It’s Monday morning, I’m at the Gasprinsky Library, not where or when I usually write my blog posts, but feeling inspired at the moment. Or maybe it is just trying to escape the drudgery of the twice-a-year Peace Corps reporting form, which true to government style, is on some elaborate excel spreadsheet that I’m sure makes the bean counters happy.
Two highlights come to mind when I think of what I did last week. Wednesday was my neighbor Maye (the landlord neighbor)’s 52nd birthday. Birthdays around here seem quite important. Everyone seems to know when everyone’s birthday is—I have been asked my date numerous times. I got Maye a plant—an African violet—and a pretty pot to put it in and a card. When I got home from work that evening, she was outside doing some thing, and I told her happy birthday and that I had a present for her. I couldn’t quite figure out her reply, except for the word potom, which means later. So I go into my house and start wondering exactly what she said—should I go over now, later, how much later? Ah, I can agonize forever over these things. Finally after about half an hour, I decided to just go over there. And as it turns out, it was perfect timing. The table had been set for dinner, and soon two other neighbor friends of hers showed up. The Goddess of Communication was smiling on me. So we had a lovely time and ate some really great Crimean Tatar food—a cold spicy eggplant salad called baklasha, plov (rice pilaf with lots of garlic) and shashleek—marinated meat shisk kabobs. And assorted other dishes and sweets. What a treat, and I felt so included, talking away with the help of my little dictionary, trying to listen and understand their conversations. Once again, I think how very lucky I am to have such wonderful neighbors.
And along the wonderful neighbor theme, Saturday I went on a 2 ½ hour hike with Sirdar, the soon-to-be 16 year old across the street. He really is an amazing kid. We talk in English, as he is studying English and that is a way I can help him. And his English is pretty good, so we can have some real conversations. We talked about Darwinism vs. creationism, the existence of God, the difference/similarities between Islam and Christianity, Soviet history, Stalin—these are all topics he brought up, mind you. I wanted to see if we could hike to this large lake I have noticed in the distance, so we kept heading in that direction into open fields I hadn’t crossed before. Nor had Sirdar, I don’t think. We had to turn back because the sun was starting to set, but it was great fun. Now he wants to take a day from his school vacation and the two of us hike as far as we can get in one day, which would mean about 8 hours of hiking. We want to hike to a village about 2 hours away where another Peace Corps volunteer lives, and then on beyond that. It will be an adventure. And since his dad has a car, I figure if my knee (or another part of this aging body) gives out, we can call him to come get us!
Sirdar’s 16th birthday is at the end of November, and I have been thinking about what to get him. Robin in America offered to send something, so I’m trying to come up with ideas. A male twenty-something Russian friend suggested an American football as they are not available here. In the rest of the world, football means soccer. If anyone reading this has ideas, let me know.
Sunday I spent visiting—Peace Corps Volunteers who were in town for the day, my neighbors, talking on skype to folks in America. I think of all I plan on getting done on weekends when I have no plans (unlike the next three), but rarely do get a whole lot accomplished. But just living in this culture is an accomplishment, I think.
I will post some pictures of the inside of my house that I took when my PCV friend Debbie was visiting last weekend. I hope I get to keep my little place, which is also turning into the gathering spot for Crimean PCV’s. It has enough room for overnight guests, and the neighbors love meeting the “Americans.” Especially the ones that they can actually talk with!
Home now and will try to post pictures with some captions. Love to you all.