Thursday, January 22, 2009

Routinely Different

Updates at this point are few and far between. Why is that? Not because nothing interesting happens to me, and not because I’m tired of telling you all about it. I don’t update because this life is not as spectacular seeming as it once was to me. I’ve commented on people’s mannerisms, the motivations of people and psychotic geese terrorizing me in my own backyard. Where once it was foreign, exotic and exciting, it has finally become common place to me.
I feel (and have been told a number of times) that I am very well adapted to this country and am one of “them.” The language is finally making sense to me, routines and peoples quirks are expected and life generally rolls on. I like my life here and am enjoying my time. That’s not to say I’m not counting down the months until I get to see you all again, but I am no longer just “surviving” my service. I can relate to these people and their struggles, which I think is a large part of what Peace Corps service is, beyond the stated goal of teaching English. What I can take away from the service is an understanding and empathy for cultures that seem bizarre to me, and begin to appreciate the differences with my own bizarre culture.
I think that I have scared a few people with my talk of possibly staying on a third year of service. Let me reassure you all now, that’s the remotest of possibilities. There was a point where I felt one hundred percent at home and wasn’t really sure what I would need from back home. That feeling has mostly passed when I was blindsided by another bout of homesickness. There’s still lots at home that I can’t get here (like my mom) that even a month stay at home wouldn’t remedy. Knowing that strong depression and a longing for home can still hit me like they did convinced me that a third year here just isn’t for me. There’s nine months for me to flip-flop back again, but I think the end result will be the same: see you all in November.
Now that that’s all covered, here’s the latest. It’s finally cold! Part of my adapting is realizing that -20 and -25 degree weather is not that cold. Now, minus thirty-five degrees (Celsius) is absolutely freezing. I usually judge the temperature outside by the amount of frost stuck to the inside of our door in the morning. This morning there was barely any at all so I figured it would be fairly warm. I was very, very wrong. I stepped outside and started my fifteen minute walk to school.
Five minutes in my face was bright red and stuck solid with needles of frost. Another five minutes and I caught up with a group of teachers also on their way. I joined them for the walk. A HUGE mistake, because these women plod. One of my many winter enjoyments is watching the short, round women of Kazakhstan plodding along in their huge fur coats, looking like great hairy bears, to and from their homes. In this case though, it really slowed my pace. By the time we got there I was yelling “mush, mush” inside my head trying to get them to move it along.
On the return trip an hour later because classes were cancelled I pulled my scarf up to cover most of my face. I probably looked like a Siberian version of the Invisible Man. It kept me warm enough though, except the steam that escaped from my breath was shot straight up so that my eyelashes and eyebrows were completely frozen by the time I stepped inside. Grandma had a good laugh at this, since I looked completely absurd. Alright, so in the interest of saving some stories for when I get home to you all in LESS THAN A YEAR!!! I will end this update here. I will leave you with a teaser though. Ask me about my counterpart’s strategy to get new computers in our classroom from a well-known philanthropic celebrity when I get home. You’ll enjoy that one.

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