PlI had a good time chatting at the table tonight with Ramzea and Galiya (the host family). We were just chatting away, and then it somehow turned into an impromptu English lesson. Ramzea was listing the phrases and words she knew in English, mostly gained from Hollywood films. I’ll be back, Hasta La Vista (I explained this wasn’t English), Oh my God and Oh Shit is just some of what she knew. Then I started giving them the names for things in English. We were on lights vs lamps, and suddenly we seemed to change topics. Galiya asked what “bra” was. It’s the same in English isn’t it? I stuttered, not sure if I was hearing this right. “Bra,” she said. I opened my mouth but nothing came out. So she grabbed a spoon, put it on the wall and said something about a lamp. “Nightlight (thank God)” I told her.
Then we moved to the head, and facial features. Ramzea started describing Galiya’s head in Russian while I gave the translation. It came out as “Silky hair, red face, white head, brilliant eyes, coral lips, white teeth and potato nose.” I liked it. Galiya is actually the one who came up with the potato nose.
Also on looks, I’ve finally grown tired of people talking about how much weight I’ve lost. I haven’t weighed myself in a few weeks, but I was down 40 lbs to 210 just after New Years. Anyway, one of my sisters friends (I suppose one of mine too at this point) was over and asked to see my pictures. She saw some from Aarons wedding and exclaimed how healthy I used to look. I need to learn the words for heart attack, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholestorel to explain that I’m actually healthier now. In addition, I’ve had everybody that hasn’t seen me in a few weeks exclaim how thin I’ve gotten, and that I will disappear in a few months completely. It makes me feel pretty good, but it’s getting a little repetitive.
Another story. How often has it been so hot in your house the wall paper has literally peeled from the walls? Well last Sunday my sister, Ramzea, got a little over eager with the coal stove and got it really fired up. The kitchen is the first room to get heated, and along the line where the pipe runs with the hot steam, the wall paper was peeling back and hanging down the wall! The next day we went and bought some clay paste stuff and got it put back up, and it looks great, but it was a pretty funny day. It was so hot in the house that night that I couldn’t sleep with any sheets. I guess that’s what I can expect in the summer too. Fun stuff.
Alright, the news since coming back from vacation. It’s been pretty cold here lately (it is winter after all) and the furnaces have to work over time. The main heating plant in town apparently broke down a few weeks ago, and it feeds a number of buildings in town, including apartments and Nora’s school. So they’ve been shut down until a couple days ago, when they opened for half lessons. At the same time, my school apparently bought some inexpensive coal, which translates to ineffective. It doesn’t burn hot enough or something, and our school isn’t heated very well either.
Since coming back there has been little real school, and it’s usually only in spurts. We were all closed for over a week because of the cold and bad furnaces. We had 30 minutes classes (normally 45) the last two days, but now the schools are closed again. Students and teachers were going to class in their big bulky coats, huddling up and shivering. It hasn’t been all bad though, because students suffering from hypothermia are much less rowdy and appear to be paying attention.
I had a site visit from my regional manager this week. She came to watch two of my classes in the cold. They were pretty bad. Which is normal. Her visit forced me to have a good look at how I’m doing here after two months, and it wasn’t good. My kids aren’t learning too well, and our methods are ineffectual. Tatiyana (English teacher) and I got a kindly lecture about improving our lessons. I have to admit, it’s mostly my fault for not doing a better job and being assertive. Peace Corps did a good job drilling me with the techniques for good lessons, and upon my arrival, I was afraid to challenge the teachers. I didn’t want to seem like I was telling them how to do their job (which is exactly what I was supposed to do). Anyway, now I realize that if I’m going to do any good work here, I need to step it up and assert myself. I’m an adult for Pete’s sake! What’re they gonna do, fire me? From now on, P1, P2, and P3 all the way!
Natalya (my regional manager) was assured that the kids do really like me, and that I’m needed in the classrooms. I still enjoy teaching, and Natalya claims that I was very good during training and she put me in this site for a reason, so I think I can do better, and will. Not to worry folks at home (or rejoice), I’m not coming home any time soon.
Actually, on that note, I’ve been thinking about what my summer plans will be. There are some places around here that I would like to visit. China is up at the top of the list, as is Nepal. I just read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (I spelled his name right without checking, I know because I checked after I spelled it), and now I want to travel the trails in the Himalayas and look at Mt. Everest from the lowest elevation I possibly can. There are also plenty of other places I’d like to see, like most of SE Asia and any number of islands in that area. I’ll have to see other PCV’s plans.
I’ve also been thinking I might like to come back home for a week or two. I can get an injection of all the friends, family and food I left behind (though leaving that food behind is probably why I’ve become so “unhealthy”). I miss camping trips with the guys, beer pong, Sunday dinner, my niece that I’ve barely seen, my mom (I didn’t put you first for added suspense) and a thousand other things. I’ll have to make up my mind about where I’m going by May I suppose, so I’ll keep you all informed.
Also, and I meant to put this at the top (and probably still could without any of you knowing I typed it down here), I want to thank everybody for the many Christmas cards and other mail I’ve gotten over the past few weeks. They’re still coming in, and it’s really nice to know you folks are all thinking about me and to find out what you are up to. Everybody who has sent a letter or card is getting some loving mail in return. Consider that it takes a month for it to get to me and a month to get back to you, it may take two months before you know how much I really appreciate it, so this is pretty good turn around time. (Remember it takes me a month normally to write a thank you note).
On top of that, if anybody wants to send me an insta-message, you can find a website for the company “beeline.” They are a cell phone service provider here, and you can send a text message, for free I believe, to me at any time, from the internet. I can’t answer of course, but if there’s something urgent you need to say, that’ll reach me. Please though, I am usually asleep from 10 am to 7 pm Seattle time (that’s Midnight to 9 am over here), so maybe not send one at that time.
This is already longer than I planned to write, so I’m gonna cut it off here. Not much else is really going on. I’m reading a lot of books, I recommend Silk Road to Ruin by Ted Rall for anybody that wants an insight to this region and its insane politics. It’s not just educational, it’s entertaining! That’s all from this side of the world (new catch phrase?), take care America. Stay classy Seattle.