Sunday, October 18, 2009

TV and a cave city

It’s been an eventful last few days. Friday I did a television interview at the Gasprinsky Library (the Crimean Tatar Library). A local television station wanted to do a program on Peace Corps Volunteers in the area, so they came and interviewed me and another volunteer who lives and teaches in a small town near Simferopol. I went over to my neighbors to watch it tonight, and I think it turned out pretty good, as best I could tell. I was interviewed in English and it was translated into Russian for the show. They showed a lot of the library which seems like great publicity for them. I hope they will be happy about it—will find out tomorrow.

Someone who is NOT happy is one of my artists from the NGO I work with one day a week. The NGO is basically two artists who want funding for their projects. One of them I work with weekly, and we seem to be progressing okay, having applied for one grant which we didn’t get, but now working on another grant. The other artist, however, I see less frequently, and he seems to think I can get him $40,000 to produce a Crimean Tatar traditional music festival and as soon as possible. I tried to lower his expectations to a level that I thought it was possible to find funding, but clearly I wasn’t successful. This weekend he sent me an email stating his disappointment, that as a Peace Corps volunteer I am supposed to find them funding, etc. etc. I knew he had been given false expectations and wasn’t very happy about how things were going, so I wasn’t too surprised about the letter. The real problem is that they contribute towards my housing cost, and if they no longer want to work with me, there will be that much less I have for housing, which is already a problem. And, of course, I can’t really explain or discuss much of this with him. I did return his letter using a translation program. Hopefully it at least gave a facsimile of what I was trying to say. You never know with those programs. Tomorrow I will show his letter to Najye and see what she has to say. She is friends with them and signed them on as one of the organizations I would work with. And probably told them I could get them funding, as the Peace Corps is pretty careful not to say that. Always an adventure, here in the Peace Corps.

But on to happier events. Which is this great hike I went on Saturday with my young PCV friend who was here for the weekend and Sirdar, my neighbor kid friend. We decided to go to the cave city of Tepe Kermen (Fortress on the Summit), though we only had a vague idea of how to get there. We took a bus to the nearest town, and then got on a very dilapidated bus that went by the village nearest the cave city. A large group of backpackers got on which we weren’t too thrilled about, but it turned out they were going in that general direction and showed us the trail up to Tepe Kermen. We never would have found it on our own. It was quite a climb to get there, but the cave rooms were so interesting and the views spectacular. Like many of the cave cities, Tepe Kermen was inhabitated between the 5th and 15th centuries by different groups of people. The mountains of Crimea tend to have a number of plateaus on their summits, so they were easily defendable places to live. And the soft limestone made it possible to carve out dwellings. In this cave city there was a Christian altar carved into one of the caves.

While exploring the caves, we encountered a group of six hikers. Turns out they were led by a 64-year-old woman, who with her 27-year-old daughter has hiked all over Crimea. The daughter spoke pretty fluent English which is how we started talking with them, and we ended having lunch together and then followed them on a route back to the town. Up and down the trails, the 64-year-old led the way at a pace that even 16-year-old Sirdar had trouble keeping up with. And what a spirit she was—didn’t want to stick to a wider road, but wanted to go off “into nature.” We eventually ended up on the edge of a high cliff, where lo and behold, there were ancient steps carved down to the forests below. It felt safe—there was a handrail to hold on to—so down we went and then bush wacked through the forest to the monastery near Chufut Kale that I had been to only a few days previously with Jud. What a great time we had hiking with them, and of course, when we all got back to Simferopol, I made sure I got their contact information. I so hope I get to do more hiking with her—a kindred spirit in Crimea.

So that’s it for now. Wonder what this week will bring…

Love from Crimea.

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