Sometimes I seriously feel like I am in a Mel Brooks play. I have to sit back, relax, and just laugh sometimes. The weather is getting nicer, and I am remembering how beautiful this country is in non Arctic temperatures. The birds sing, the ice melts and evaporates, and it isn’t overbearingly hot. I also think I have a much better mind set and approach to teaching this semester. More patience, understanding, happiness, freedom and acceptance. Less frustration, confusion, anger, rigidity and demands. Short blog today, just happy to be.
It is difficult to think of myself as so interesting that I need to blog, I mean, woo hoo, I hit 6 subscribers last week, but for those who have told me they read this, here is a quick update and small story. This picture is of this boy and his black lab who lives in my building complex and I have watched this puppy grow up. Now the puppy who has always and continues to be OC (out of control) yanks the boy around instead of the other way around like when he was smaller. I know there is an analogy in here somewhere which I dont feel like fleshing out, but suffice to say, when the kid isn’t terrified the dog will bote someone or yanking him around, it is super cute to see them playing together and brings me joy, you can even see his sister in the background tagging along in the fun. Other than this small anecdote, I went skiing in Karakol last weekend, really truly high caliber skiing akin to any other boarding I have ever done, but was a little dissappointed I didn’t heliski, but my friend took me backcountry which was awsomeness. Valentine’s Day went well, my first with a gf, and I am happy to have a happy girlfriend again, thanks GK for babysitting. Lastly, the Transit Center people will no longer come to the AC, so I am left to pick up the slack, and now will be teaching two talking clubs a week in addition to my classes at Arabayeva, where btw, my fellow American teacher quit last week because she couldn’t take their BS anymore. Im niot making this up, this place is insanely difficult to work at, and I’m just gonna do what I can and try and be happy with my final months here, keeping my head down, staying in my lane, and trying not to put too much pressure on myself about making plans for the future.
Inspired by my good friend LS, whose WordPress driven website just went online in testing phase and due credit to PP for his inevitable help there, I will write another entry of my once meant to be daily but now bi weekly blog. Lots to cover which makes for an easy entry, and the blood boiling frustrations I felt after my meeting last week have calmed, slightly. So instead of a part two to the last entry, of which I wrote three version each 1000 words long, even going so far as to publish one before coming to my senses and taking it down, I will try and move forward. Someone asked me, among the 50+ questions I answered in American Cultural Ambassador mode at my talking club today, a truly exhausting and thankless task because no one there truly even understands me I am sure, but the questions allow me to reflect, and I was asked, what have I learned since I came here. My answer, I have learned to relinquish some of my need for control and desire to understand my surroundings. When I arrived, I wanted to know why everything was so dysfunctional, why I was given excuse after excuse as to why my classes hadn’t started yet and I hadn’t been given a schedule and why students were not showing up, how to buy food that was digestible, how to order a taxi, how to speak conversational Russian, and so on. I have since learned to just go with the flow. So what if my school two weeks ago invited me to a “conference” which was in Russian and no more than reciting new “standards”, only to find out someone in the administration passed away and now they would sit around and drink chai and do nothing productive, apparently in their memory, while I waited for hours for a meeting to get my schedule before I found them sitting around talking, and they told me, oh, go home and I will call you next week, only to have two weeks later still no phone call or email so much as giving a hint as to what my schedule will look like. Or so what we are losing 95% of the volunteers at the talking clubs when the Transit Center packs up and leaves this month (because they roll in on W + F with 15 volunteers). So what if I am not included in any meetings, discussions, or even CC-ed on emails relating to what I do at the American Corners, or that the other Americans at the Embassy only give me lip service about how good of a job I do and really couldn’t have less of an idea of what I do or how well I do it. Ray has shown an indication to care, and I will invite him to my school, when or if it ever gets started, so he can see with his own eyes and ears how I am not just a simple “complainer” or “excuse maker”. Back to the point of the student’s question, I will stay in my lane, to use an Army shooting range term. You know what, C’est la vie. I will breath, just keep my head down, and do what I can where I can when asked. I will no longer push and strive to try to single handedly make those around me do something that resembles giving a shit. I will mind my own business, study Russian as much as possible, and do what I can to get out of this experience a little less jaded, and that is what I have learned. How to adjust expectations, desires, goals, daily activities to tailor the time spent here and balance my desire to make this place better while maintaining a level of sanity and self-pride.
With that said, I have had a pretty cool week, I had a lot of emotional stuff to say on Sunday but never got around to putting it on paper, oh well, no stress, breath, doing my best… Last weekend, I can barely remember, the days kinda blend together, I guess the highlight would be playing racquetball, and getting to meet my GF’s “team” aka click I guess, who I originally thought would be sexist rich douches after my first meeting with them at the Wakeboard Park when I was treated, well, not so nicely. But they have turned out to be genuinely nice people, despite that fact that they only speak with each other in Russian, and to me in one or two word English, we still laugh together and understand each other to a certain degree, and that is comforting. The Sauna at the rock climbing gym was something else, 95 degrees Centigrade, and slapping each other with virtually boiling water covered branches, an experience more reminiscent of torture than recreation or relaxation, certainly exfoliating and invigorating. This weekend I participated in a skiing competition, and got to use the head of their team’s wide powder skis, which were definitely necessary, and I had a blast, and some seriously deep powder despite having to go directly through the occasionally very large bush. Good times. Now my GF’s daughter has returned from a month and a half in Russia, and already the high tension has returned to my GF sadly. I am excited to get to see her daughter’s joy, but understandably, have little to do with the need to keep her calm, so the immediate return of my GF’s anger shouldn’t be that much of a surprise but is certainly hard to watch. Ugh, I’m gonna leave that part of my life out here out of this public blog…
Thanks again to those of you reading this and commenting, your comments really are the connection to the world back home which reminds me that I am not alone out here and I take them to heart. You have no idea how much it means to me, thanks again, especially FH, and of course, to my wonderful Mother, who saves her comments for my phone calls. Here is to a positive experience taking the FSOT on Saturday.
My meeting with the CAO and PAO was informative yet impersonal. My desire for them to be mentors and friends will have to be abandoned unfortunately. Oh well. As for the FSOT, I made a crucial error choosing the Consular track and not fully describing my past employment and skills apparently. Great, no worries, hey, they were naturals and didn’t need to even study for the test they are so amazing, but wished me the best of luck. As for my Russian, I’m clearly too impatient and lazy for this language. I guess two hours a day with this tutor isn’t enough, if I really wanted to be conversational, I should abandon all friendships with English speakers and hit the books, no excuses. Least my girlfriend is no longer calling me an unmanly quitter as she was last night when giving me the cold shoulder and we are going indoor rock climbing and sauna-ing with her non-English speaking friends.
I realize my quest to make this an open, journal style blog is impossible because if I write how I feel right now I could insult a lot of people. Part two will be more extensively descriptive but will need to be carefully crafted, I hope to have it posted tomorrow.
As I have calmed a little in my desire to transform the frustrations that abound “teaching” here, I have had less to write/rant about, hense, the non daily blogging. With my traditional excuse for not writing concise, clear, interesting daily updates out of the way, I will tell a story about a standard frustration of mine, the lack of cooperation.
Grace went to her talking club Monday, the actual MLK day, and called me afterwards telling me they were talking about the festivities I was planning for Tuesday. As it turns out, I had just recently posted on the American Corner Facebook page a request for participation in a jobs/schools talking club. I had no idea my talking club had been cancelled in favor of a photo opportunity for the Ambassador. In fairness, it turned out to be a great event, highlighted by a Gospel choir from the transit center and a lengthy high minded speech from the Ambassador along with awards presented for a MLK I have dream speech presentation. I appreciate the embassy staff have duties I am wholesomely unaware of, and would like to be, but they continually pop in, praising the AC staff on their amazing work and talking about how frutful this project is, it better be with how much money is spent there, again, with no input from me or anyone else who actually daily is at the AC to know where the money could be spent best. Its nice they wanted to say I had something to do with this project, but in reality, I didn’t even know about it and it was more to placate me and boost my ego that I helped. They could have at least informed me I wasn’t gonna have a talking club that day instead of autonomously removing my post, along with a post of mine about MLK day being a day of service. And as to the wonderful contest, which actually was a great idea presenting awards for speeches and texts in Russian, Kyrgyz and English, it goes to show their in depth judging, that the American language speech which won was just a recitation of the I have a Dream speech by an AUCA student who is a Radio production major. Props at least to the concept, and bringing in a non predudicial outside singing group who was gracious and truly happy to be there. I also met the Public Affairs Officer, who praised me and Grace for our wonderful, creative and genuine work there. How she knows about this work, I don’t know, probably more undeserved random accolades meant to stroke egos. Kinda the way this country functions, I just was hoping I guess for a more merit based State department bureaucracy.
Anyways, she was nice enough, and said she would try and make it to my meeting with the Cultural Affairs Officer, Ray, who as I spoke about previously, I have high hopes for turning around the prevailing attitudes of complacency, ignorance (in the ignoring sence, not stupidity) and back patting, as a new phrase in Russian I learned, Ruka, Ruku, Moet, something along the lines of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. I may only have a skewed view of how the state department works only due to my lack of real information, but with the Turkmenistan thing, how my time has gone here so far (alone, ignored by the embassy, in a crumbling educational system) but I am hoping this meeting will be the start of actual involvement with other Americans who really want to make this country a better place. Then Russian lesson, ugh, didn’t do my hw again.
Lots to report, this entry will be more of an after action summary of my weekend. My drive to capture the emotions of being here will be weaker in this post, as my inspiration is more intended to share what turned out to be a, well, weekend of new experiences, and I want to try and keep up the appearance of daily blogging, and my first attempt at including a picture in my blog.
Sean, my PCA friend, came to town Friday so we could go skiing with him and his PCA friends Saturday. Unfortunately the taxi we were in took us to the wrong mountain, but I had a new experience with rope towing. This one had a hook attached to a rope which after self clipping to the tow line, then gets wrapped around the body. Old school.
Then today was a Russian traditional holiday where Russians jump in the freezing cold lake in order to rid demons. Even children as young as two years old are dipped in the freezing cold lake amid food, music and inevitably booze. Good experience, and thankfully it has been a mild winter this year and I didn’t completely freeze.
In the hope of keeping up my daily blog, here is todays rambling reckless recalcitrant regrettable rant. Today was blissfully uneventful, cooked breakfast consisting of toast burnt in a frying pan and my specialty, scrambled eggs, and chocolate milk kanyeshna (of course in Russian, way overused and without the negative connotation usually associated with it in English, aka, of course you idiot, took me a while to get used to that one). Printed off the study jpg I overpaid for from ACT, which administers the FSOT, smart outsourcing or morally questionable to be administering this test, not for me to know, above my pay grade. Studied for my Russian lesson for about 20 minutes before giving up and doing miscellaneous tasks, such as calling my mom, until dreaded Russian lesson, albeit Tuesday’s lesson was not as bad as Monday’s which basically consisted of me ranting about why I don’t know Russian in English to Irina, my tutor, who didn’t understand anything other than the hostility and responded by saying, memorize memorize memorize, fml. Went to the AC, American Corner – room in the library sponsored by US State Dept with clubs, computers, books… – to see the Transit center people “teaching”. What a crock, the two people in charge of the soldiers brought there were reading magazines, writing letters home, on their computers, etc. I think they are nice people, but they are hitting the couple month slump in deployment when one can’t sleep anymore and could care less about the mission. We infantrymen know this as complacency, and it gets us killed, for them, and understandingly their jobs are much different, not to mention they are Air Force, it is exhaustion and carelessness. The last duo who ran this program for the transit center seemed to care more. As the “transit center”, American Base renamed center for political reasons, is leaving and this duo is female and more restricted in their behavior and activities, who am I to judge, guess it’s the normal POG vs Grunt dilemma. Either way, got some fried food and a hamburger from butel brat, a food truck in a way trying to imitate Burger King with their design scheme at least, came home, wrote 1 email out of probably 20 I should respond to, went back out in the rain turning into snow, very pretty and I am glad to have waterproof shells from REI, to buy some books Irina advised me would help my Russian, and now am home blogging, putting off the laundry list of things I should be doing which would be actually productive. Side note, two words which are not literally translate-able from English to Russian, “fun” and “efficiency”.
Now list of topics I would write about but really should do something more productive:
- Repairmen wearing camo, probably cause the only reliable, aka wont rip, clothing is from the surplus store, similar to an Army Surplus store like my Uncle used to buy us gifts from. Are they actually from the Army or city repairmen, who knows, but I’m not getting close enough to find out.
- Lady from the kiosk, name of small store, near my house that sells parlament silvers, closest thing to lights, has learned my name and continues to give me Kyrgyz lessons, very adhering
- Could always rant about the PCM – peace corps mafia – though as I become closer with them I risk getting sucked into their vortex of “were saving the world by living among the people and telling them what to do while always hanging out with no less than 5 of each other” – in fear of them reading this I will not mention specific encounters or people, least not here, and also, kinda jealous, my best fluent English speaking friends are my lamp and my wall which are currently in a fight with each other so my apartment is awkward, have I been taking my meds? (again, for those worried about me and too uptight, that was a joke, and I would suggest not reading my blog in the future)
- Ironically, might go on another skiing trip this Saturday with some pca’s (peace corps)
- Looking forward to going to Hawaii for my friend’s wedding, gotta solidify the details, but I will be in her wedding party, as a best man on the woman’s side, as most of her closest friends are women. And it will be a pseudo-Pitzer reunion, I hope
- I guess I ended up writing those topics. K, enough of the subconscious ranting, time to return emails, study, but most likely, facebook and watch Anthony Bourdain and imagine being able to travel to cool places on someone else’s dime. Sorry for no pics, some day I will learn how to include pics.