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.