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!