Monday, October 6, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Nothing interesting or exciting has happened lately. This update is more to talk about a couple thoughts I’ve had. First is the ability to adapt and change. The second is thoughts about home.

I realized today that some things that I couldn’t stand or completely baffled me about this country have become completely common place and even enjoyable at times. This epiphany came as I was buying a bottle of mineral water. When I arrived I could not understand why anybody would carbonate plain drinking water! It was difficult to gulp down, tasted funny and was in all ways unpleasant. Now I realize that I prefer it to normal water. It’s like a party in throat every time I take a sip and the tiny bubbles race around inside my mouth.

It was teachers’ day on Saturday and like is usual we had a big lunch at school with the teachers and other staffers of work. At about 9.30 one teacher came to work, already having drunk a significant amount and was obviously drunk. He explained that it was okay because it was a holiday, plus it was the 30 year anniversary of him teaching. He showing up like that was a small shock still, but not so much as it would have been. What was totally ordinary was drinking vodka at 11.30 with all the other teachers in our school cafeteria and making toasts to everybody, then going home slightly tipsy at about 3 o’clock. Drunkenness is not looked down as much, as long as you aren’t wild and out of control, as it would be in America. It’s just a result of having a good time. Maybe college prepared me for that a bit too.

My point is that this country seemed very foreign and bizarre when I came here, and now it’s nothing new. I feel pretty well adapted and at home among these folk, though I’m pretty sure I still baffle them at times, but that’s part of my charm as an American.

This other epiphany was my big one, concerning homesickness. I believe that there is a large distinction between wanting to go home and wishing you were home. Wishing you were home usually comes because you are bored; sitting around in the afternoon or evening, and wish you were with your friends or family. It’s much more fun to sit and hang out with people you can freely chat and joke with, than playing out their awkward lives through a video game (The Sims 2 takes up much of my free time lately). Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Ian fall in love with Nick and Tim or Randy electrocuting himself trying to fix the dishwasher, but I’d prefer to see it in real life.

The thing is, wishing for home only comes from boredom (or having to poop outside in the middle of the winter with -40 degree temperature surrounding your bare…skin) and is not a result of my actual situation. I still love going to school and teaching the kids (those that aren’t a pain in the ass) English and chatting with teachers about home and whatever else they want to talk about. It’s a desire for more meaningful human contact that you can only get through deeper relationships (which are much easier to develop when the two parties fluently speak a shared language).

Wanting to go home is a symptom of an unhappy situation. You don’t like your school, or the family you are staying with. Maybe the climate is not to your liking or Peace Corps didn’t turn out to be at all what you thought it would be (in a bad way. I think most of us had our opinions changed upon the first two months in country). In the end, your situation weighs down on you until you crumble and have to go home. It’s not an easy choice and it can take months and months to come to the point where it’s just too much.

For me, I often have the desire to be at home among all my entertaining friends (and the fact that half of them have also scattered to different parts of the US doesn’t really factor into it). Rarely have I ever wanted to go home. At this point in our service we are pretty solidly entrenched in our communities (and I have an indoor toilet) and those feelings will be less and less.

Plus, I’m getting a new volunteer. Thought I’d mention. Her name is Megan; she’s from the D.C. area, which is really going to confuse people when they hear she’s from Washington as well. Most people can’t grasp the difference between the two Washington’s in America. Anyway, she’s coming to visit in about a week and change along with my old matey Nora and I’m pretty excited. Hopefully nothing happens to chase her off. I won’t mention the outdoor toilet.


Anonymous said...

Looking back towards home is always nice, but looking up at what your want to accomplish is more rewarding. I got rejuvenated hiking back into the mountains last week, seeing that change is inevitable, maybe just not change by volcano all the time. But you are doing great, and we enjoy reading, hearing and following along, and as Alex said, if you start to make changes, they may happen, you just wont be there to see them. dadad

Alex said...

There has been an interesting evolution in your blog how your earliest entries were more of a compare and contrat America to Kazakhstan but now it is more about the people you meet and how you feel about them/things (or at least that is how I have perceived things). You'd probably know better than me but my perception is that you are very comfortable in K-stan now and you are less of a tourist and more of a resident.

I am really happy with what I am doing but on a certain level I will always be envious of what you have chosen to do. No matter what impact you have (and I am sure you are having a positive influence) the experiences you are having are invaluable.

You need to figure out for me where in the DC area your partner is from. My girlfriend is from that area and sure it is highly unlikely - but its a small world afer all. It just struck me that you may not know that Kristen and I broke up. So yeah, I have a new girlfriend now. Her name is Julie and thinking about it - she does share some common traits with The Bung.