Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Valentine, anyone?

You may remember that I am a big fan of Valentine's Day as it is celebrated in elementary school - construction-paper cards for everyone. Having got my hands on an excess of red ribbon and other delightful things, I'm all set up to make some. If you'd like me to make you a valentine, email me your mailingaddress and I'll send it to you.

Friday, January 26, 2007


It's really sinking in now that in six months I'll be leaving, that my life here is ending soon. Two years on the other side of the world might as well be forever. It didn't take me long to figure out that the Peace Corps accomplishes much more in the way of transforming people personally than it does in improving third-world economies or quality of life, and I expect to come back significantly changed. Probably most of the things I own now I won't want anymore after two years without them. I'll move to the city and get a job. Everyone else I know will have spent those two years going to grad school or working or getting married or something, and we'll all be scattered from each other.

I'm looking forward to the changes, though. I'm longing for my own kitchen table, to live in a place for years at a time so I can plant a garden and join a Quaker meeting. In between here and there, though, is this big blurred gap labeled "Central Asia". For a person who loves planning, it's kind of exciting to have this blur ahead of me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Slipping back

Today I stopped by the community center where I volunteered last summer. As soon as I walked into the room where the children's after-school program was going on, the supervisor embraced me and had me at the table helping the kids with their homework before I knew it. They were all writing essays on Martin Luther King, Jr. - at least in theory. The boy next to me was occupied in drawing pictures of a bear eating a mouse. "Come on," I asked him a dozen times, "Read the handout and write me something about him."

"I already know about him from school! I don't need to write about him again," he insisted. After some querying he put forth, "Martin Luther King made a law so the black kids and the white kids would go to the same school." I corrected him on the fact but looked around the room and wondered if he realized the irony of the statement. Every single child there was black, and I doubt the local schools are much different. Like other US schools, they're probably more segregated than they were twenty years ago. Slow progress would be easier to stomach than actual regression.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My camels! My retinue! My magic sword! My jellybeans! I leave at once for Samarkand!

Actually not, since Samarkand is in Uzbekistan, which is not a place the Peace Corps sends people. And not at once.

But a -stan is likely in my future, because if all goes well it's Central Asia for me in August. They haven't told me which country yet, but I'll be teaching English (and other projects on the side, maybe AIDS education) and using Russian. It seemed very bleak at first because I had no idea what was even there except a lot of grass and some mountains, but after doing my homework it seems they have some really beautiful grass and mountains, plus some people and horses and yurts. It's largely cold, which I like better than hot, and the weather is mostly beautiful due to it hardly ever raining. I'm looking forward to not getting malaria and other tropical diseases. A lot of the area is Muslim, which I'm excited about, but I won't have to stifle under a chador.

Also, the president of Turkmenistan who was doing stuff like outlawing recorded music and naming months of the year after himself died last month. My mother is pleased that if I go there it at least won't be with him.