly accommodating and hospitable, making sure I had enough plov (of course!) and chai. And despite the fact that I could only understand about 10% of the conversation – even with the PC safety and security coordinator, who was with her family vacationing at the lake, translating as needed – everyone just seemed so damn comfortable with each other. In that moment I felt so perfectly at ease. In that moment I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else doing anything else; I was in exactly the right place at the right time.

I think that this feeling was further compounded at the end of camp when we were saying goodbye to the students. For the majority of the week I didn’t really feel like I was doing much with the kids. Yeah, I was being more normal silly, effervescent self whenever I was around them – as you should while at camp! – but I wasn’t really needed a lot of the time. That was fine ‘cause I am now that much closer to finishing Game of Thrones by George RR Martin [So goddamn good! I highly recommend it to pretty much everyone. And the HBO version is actually not that bad and stays quite true to the book! Also, let’s be honest about this: that cast is fucking beautiful.], but I didn’t feel quite as accomplished as I did after other camps. However, I guess in the little time I spent with them, I got through to at least a few of them? I’m not quite sure how it happened.

After camp, these two girls came up to me and handed me little notes they had had translated from Russian and they rewrote in English. The notes themselves were sodding adorable. Not quite perfect English, they had written about how much fun they had with me, how they were sad they had to go, how much they had learned from me, how much they appreciated my working with them, and that they hoped we’d meet again in the future. I’m not doing their notes justice because they’re priceless, but I don’t want people thinking this is the Sarah’s-The-Best Show… Those two notes, along with the impromptu photo shoot I was forced into with some other students, really helped me come to terms with the fact that this is really happening. I really am in the Peace Corps for two years and this is my life. Hit me upside the head, but I think I really needed to hear that. I’m here to do good work and the fact that people (for the most part) want me to be here.

Conversely, I also get these incredibly vivid moments when I want nothing more than to be out with friends and to start the process of being a grown-up. I don’t know what is bringing these feelings around (I’ll probably just blame this one on Mike for moving), but they’ve been hitting me. Hard. There’s a tiny part of me that is so ready to settle down somewhere, for a time, and start life. Seeing Mike’s new apartment and hearing about how he’s starting fresh, makes me want that. I love and miss that feeling of finding a place and setting up house for the first time. That’s probably one of the ONLY times when everything I own is clean and in order. Haha.

Also, I miss the consistency and regularity of hanging out with friends or getting all gussied up and going out. Or having a pint at the bar, either with the girlies or just to watch a hockey game with the boys. I miss the adventures and stories that come with that. I know that by being here and doing this I’m creating more of those, they’ll just be of a different variety. But it’s not quite the same. I’m also always going through the ‘everyone is living their own grown-up lives and moving on, forgetting me, creating their own stories, having experiences I’m missing’ phase. I seriously need to get the fuck over my FOMO (fear of missing out); it’s quite debilitating sometimes.

Does any of this make sense?

I’ve also started getting quite excited/anxious about what I want to do after my service is over. I obviously want to travel as much as humanly (and financially) possible, but I have the rest of my life to really do that, right? I know that I want to: go back to Jambiani for another amount of time and work/teach/live there; take full advantage of a discounted tuition cost at Uni of Edinburgh for some kind of graduate program; live in Chicago again; live in London – why I’ve so recently become obsessed with this city, I don’t know – and try and find work (maybe photojournalism?). I’m seriously so pumped to start on all this stuff. But I constantly have to keep reminding myself that I’ve got two years to grow, change my mind, find new options, etc. Day at a time, Hopkins.

School starts next week. Still haven’t figured out my new housing situation. Needless to say, definitely starting to panic. Luckily with school, I’ve got a couple of weeks where I can just kind of observe my counterpart and input things as needed. Otherwise, I’d definitely not be sleeping – not that I’ve really been able to lately anyways… – and would be absolutely frantic. Speaking of which, do any of your teacher friends out there have advice for brand-new teachers? Things might be a little different solely because of different system, but I think the question still stands as far as student-teacher interaction, discipline, keeping teaching fun and fresh, etc. HELP ME. Literally any advice or suggestions you have would be fantastic!

Brain is dying at the moment, so I’ll try and wrap this up. Hope everyone’s summer was fantastic and that the first few weeks of school have been acceptable. I’ll be thinking of you when I’m standing in front of my first classroom scared shitless. ;) Know that I’m seriously thinking of you all every day and loving you.

Oh, a quick shout out to those who have managed to send me stuff: you have no idea how much it means to me and how much fun (no, really!) it is to write and send things back. If you’re that type of person, turn to the Dark Side and join the bandwagon; it’s comfier over here. Haha.

03 August 2011

That one post about Ramadan.

Currently in the middle of my third day of Ramadan. And I’m thirsty as shit! If you don’t know what Ramadan is, it’s the Muslim month of fasting. Basically, it is a month – 1-29 August – where during daylight hours you are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, have sex, etc. It is a time where one is supposed to cleanse one’s mind and body, attempting to find oneself closer to God (Allah). I personally think that cleaning the mind is the more important of the two, but I’m sure it also helps to be getting rid of all the shit we put in our bodies on a daily basis. I for one cannot wait to shed all this water weight and start from a clean slate, trying to eat healthier starting September.

This is my first time attempting/participating in Ramadan. And I’d like to think I’m doing relatively well. Like I said before, the thing that really seems to be kicking my ass is not being able to drink water. Especially when helping with a summer camp where you’re doing three straight hours of sessions (read: lots of talking). Haha. The hunger doesn’t really get to me, maybe too much forced practice during high school, college, and getting here where cooking or making food is just a pain in the ass slash not possible. But not being able to wet your whistle…?! DYING. I think another thing that is really getting to me – not only getting up before the ass crack of dawn, literally – but my energy slumps. I’m a relatively happy, outgoing, bubbly person, but over the past two and a half days, I’ve really had to force it for camp.

Despite how it would seem being constantly surrounded by people eating and drinking, it doesn’t really get to me. Yeah, every once in a while I’ll crave a piece of juicy watermelon or want to shove my face full with delicious potato manti, but I’m doing alright. And all of the other vols, while once in a while having a momentary brain lapse, have been super supportive and considerate about stuff, which I’m eternally grateful. I am also super glad that I’m doing this WITH people. As far as I know, my friends Steve, Meghan, Luke and even my dad (!) are all participating with me. Having that solidarity with them really helps, knowing I’m not the only one going through all this for the first time.

One of the other things that I find must be frustrating for people having to deal with me during this month is the fact that they constantly have to save me food for later. At least that’s what’s been done at camp. Or the meal I want to eat is lunch, but have to eat it cold and 8 hours later, when they’ve saved me a plate of whatever was for dinner. I know I should check myself, they don’t even have to be saving me anything, just complaining. Haha.

The thing that baffles me the most is when people – both HCNs (host-country nationals) and other volunteers – ask me why I’m doing Ramadan. For some reason or another, I can never seem to find an answer that seems adequate to anyone. ‘But you’re not Muslim, why are you torturing yourself doing that?’ is one of the most frequent responses I receive when I tell them what I’m doing. I wish that I had a better and more legitimate ‘excuse’ or ‘reason’ for wanting to do it other than I’ve always been fascinated by Islamic culture and have always wanted to try. ‘Cause I feel that people don’t think it’s a ‘good enough’ reason to be starving myself from sunrise to sundown.

I wish I had more that I could talk about right now, but Ramadan has taken over all of my brain power and left it to nothing. And when it does work, it’s with a pounding migraine. Life, eh? Things have been going surprisingly well in life lately. Still kind of bored, but camp has been combating that recently. After it’s over, we’ll see what happens. :) But might be helping another camp in Issyk-Kul (another oblast finally!) the third week of August, and then school starts two weeks later. Not too worried about life anymore. Feelin’ pretty good. Let’s hope it lasts.

Currently raging through Game of Thrones – that silly HBO series based on the books by George RR Martin. Eff my life are they good! I would ask when the hell Harry Lloyd got creepy, but he was the first time I saw him in Doctor Who, so I’m not too surprised he’s the same in this. Again with my love for Sean Bean. Fuck you, Boromir. Get out of my life (and yet stay in it forever, please and thank you!). And the brothers?! YES.PLEASE. And I’m surprised at how relatively close it’s staying to the book – which I’m reading at the moment, along with about 4 others – which is so unlike HBO. I mean, look at the True Blood series. JOKE. [Speaking of which, I would kill small children to see this season, it’s my favourite of the books and has shit tons of Eric in it! <3]

I hope everyone has been having a solid summer and have been doing lots of cool things. Keep me updated on everyone’s lives, will you? Still love getting snail mail… And I promise that I do respond, even if it takes me a while to get them actually sent off. Haha. Missing and loving you all. Think about you every day! 

22 July 2011

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

So, because a certain someone named Skippy requested it, I give you a day in my life in Kyzyl Jyldyz. With pictures and commentary. I should also give a disclaimer that some of this doesn’t happen daily, it just so happened to happen today when I had my camera with me and was on the mission of fulfilling this task. :)

This one’s pretty easy to figure out – it’s my bed. This is where I sleep. Obviously there’s Lumphy and Bobby. I get up sometimes with my alarm (yes, it is ‘Chelsea Dagger’ so I’m not quite leaving my Hawks to rot, although there’s going to be no one from the team left by the time I get home!) and sometimes just sleep until I can’t sleep anymore. Which is nowadays somewhere between 8.30 and 9 am. Crazy, huh?

After waking up, I come over to my dresser and get my toothbrush and green H2O bottle ready to head outside where I’m allowed to actually brush ‘em. Yeah, there’s a bunch of random stuff on my dresser – normal though, right?

Then I walk outside to the shoe ranch, whose name I just made up, to find some shoes to slip on before exiting the house. Easy on and off shoes are definitely the best, especially for summer time. It just takes too damn long to tie up trainers and Chucks. I need to think about getting some bazaar shoes (the giant blue sandals near the middle), they’re hella cheap and supes fashionable around the village.

Once outside I head to that little patch of yellow-y lookin’ grass. That’s my sink. Awesome, huh? As this picture was taken a while ago, there’s now a GIANT field of sunflowers near those trees in the background. I sincerely love brushing my teeth and starin’ at ‘em. They’re gorgeous. In fact, I’ll put in the picture I took of them just now!

After brushing my teeth, I usually head back to my room and sit at my desk for a while doing random shit. Mostly surfing Facey-B and checking email. There really isn’t much else to do on the internet when you can’t look at pictures, videos, or spend copious amounts of time on Tumblr ‘cause it’s far too expensive. I wonder what kind of interwebz nerd I’ll be (if at all) when I get back…

You can kind of see the edge of one of these at the top of the above picture, but since I didn’t have enough tape to hang up all my pictures individually like I have done since Edinburgh, I made a couple of collages. They were a nice creative outlet (and helped with the boredom) during my first month and it’s so awesome to wake up every morning and be able to say hi to you guys even though you’re so far away. It also helps remind me of all the swanky and crazy stuff I’ve gotten to do. Makes me miss you all too. If you want your picture to be hanging on my wall, I’m going to need you guys to send me some pictures. I’m in love with snail mail, especially when there’s silly stuff in it! 

This is also exactly what you’d think it is. That wooden box (God, why couldn’t it be the TARDIS?) in the background is my outhouse. It’s actually a surprisingly wonderful one ‘cause it’s so new. But even with others that I’ve used, my numerous camping experiences have helped prepare myself for whatever comes. And as for the tools that are in a semi-circle guarding said outhouse, I can’t really explain it. I assume it was the 3 year old who’s currently living with me. Kids.

Once I’m ready to leave my house and do something in the village, I head out along this road. It’s basically the only way I can get anywhere (I’m on the outer edge of anything). On the left side of this picture, that’s legit the edge of the village; there are only fields and crops over there. It’s an EPIC place to take pictures though. My friend Dave and I ventured out that way one weekend and got some amazing shots. Can’t wait to show everyone.

A little further past the picture above is the well where I sometimes get my water. Most of the time I’m lazy and just get it from the little creek/stream that’s right outside my house – hey, that’s what filters are for, right? – but when I’m feeling really ambitious I’ll come to this guy. It’s really actually kinda scary to use. The thing is about a billion years old and acts like it’s going to break down when you’re using it. Hence the creek. Haha.

This is getting closer to the heart of the village. For some reason I really like going past these few houses. 

Yes, that is a giant pile/stack/stockpile of cow chips that I get to walk by every day. Attractive, huh? But seriously though, they’re amazing for starting and maintaining fires, which is a godsend when you’re trying to banya and/or cook with the giant kazan thing (you’ll see that in a minute).

This is my school! There’s an almost-basketball court to the immediate left of this picture (you can see one of the ‘hoops’ in this pic). Wonder if we can get a real one? We’ve got about 450ish students at my school. My teachers are all awesome and funny – we all bonded pretty well when I got shithoused with them a month ago. Gotta love the ever-flowing araq (vodka).

Alright, so THIS is the playground. Crazy, huh? It’s literally just a bunch of metal structures that are supposed to be fun. And the one that looks like a gi-hugic smile? Yeah, those are monkey bars. That go up like 15 feet. No way in hell my kids are gonna be playin’ on this thing. What happened to good ol’ slides and little Tic-Tac-Toe boards?

This is a close-up of my school. My classroom is on the first floor, basically straight across the hall from the door that’s on the furthest right. There’s a gym type area on the second floor (on the left of this pic). Awesomely, that’s also right next to the cafeteria-kitchen place they’ve got. Cannot wait to get started here. :)

This is a really awful view of my counterpart’s house, but it works. She was cleaning the tushuks today which are those colourful things hanging on the line in the background. They’re basically giant, comfy sleeping mats that Kyrgyz use when housing guests. They’re my best friends.

This picture basically sums up my life in Kyrgyzstan – chai iching. Simply put, it’s where you go guesting at someone’s house and shove your face full of tea, bread, and jams. It’s slowly becoming one of my favourite things to do; I love just sitting and talking (or attempting to) with these people. Let’s just hope my language will get its shit together so I can be good at it.

And this handsome wee devil is my counterpart’s youngest son. I’m going to steal him. Like, legit. Pretty much my favourite kid in the village. Hands down. <3

If I want to go anywhere outside of my village – whether to go to the bigger bazaar in Kirovka or visit other volunteers in Talas or their villages – I’ve gotta pass this guy. It’s the dam that blocks Kirovka’s reservoir and I guess supplies water to the valley where I live? But anyway, yes, you are correct if you guessed that was Lenin. It is, in fact, the World’s Largest Lenin Head. Be jealous.

I swear water on this side of the dam shouldn’t be doing that. But it does and when the sun’s shining right, it makes for stunning rainbows.

Alright, so this is one side of the outside kitchen. The oven/stove on the left side is powered by electricity and the one on the right is powered by gas. I guess gas is super expensive and a pain in the ass to get from Kazakhstan, so most of the time we use the one of the left. Gotten really good at only having two pots goin’ at once.

In between the above picture and this one (which is the kazan) there’s a small table where we can prepare food and what not before using one of the cooking implements. Basically, this guy is a giant Russian oven type thing. You make a fire underneath – the cat we have likes to climb in the fire pit, so we have to double check before lighting up – and there are two holes where the two bowl things sit and heat up. The big one of is used mainly for plov (the fried rice dish I eat all the time) and other soups. I haven’t quiet mastered the kazan yet, but give me time! ;)

After consumption of and cleaning up of dinner, I head back to my room to either watch something on the good ol’ Mac (I’m now steadily working my way through Dexter; still waiting for HP7 and Transformers 3) or I’ll bust out one of these guys or my Kindle and read until I fall asleep. Which then brings you guys all back to that first picture where my bed is.

Hope you guys enjoyed the crazy day in the life of me while in the Peace Corps. I’m sure once school starts in September things’ll be super different. Same thing with winter. I’m actually stoked at the pictures I should be able to take during then. Now I’m off to hopefully banya (I will seriously shit myself if this actually happens, I’m so excited) and then attempt to make myself a curry.

21 July 2011

High kicks in Talawesome.

Holy God, it’s been almost a month since I’ve last written! Which puts me at almost four months since having left the States. Fuck, that’s crazy. Loads of stuff has happened and loads of stuff has not happened. Some of it is unimportant, some of it is important but of a slightly fragile nature, so I’m tryin’ to stay away from it and keep this entry as positive as possible!

This one is on a slightly similar note as the last one, but hopefully a bit more up than the last one and then there will probably be a shit ton of a babble, just updating everyone on how life’s been in Kyrgyzstan over the last month.

Ready for it?

So, in an attempt to start lesson planning for my sessions at the Talas English Camp at the beginning of August – I’m doing HIV/AIDs awareness-prevention-promotion through photography and promotion of diversity through theatre! – I’ve been looking through my iPhoto. Sometimes this is a really bad decision as I start getting super homesick and start missing experiences long-since gone. But for some reason today, it’s done the opposite. It has made me so excited and happy and reminded me how lucky I have been over the past five years of my life.

[I apologize in advance if the next few paragraphs make me sound entitled or arrogant, it is not meant to. It’s more a reflection on everything and the places it’s gotten me to today. Therefore, please don’t think I’m bragging or anything; I’m not.]

As much as I hated high school – let’s be honest, who didn’t? – I got to do a BUNCH of cool stuff. I mean, who starts a few made-up holidays that actually get continued for years after you’ve left?! Let’s reminisce, shall we? March 2nd. Estrogen Day. Lupper. Emo Day. It’s crazy, looking back on it. The things that my friends and I did during high school just for shits and giggles have been passed down for years through other classes, mainly those within the drama department. And here I was thinking I didn’t make an impact during those awkward years between 16 and 18… Haha.

Very similar things can be said for the four years I spent in college. I fell in love with one of my favourite cities in the US – if you don’t know which one I’m talkin’ about, you do NOT know me – while meeting some of my favourite and closest friends on the planet. So many concerts. So many wonderful memories. And just looking back on all of the things we did when we were so young and stupid and now seeing where we all are today? It’s fucking crazy. During college I studied awesome subjects that have helped shaped the direction in which I’d like to go someday. British history, Islamic studies, Arabic, etc.

And to top it all off, studying in Scotland, where I fed my love for the UK (seriously, mark my words, I will live there for an extended period of time…), just added to all the aforementioned things. Plus, the little trips I got to do on the side. Celebrating JP’s 21st 605-style in Bilbao, ordering drinks in Basque. Introducing Brits to a ‘real’ Thanksgiving and then throwing the turkey (RIP Fred) carcass, with juices, out of a 3rd story window. London Twilight premiere with Kathryn, squealing (me, that is) over the fact we’re in the same room as Robert Pattinson. Spending Christmas in Paris with my mom and brother. Celebrating my 21st with some of my best girlfriends in Inverness, riding a motor-trike around Loch Ness, drinking whisky. Going to the airport and literally getting on the next plane to wherever with Tif, ending up in Amsterdam and loving the whole spontaneous experience. St Patty’s Day in Dublin with Zini – literally no more should be said on that subject. Heading to London with Ri for our epic weekend of concerts and shows, ending up meeting Jamesy and Ingrid. My solo trip to Rome, ending in a HELLISH sunburn, but an intense love for that ancient city. And our goodbye party that cannot be described because of its awesomeness.

And obviously the rest of everything in Chicago, jobs, internships, trips – NZ and Africa – hockey, and life in general has shaped where I am now. I could not be happier about every single one of those experiences and people. I also could not feel more blessed/lucky/privileged to have been able to have all of those things. So, to every single one of you reading this, I thank you. I love you more than words can say and appreciate every single thing you have done for me over the past few years.

Alright, now to the little bit about Kyrgyzstan that’s been happening as of late. This past weekend was one of my favourite weekends thus far having been in country. Basically, a shit ton of K-19 vols from around the country all came to Talas for an epic weekend reunion as well as a music festival that one of the vols helped organize with his placement. Guys, it was amazing. Legit. So much fun. Amazing food was made (I’m seriously becoming SO surprised with some of the stuff that we’ve been able to make in-country). Hawaiian Polar Bear pancakes, for example. Think pancakes with bananas, Snickers bars, Mars bars, and Bounty bars all mixed in. My mouth died with happiness. Everyone who came – Steve, Casey, Ian, Sweens, Johnny D, etc. – had a blast. No drama. Just pure awesomeness. And it all came to a conclusion at the music festival which was just nuts. Johnny D and Alex, one of the Talas vols, were asked to perform ‘Chai Ich’ – ‘Have a Cuppa Tea’ by the Kinks translated into Kyrgyz – because a bunch of counterparts saw it at swearing-in and haven’t stopped talking about it since. Not only did the boys perform, but there was an epic disco where we all just danced around like silly Americans. So. Much. Fun. When we all got back to our hotel at around 1 am, all of a sudden the room and building started to shake. As we all were ‘in the area,’ as SRoot would say, it took us a few minutes to figure out what the hell was going on. I guess there was an earthquake last night? Haha. Apparently it was a rather big one down in the south (like a 7-ish on the Richter), but where we were it wasn’t that bad, only around a 1. Nuts, eh? My first feel-able earthquake. Thank you, Kyrgyzstan.

I can’t believe how much time has passed already. It’s almost the end of July, meaning I’ll have been in country for four months. When the hell did that happen?! We’re already getting emails about IST (In-service training)! Talas’ is near the end of September; can’t even think about the fact that THAT will be 6 months into my two year service. Ugh, brain can’t take that right now. Haha. I have no idea what IST’s going to be like, other than it’ll be a three-day adventure. My guess is that it’ll be a three-day long Hub Day like back in PST. Which will either be AWESOME or it’ll suck hardcore. We shall see. I’ll keep you updated.

Scored a few books on my Kindle today, but as usual, am ALWAYS up for recommendations! Oh, I also have about 10 actual books that I’ve borrowed from people I’ve gotta work through. Reading list is as follows:
-       The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden
-       Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
-       The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
-       Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
-       The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
-       Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (need to finish it)
-       On the Road to Kandahar by Jason Burke (need to finish it)
-       Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
-       Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden (need to finish it)
Then go ahead and include the other almost-90 items that are already on my Kindle to that list and you’ve got my reading material for the rest of the summer. Haha. Thing I’ve got enough to last? And again, if anyone has anything they’ve read recently that’s just FANTASTIC, tell me ASAP. :)

And because I know how much ALL of you are so interested in my television watching habits, I thought I’d update everyone on what I’m up to. I have magically acquired, thanks to Ms Keisha, the entirety of what has aired thus far of Doctor Who. Holy TARDIS as a human Batman! Lots of twists and turns have happened in only 7 episodes and I legit have no idea where they can go from here. LOVED Neil Gaiman’s epi, so much that I spent this morning trying to find some of his books for my Kindle. Ended up scoring Neverwhere and The Good Omen; wanted to get Stardust, ‘cause I heart the movie so much, but they don’t have it in Kindle format. Might have to somehow find an actual book copy somehow. Enough of the tangent though, back to Who. How is it that Matt Smith has so fucking quickly done so many wonderful things with Eleven and we’ve now already seen his ‘death’ – at least we’ve got 200+ more years with him, right? – since he can’t regenerate. And Karen Gillan crying over Rory after he almost drowned… Girl has gotten much better with the tears. And Arthur Darvill at the beginning of ‘When a Good Man Goes to War,’ oh holy God. Just stay like that forever and ever, will you? Do NOT get between The Last Centurion and his wife/kid. *z snaps* The thing I have with things now is this: is anyone really going to want to watch them have frivolous adventures when Amy’s baby (who’s identity I won’t reveal even though I’m the one who’s like a month late in finding it out) is still in the middle of some evil plot? Let’s be honest. As intrigued as I am about maybe killing Hitler, I want to see Eleven save the shit outta the kid and get rid of EyePatchLady. Any thoughts?

With the possibility that most of you saw it on Facebook (I assume that that’s how you’re reading this – you followed the link I put up there), I successfully made my first batch of granola from scratch. Words cannot describe how fucking tasty it is and how much of an accomplishment it felt like actually working out! I even splurged and went crazy adding peanuts, two different type of raisins and PEANUT BUTTER (Mel left me her Peter Pan when she left)! OhmyGod, is it good. Now the only problem is is that since I’m such a nice person – comments to yourself, please – I shared with a bunch of the people that came into Talas for the reunion/music festival weekend and now my stash is low. Hopefully, this afternoon, maybe even right after I post this, I’ll be able to make another batch. Fingers crossed for me, people. On the topic of food (wow, I just got THE biggest craving for Taco Bell, that’s no good!), I still need people to send me fun recipes that have relatively easy-to-find ingredients and don’t require magic to cook them! For example: Philly’s Shepherd’s Pie, Smoth’s pasta – there has to be SOME kind you can send me that’s easy – and anything anyone else has to offer.

I wish that I had more detailed things to say about how life has been for me in Kstan, but I haven’t been up to all that much. I’m helping with another camp in two weeks, so that’ll be a thing to add on the list, but it’s mostly been watchin’ TV/movies and reading books. Speaking of which: WHO IS BARNEY GETTING READY TO MARRY?! It better be Robin, the two of them are too perfect together! Still don’t want to hear about Harry Potter as I haven’t been able to find a copy of it yet. If anyone does, I WANT IT.

Please know that I love and miss you all. Wishing you the best of summers and hope that everything is treating you well.

23 June 2011

The last five years...

Today, despite the fact that I have strep for the first time that I can remember – seriously, Mom, when was the last time I had this? I know I’ve convinced myself I had it even when it was a virus, but still…  – I went to our school’s ‘goodbye’ ceremony for all of the 11th formers. It was basically their graduation ceremony, where everyone receives their marks from their exams and gets flowers and they thank teachers and take tons of photos. I obviously sat in the front row, was a spectacle just ‘cause I’m American, and didn’t understand A WORD of what was said. To anyone. About anything. Next year’s ceremony’s gonna be interesting…

Oh, I should also mention that like a blundering American (or maybe just me – I don’t want to generalize/stereotype Americans too harshly), I completely janked up the dress code. Because of my two-day invalid-ism thanks to the grip – that’s read: flu – and then strep (yeah, it’s been a great week), I had no idea it was a formal/dress-up occasion. So, what did I wear? Yeah, that would be a John Mayer tour t-shirt, jeans, flip-flops, and my Hawks baseball hat. I didn’t stick out or anything at ALL. *facepalm*

While sitting through it, and watching my host-nephew get all of his stuff and my apa beaming with pride as he did so, I was seriously overcome with emotion. I don’t know why, maybe it’s ‘cause I am feeling so crappy, or I miss all of my friends and family back in the States, or if it’s ‘cause I miss that feeling of accomplishment from my own high school graduation. Honestly couldn’t tell you. There were numerous times when I had to swallow (which, trust me, hurt like a BITCH) back my tears and try to keep myself composed.

It’s been five years since my own high school graduation. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but at the same time it feels like it’s been AGES since I was at that place. Both mentally and physically. Sure I’ve been back to visit a teacher or two since then, but to really be there? It’s obviously been five years. But there are so many memories, both good and bad, that are still so vivid in my head. Mr Williams – ew. Play Pro auditions. Jumping into my friend’s arms as he arrived mid-show because things were going terribly. Holding the hands of my best girlfriends’ hands after our first show of Steel Magnolias and coming out into the hallway to thunderous applause. [I bet no one can guess what kind of nerd I was in high school…]

The whole concept of time truly baffles me. In that five years, so fucking much as happened to me. Moving to Chicago. Starting and then finishing college. Getting my first taste of traveling abroad – living for a year in Scotland. Going to, working in, (and falling in love with) Africa. Getting into and actually doing the Peace Corps. Meeting fucking amazing people along the way. I’d like to think I’ve become a better person since then. At least someone who’s a little more sure of herself, knows a little bit better about what she’d like to do with her life, or at least just a little more fucking sensible with the choices she makes and things she does.

But who the hell really knows?

And yet there are moments, even now, when I still feel like that 18 year-old girl in high school. I DON’T know what I want to do with my life; that’s why I’m attempting to do this Peace Corps thing. Do I want to head back to my beautiful Jambiani and work there again? Or continue traveling while I’m still relatively young and don’t have anything tying me down? Or do I want to head back to school – get a Masters from some swanky school (maybe abroad?)? Or do I want to just settle down some place and find a job? Coming out of this at 25 I feel partly that I’ll have the world at my feet to do whatever, but there’s still that damn societal pressure to be doing and making something of yourself at that age…

I DON’T know where exactly I belong. I know I belong somewhere – everyone has to have a home, right? But where is that home? Back in Nebraska? Chicago? New York? Washington DC? Africa? Scotland? New Zealand? Kyrgyzstan? Or somewhere else entirely unexplored (for me at least) yet? It all frustrates and terrifies the shit out of me, but at the same time acts as one of the few surprises I have left in my life. It’s like when one of my best friends told me that she refused to find out the gender of her baby and out of frustration (‘cause let’s be honest, HOW DO YOU BUY NON-GENDERED BABY ITEMS?!) I asked her why, she told me just that: it was one of the only real surprises she had left and she wasn’t going to spoil it.

I think that what this nonsensical, drug-addled entry is trying to communicate is that my brain obviously thinks too much about the past and the future, but never the present. I think that’s one of the things that I need to work most on while I’m over here. It’s been a rough week (wow, it seriously feels like so much longer than that) since Mel left. Lots of things going through my head. Trying to work it all out in ‘safe’ places so I don’t drive my friend David (who’s become my new shoulder) absolutely crazy, only a month into my service.

Sorry for this one, guys. It was meant to be a bit more uplifting and philosophical or whatever the hell you want to call it, but obviously turned out a bit differently. Haha. Know that I love you all and am missing you like crazy. Haven’t received any mail or packages yet, but since I am out in the boonies, I’m just chalking it up to a slow taxi or something happened in the mountains and it’ll get here eventually. Gotta maintain that optimism, right?

John, Chanelle, guys, I am seriously GUTTED I cannot be with you all this weekend. Know that I am thinking about you and loving you from here, ok? I’m sure my mom will convey as much when she sees you, but just want you to hear/read it from me, too. Congratulations to you both. So excited for you. Wishing you the best fucking luck on the planet. All my love to you guys.

And to everyone else.

06 June 2011

Jange post!

I feel like a fucking yo-yo. I can’t decide what I make of all of this. Some days I’m literally curled into a ball sobbing my eyes out (Fuck you, Glee, for doing ‘For Good’…) and some moments, like just now when I’m walking home from eating dinner at my counterpart’s house and the weather outside is stunning and she makes me feel at home (finally), I’m so glad I’m here. I feel that that’s probably what the next two years are going to be all about. Lots of bad moments, but the good moments work their asses off to outweigh them.

I honestly didn’t think that the adjustment into permanent site would be this difficult. I’ve lived away from home before, been in foreign countries alone for extended periods of time, and have taught – albeit not this formal – and yet for some reason this is just kicking my ass. I haven’t quite figured out how to dig my feet in and set up shop here. My language has suffered a severe blow in the past week ‘cause of the extensive amount of time I’ve spent with Americans. I’m constantly grasping at straws and have become a genius with miming, but still can’t quite make the mark. I think that as soon as I get more confident with my language and start meeting people in the village that things won’t be as daunting, but for now, put up with the silliness and complaining you’re more than likely getting from me.

Also, before I forget, what kind of stupid jerkface decides to text me at silly o’clock in the morning to tell me that SHE KNOWS WHO RIVER SONG IS?! Seriously. COME. ON. Haha. I mean, I know that I’m doing pretty well in regards with missing TV shows and movies, but that bit of information is one you can’t just dangle in front of my face like that! That’s like saying (and I hope at least some of you get this reference) ‘Found out what the numbers mean and why Walt is so special…’ when the person on the receiving end of information is in outer space. Not cool. ;) If you don’t have an immediate way for me to find out said information on my own, then just steer clear of saying things like that. Haha.

Starting an English club tomorrow. Absolutely scared shitless. Didn’t really think I’d be starting work less than a week after moving here permanently. But I guess I am. My counterpart Rahat Eje and I are thinking about starting a dance club, an American cooking club – which will be abdan interesting since no one here likes the majority of American food! – and maybe even a movie club. We’ll see how any and/or all of those work out. Also, if you (Amy and other theatre people, this is for you!) know of any good shows to do for young people, or at least with an ok English ability, PLEASE send me the scripts. Either by post or by email. I’m hoping to start a theatre troupe in the next two years and any and all help would be greatly appreciated.  

Rahat Eje asked me today while we were walking around the village, ‘Do you have any ideas for your secondary project?’ and I literally just blanked. I have no idea what to do. I know I don’t have to decide right this second what I’d like to work on while I’m here, but most people at least have an inkling as to theirs. I guess only time will tell on this one. Who the hell knows what I’ll end up doing?

Another request for you friends out there: Do people want to email me some of their favourite recipes from home? I seriously want to do a bit of cooking for myself while in country and try new things – I’m already amazed at how much my taste buds are changing out of necessity – but my cookbook is a bit limited. Send me your favourites that you think I could make here in country, or if they’re THAT amazing and there are ingredients you don’t think I can get my hands on… Care packages! Haha. Tamashaw (‘just kidding’ in Kyrgyz). But only kind of.

How’s everyone doing with life? How are B’s fightin’ against the ‘Nucks? Last time I checked they were 0-2. Still the same? To my babes in Boston, seriously wishing them ALL THE LUCK in the world. How’s BabySkip faring during her first summer? Lose enough sleep yet? How was the new X Men movie? Decent? James McAvoy gorgeous as ever? How does it feel being finished with your first year of grad school? Epic? Only how many more to go? ;) Who has some really awesomely epic book recommendations for me? Also, does anyone know who was officially cast as Peeta for The Hunger Games movie? It wasn’t that kid from Weeds, was it?

I feel that this entry’s going to be a short one ‘cause my brain is completely jumbled with far too many feelings, emotions, languages, logistics, plans, etc. and can’t think properly. I also have kichene homework to prepare for tomorrow’s English club.

Missing you all and hoping that your summer is off to an amazing start. Love you.