Monday, June 21, 2010

The Shadows of Peace Corps Past and Present

Hey there boo boo! I think I had a picnic basket!

Yes folks, I had several picnics, but before I get to that story, allow me to recant tales of a volunteer lost at sea.

Let's start off with today and I will blend the present into the past.

So right now I'm eating the pretzels I bought earlier today. I just ate a pretzel that had one of the pieces still in it. I never realized that they punch out the holes in the pretzels. Where do all of these pieces go? It's one of the things, like donuts that we can enjoy even if there is something missing from it. I know I could probably google it, and probably will, to find out where they go, but I kind of like living in mystery. One of my recent personal philosophies is finding joy in imperfection. I may have mentioned this before, but I have observed children, tweens, and adults in this country destroying things. But why? Do they find joy in it? But of course, that doesn't give everyone the right destroy anything, just because it's there. I think you should value things that are whole, but the A-type American mentality already values perfection and completeness. But what about incompleteness, imperfection, and making mistakes (like my lack of agreeing parallelism just there)? There should be value found in everything. So what if your counterpart is late? doesn't want to come to class? So what if you make mistakes while speaking? All of these imperfections can of course strive for perfection, but you should appreciate the relative progress and imperfection of things all the way down to spilling coffee on yourself or a cockroach in your kitchen. Because of this, it's difficult for me to accept all of the time and doesn't negate the stress situations can create. For example: the pretzels I bought. One could say a majority of things in stores here for packaged goods are already expired. That beer you're drinking? Yep, it went bad in 2008. Did you pay full price? Will you check the label next time? Yep.

I haven't had electricity for the past couple of days. Right now, my landlord is replacing the electric switch box. There is a live, exposed wire behind the little plastic case in my foyer, I was told not to open. Do I have electricity? Yes. I am happy.

I found a store that carries the extra large version of candy bars for 20 tetri (cents) cheaper than the cheapest store. I'm glad about this. Dr. Marina called this very day to tell me that my town is not a malaria region! Ergo, I don't have to take malaria medicine!

So at the beginning of the school year, I had rocks thrown at me for not answering to a herd of catcalling hoodlums... and now in one week I've had 2 instances of being yelled to by complete strangers. They yell, "HEY! AMERICAN! AMERICAN! HEY! PSSST! AMERICAN!" I'll turn and wave to not get enemies, they'll all bust out laughing and I wait for another day.

Earlier, when I had bought the pretzels and candy bar with ice cold water to sit on a bench before my Russian lesson, the bench I usually sit on to snack was near a car of men hanging out. They all stare at me and laugh, point, talk loudly about me in Russian or Georgian, because I don't understand, and continue to stare. The small town folk in Georgia are not at all subtle about staring. Today, I just wasn't in the mood for it. But, I'm glad I could have that experience.

This weekend was really nice, because I got to spend it with 5-hairs. We hung out, had some 1on1 friend time (my fav!) and I got to meet 5-hairs' host family. They are nice. I like speaking Georgian with Georgians that are sympathetic to foreigners speaking their language. Today I was complimented by a lot of the teachers at my school for my ability to say a couple words. I know when I speak, I sound like a child and make a lot of mistakes, but what do you expect only studying it for 1 year? For some Georgians when you speak, you're a god. Some Georgians don't care one way or the other, and the rest will be more than happy to tell you it's not enough for them. This host family loved speaking with me. :)

Then, last week was the last week of school. I finished my computer lessons today, wrote their final exam, and verified all of their quizzes they had done from the previous module. Last week was so scattered. No children came. Teachers were scrambling to put their grade books into order. And it was HOTTT. I bought a fan. It's a glorious thing when there's not air conditioning. It got up to around 93-94 degrees F, a little taste of what the rest of the summer might be like. It is cool now, with a light breeze. I talked with my neighbor last night, and she agreed to help me redo the balcony with tile.

A couple weekends ago, my shadows came to watch how I live for 3-4 days. I got to know them better, as they were practically strangers. Annnd I have been trying to think of blog nicknames for them ever since. I thought of one, but forgot it, and the other I couldn't think of one. I need time. They are still new, you know! We had a good time. The first night the site mate, his shadow, and me and my shadows all dined together. It was fun! The next night, my friend, Giorgi, and me and my shadows dined together. It was also very fun! Then we went on an excursion with my school for an overnight trip that Saturday.

At first, it was amazing. We were on an air conditioned bus, we had a picnic in the outdoors, and then the real fun began. We went to a church to site see. I sat on a rock which must have had some bugs on it, because I got bit up! After this we went to a park and road the ferris wheel (which I really truly enjoyed). It was a momentary escape. Then the 3 of us, some teachers from our school and the 35 or so other teenagers found a 3 bedroom house to stay the night. There we ate some leftovers from lunch and the teeny boppers popped bottles and wine was flowing! It flowed all night and not many slept. The teachers all slept in one room with my shadows. One of my shadows got sick and was up all night. I was the only person of age who slept with the teenagers. They told me not to fall asleep or they would do something bad to me. They were nice and let me have one of the beds, but they took the bedding off. So I directly slept laid awake waiting for something bad to happen on a metal frame. The students crept in giggling all night armed with toothpaste and shaving cream. It would've been a real hoot if they could cover the American English teacher from head-to-toe in something without him knowing. Knowing this, I was ready. They managed to get a dollop of toothpaste on my ankle before I woke up to tell them to please stop and get out. They would retreat. It was like controlling a tide of disorder, they ebbed and flowed all night, with my words and lack thereof pushing and pulling them away.

The next day, discovering my shadow's illness, we determined they should go back to site early to be more comfortable. I alone remained with the crowd. We toured along from church to church. One of the students bought me a souvenir model of a church that we took a picture at for me to remember. I have it now in my room, and I can't say I'll ever forget their kindness. Another student bought a stick with cherries tied around it with string. It was very beautiful and delicious. We sat on a bench, talked, listened to our surroundings, and enjoyed the cherries. The teachers commented to the English teacher (and my secondary counterpart) who organized the trip that I was not eating a lot and they were worried. My counterpart bought me popcorn to tide me over and satisfy the teachers. Even though I had eaten plenty, I was grateful and touched by the gesture. The students and I played games on the bus, and the students rotated around me, each wanting a turn to hang out with me. This was the first time I had been invited to do anything with my students. I was tickled!

The day finally wound down with another picnic with the leftovers from the day before. We got back that night, and I crashed to a wonderful night of sleep. The next day at school, I eagerly greeted the students. They were with friends who weren't there and wanted to play it cool. I understand that social dynamic and was happy that I could be their friend for a day. I look forward to the next day and the possibility of every day.

With the old and new volunteers, family and friends, my experience is starting to stabilize. I still have rough moments, but I'm feeling good! I hope that anyone having a rough moment out there can take a breath to reflect on the past, exhale to reflect on the present, and pause to think about what and where their next breath will bring them. Thinking of you all. xoxo

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gimme a Big Ole Bear Hug!

I am forecasting that this will be an unfortunately short post, but I wanted to get something down in writing.

I have 2 trainees coming to casa del Jefferson for job shadowing. They will be my shadows, and it will be a Georgian ol' time. I need to make cake and mop my floors before they get here. We are doing dinner tonight with my SM and his trainee: spaghetti, sauce, salad, garlic bread and cake of sorts.

This will be my second attempt to produce a cake in my giant cake pan. It's double the area of a 9 x 13 but 1/2 the depth, if that makes ANY sense?

There has been an interesting situation with the water: it has not been widely available on the water days due to power outages. If there isn't electricity, I can use my motor to pull water into my apartment, but luckily I was able to get enough today. The bad thing is that my water used to be brown/rust colored. The worse thing is that now it's tinted black. I think it may have something to do with the asphalt they just laid.

I FINALLY dropped off my dress shoes to be repaired at the shoe place, that way I won't have to wear my boots around town as much! WHEW! Then, in celebration of the guests coming, I bought some house slippers for guests when they come over. It's only taken me since February.

I've been having a lot of strange dreams lately (as usual). For example, one of the new trainees who shall remain anonymous was trying to drown people while they were swimming including myself and another trainee saved me (thank you!)! :) Then in another dream, a huge grizzly bear or something invited to give me a hug which I was precautious about, but then realized I wasn't a bear (you know how bears have poor vision) and then I was in danger of being mauled to death. She knew that I wasn't hairy enough to be a bear, and that's what gave me away. SO STRANGE. So any interpretations on those would be appreciated.

Off to make a cake! Until next time!