February 14 – February 28, 2006 (Now that I have a USB stick and another Internet café has opened in our village, I will be able to update much, much
But of course I must (really, must) remind all of my readers that this blog is the opinion of the author and no one else. In no way does it reflect or have anything to with the opinions or positions taken by the United States Government or the Peace Corps. Its just a small town girl with a lot to say…
Also, the following entries seem to deal with clothing in one way or another an awful lot. Sorry for this.
I couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s Day. I’m sitting in my room listening to a new country music CD, eating Dots, drinking and basking in my own happiness. The Internet has made it to my village and it is only a block from my house. It is open from 8 in the morning to 7 at night. It is a fast connection and it only costs 30 som an hour. (That’s really cheap). I used it for two full hours today. It disconnected about 50 times, but still I got everything accomplished that I set out to do today. Plus I got a package from my wonderful sister, Katie, hence me eating Dots. Nichole, Erich and I all received packages today. Mine was postmarked January 25, Nichole’s November 19 and Erich’s December 7. So packages are finally starting to get here and those that are sent after Jan. 1 are flying in. I got a small package from my Mom and Dad last week in 12 days. So I no longer despise the mail workers. Well we’ll see if I get my December boxes before I make any decisions.
I’m also drinking Crystal Light, thanks to my wonderful Aunt in Moscow. This is the first time I have had juice that tastes somewhat normal. I guess I can’t really say things like that though. Just because it tastes American, doesn’t make it normal. There is a whole big world out there, and I am learning, well I guess have learned, that just because we do things a certain way in America, doesn’t mean the rest of the world does the same thing.
I’m going to give an example here of my point, and it doesn’t mean that it is ever going to be a custom that I follow. In Kyrgyzstan people don’t over indulge in clothing. My host family is a rich family by Kyrgyz standards and they each own a limited number of clothing items. Here you have your ‘nice clothes’ and then your house clothes. When you go to town or to school, you wear your nice clothes. For men these consist of faded blue jeans with no holes or tears. The jeans fit perfectly, they are worn fitted and with a pair of fancy black shoes. Every man and boy has a pair and they are always shined and the jeans are never dirty. I can’t say that in America I have met many boys who can wear a pair of jeans like the boys here do (Except for Montana boys). They finish off their outfit with a nice jacket. And a hat. No once leaves the house without a hat in the winter, ever, except for me. Even Nichole and Erich wear hats all the time. I haven’t got to that point yet. All though I do have a fancy new John Deere hat to show off, which I am so excited about.
When they get home from school or town the men immediately change into old track pants or cords and an old sweater with galoshes. Everyone, including me, has a pair of indoor and outdoor shoes. Outdoor shoes are galoshes and indoor shoes are sports sandals. I can get away with slippers inside. I’m probably the only one in the country who has five pairs. But, whenever I have a party no one has to bring their own house shoes. The girls here find it very convenient. In fact, the girls in Talas know that they don’t have to bring pajamas either, as I have enough for everyone.
So women here are very similar to the men. They put on nice jeans to go out, and everyone’s jeans are hemmed to the most perfect length. Including mine as of yesterday. Your jeans will never touch the ground, as it is shameful to get your jeans dirty, which unfortunately, I am guilty of doing. The women wear pointy-toed black boots with their jeans and a nice sweater. And of course a hat. Sometimes they wear knee-high boots with short pants as well. And they can pull it off. The girls here are gorgeous. Thin with long black hair and beautiful eyes that need no make-up.
Now, because this is a poor culture, clothes are not as abundant as in America. You don’t have 30 pairs of jeans to choose from. You don’t have 20 pairs of shoes or a drawer of just black shirts. (All of which I am also guilty of). You have one or two nice things and then old house clothes. Most older women just wear velour robes around during the day with matching pants and head scarves. I have more clothes in America that all of my students in the 11th grade combined. Maybe more.
And what do I do? Go out and buy more clothes from American Eagle online. Some habits are hard to break. All though I have to say six months without shopping is pretty damn impressive for someone with my kind of habits.
So school has been canceled due to illness for the past week. I have spent it relaxing and enjoying the break. Spending time with my puppy and my new calf.
That’s right. My new calf. Yesterday I went outside to feed the cow its daily breakfast, and I saw hooves coming out of its rear end! (It was pregnant mind you). I ran inside and told Zamir, and he ran to the neighbor’s house, coming back with three men to help pull the calf. I got my camera, but ended up helping, so I don’t have good pictures of the process. It was a big freaking cow. I felt sorry for Mrs. Cow. I bet she was regretting her past decisions. That’s for sure. She was bawling and mooing and I was trying to comfort her in English, which personally I think all of our animals are partial to, while three men pulled this monster out of her. It only took a few minutes and there it was, a baby boy. She was tired and didn’t want to clean him very much, so I did it for her and then watched the afterbirth slowly come out of the cow as well. Disgusting. The birthing sac, blood, you name it, that cow spit it out. Yucky. And then of course the damn puppy tried to eat it, so I was chasing him out of the yard. I bottle fed the cow its first meal, which was a task. I was covered from head to toe in sticky fresh cow milk and slobber. But a wonderful experience. I spent most of the day with the calf, teaching it to stand up and walk. He is now quite good. Today he is playing with his mother in the barn. I am hoping to get a picture up of him soon.
Last Friday night we had the first (of many I’m sure) Girls’ nights at my house. Most of the Talas girls came out for a potluck. There are 10 of us in the oblast, and eight came. We also have five boys, but four of them are leaving next year. Hopefully we’ll get more male volunteers in the next batch. (They come in June).
We had a great time. I, on an ego trip from my apple pie at Christmas, decided to make deviled eggs and sugar cookies. Two very challenging recipes. Thanks to whoever sent Melinda an entire case of mustard packets, I made deviled eggs with real American mustard and I even found paprika at the bazaar. Sugar cookies were easy and what made it even better was the heart-shaped cookie cutter my Mama sent me for Valentine’s Day. I made great sugar cookies with chocolate frosting and since my wonderful aunt sent peanut butter as well, I was able to make a double batch of no-bake cookies for everyone. Nicole made a good pasta salad that actually tasted American, Amy made lentil soup, Jesika made stuffing and Melinda brought potato salad, which rounded out our American dishes. It was nice to get away from potatoes and bread for an evening. We drank wine and had a great time.
Last Wednesday I was feeling cabin feverish so I went into Talas on a school day to check my email. I ended up visiting Chris and Melinda, a married couple in Talas City from Seattle, and Chris even made me a sandwich. They live in a mansion. It has three floors, two indoor bathrooms with real toilets and showers, Internet and an American refrigerator. I can’t even imagine. It was the first toilet I had seen since the Hyatt. My bathroom is a shanty 25 yards from our house with a whole in the ground that you squat over, next to a bucket where you put the notebook paper that is stacked to your left when you are finished. Pleasant. Needless to say, they won’t be finding alternate living arrangements anytime soon. Quite the set up. No other volunteer has a set up like that. I don’t know how they got so lucky, but it’s nice that it happened to good people.
So after I spent the afternoon with them I headed back in the last taxi to my village. The drive is about an hour, so I was half asleep in the front seat. I woke up to find that we had strayed from the normal road, and were headed up hill. We were dropping off a couple in the backseat at their house. Well, Kyrgyzstan is a mud field right now, and of course we got stuck in the mud. It was about 7 p.m. I got home after 9 p.m. We had to go around and find men to help push the car through a muddy stream that the taxi driver had attempted to cross. Then the battery in the car died. After a couple hours he managed to get a push start and we were on our way. Or so I thought. We got a couple miles back in the right direction and he stopped to fill up a soda bottle with water from a stream that he proceeded to pour somewhere in the engine. Then we were on our way. I finally made it home, exhausted and done with traveling to Talas for Internet. I am so thankful for this new Internet place that opened up yesterday. All three of us used it today for at least an hour. I think our business alone will keep them up and running for a while.
Tomorrow I head back to school for four lessons and two clubs.
Oh and another good thing that happened this week… we have began having weekly banyas again instead of bi-monthly! A new calf and a bath, all in one week…
February 15, 2005
So I got up this morning to go to school and had a bowl of cream of wheat, thanks to Katie and Everett, and then found out that school had been canceled yet again, for another five days! What am I going to do with myself?
I got mail from the Peace Corps today and one of the mailings was chock full of grad schools that want volunteers. So I am going to spend a lot of time on the Internet, writing emails to admissions offices all over the country. I figure this gives me an early start. A year and a half or so, which leaves me with plenty of time to work on applications and maybe to retake the GREs in the summer.
The schools I am looking at include: Sarah Lawrence, the University of Texas at Austin (LBJ School of Public Affaris), Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, John Hopkins School of Public Health, American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C. and Costa Rica, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Lesley University, Loyola, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the School for International Training, Georgetown’s Foreign Service program, the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane.
Those are just what I have started to research. I am hoping to begin the 2007-08 session and study foreign-service or public health. I am looking for more options on the west coast though. I would rather be closer to home (says the girl who is 10,000 miles from home right now). The University of Wyoming has a communications grad program for returned volunteers. Another option. Really it all depends on fellowships and grants.
February 16, 2006
Well today has been a beautiful day. I spent about an hour outside jogging in the sun. It was perfect weather. I went down to the lake for the first time since I have been here, but the water level is really low this time of the year.
February 21, 2006
Well. Sorry about the weather back home, but here is amazing. It’s like spring just came out of no where, a month early. I have spent the past week outdoors, jogging, playing with the calf, playing soccer with my students, walking around the village, going down to the lake and basically just basking in the sunlight. The sun comes up earlier now, and I don’t walk to school in the dark anymore. Also it goes down at about 7 p.m. which has been wonderful. And of course now having Internet a block from my house hasn’t been too bad either. I have checked my email around 7 times in the past 10 days!
February 24, 2006 – Friday Afternoon
Well I am in heaven.
Two packages in one day. And amazing packages at that. One package is full of food, a new USB stick, peanut butter, cocoa, body wash, q-tips, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla, face lotion, MAGAZINES!, my CDs and more. The other was something I ordered for myself and had sent to my parents to then in turn have sent to me… new American Eagle clothes!!!!! Cardigans, long sleeve tops, a new scarf… and they added boxes of contact lenses.
New spring clothes, from America… what could be better? I am saving them for my trip to Bishkek.
Well I was back in school this week, and the students were pretty wild. I was able to tame them down by Wednesday, but of course Thursday was a holiday – National Boys’ Day, so we didn’t have school. And then today most of the students were sick or hung over and didn’t come to class.
I spent the day kicking myself for getting too excited about the weather. Yesterday I woke up to a blizzard after a week straight of sunshine. Today is just as bad. Cold and rainy again. Frost and snow again. Wind, cold trips to the outhouse.
Well after two weeks of having my host mother’s daughter and her two kids stay with us, they finally left. I can’t say I was sad watching them go. I promise never to show up unannounced at my mother’s house with two children under three and stay for weeks at a time. By the end of the two weeks I was so insane that I would have to go for long walks in the afternoon, after going jogging, just to avoid the company for a few hours. And I love small children! I love kids. These kids are just too spoiled for my liking.
I spent last weekend playing with our three cows and the puppy. I guess I forgot to write about the newest cow. Eight women in our neighborhood, my host mother included, have a club that meets once a month. They drew months out of a hat on New Years to pick a monthly host. They then gather at that house for a huge feast. Each woman brings 1000 som and gives it to the host. This way each family can purchase something big with money that they wouldn’t ever have all at once. It was our turn in February. We had a huge spread set up on two tables with meat, cheese, apples, tangerines, salads, vodka, juice, gas water, bread, jams and then the main course of plov and a noodle salad. On a school night. I went to bed at about 11 p.m. and they were still going. So, with the 7000 som, my family bought another cow. So we have three. Not sure why. I am pretty sure that they spent all the money they had for the month.
Yesterday while I was running around the track a group of younger men were playing soccer, which I found myself craving. A ball went out of bounds and I retrieved it and kicked it back for them and got myself an invitation to play! After a while I had to leave, but I had a great time – they were nice to me and friendly and invited me to come back anytime. Of course the thing they were kicking around wasn’t much of a ball – flat, dented and heavy, but it worked. I think I might buy them a ball to play with in the future.
February 26, 2006
Whew. Well when my dad said I probably have more clothes than the Kyrgyz president’s wife I laughed. Now I am not so sure. I spent more than six hours today doing laundry. It really piled up on me this time. Erich came by in the afternoon. I was still outside working and he just sat in the sun and said “My mom better be doing my laundry at my house right now.’ Typical attitude. Boys have all the luck over here. No one helped me. By the time I finished, which included dumping massive buckets of dirty water in the street, I was exhausted and ready to have my Sunday banya, which I immensely enjoyed thanks to my new body wash.
On Saturday evening I made delicious cookies with my new brown sugar and real chocolate chips. They are already gone. Treats go fast in this house. I have to hoard them in my room if I want any. It was nice to have real cookies though.
February 27, 2006
I couldn’t ask for a better situation than I am in right now. I am sitting on my bed, watching a new DVD from yet another package that I got in the mail today and eating cheddar broccoli rice, drinking Crystal Light. Later I am going to have some Godiva chocolate.
Today I happened to stop by the post office to mail a letter and was informed that another of the missing packages had arrived. I went into the backroom with the mail woman who then realized she had lost the keys to the storage place. She searched for about 10 minutes, and of course then pulled them out of her pocket. All that anticipation drives me crazy!
Another wonderful package. Books, magazines, juice, soap, towels, a loofah, DVDs, batteries, chocolate, trail mix, sugar cookie mix and more. All things I really need!
My host mother has left for Bishkek for the week, so I am on my own. Which has been great. I made my own American food, washed the dishes and went to bed last night satisfied.
In classes today I read the students their horoscopes from Cosmopolitan’s annual guide to love, life and whatever else. They loved it. It was nice to break up the regular grammar lessons with something a bit interesting. See, magazines are not only entertaining, but educational as well mother.
The nice thing about having so much clothing is that while other volunteers are wearing the same things over and over and feeling depressed, I haven’t even broke out my spring/summer styles yet. I still have more than 20 skirts and 20 tops that haven’t seen the light of day since I have been in country. I planned this you know. Some people may have laughed at the site of me carrying 200+ pounds of luggage off a plane, but hey, look who’s laughing now? No dirty, over-worn clothes for this girl. (Besides I ruin a shirt after two or three times worn, as I am a little clumsy with food, drinks, chalk, mud, ect.).
The bad news is that yesterday, to celebrate the arrival of spring, I broke out a new dress that I bought last spring before I left. I have been saving it. Of course I have to wear a long-sleeved high-necked top over the dress part so it just looks like a mid length skirt, but I was happy. But, like I said, I am a little clumsy, and I proceeded to sit on a nail and rip the back seem out. So I had to wear a coat the rest of the day. But when I got home my host mother sewed it right up for me and told me to be more careful.