Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hospitals, hiking, an invite to Istanbul

My new hiking buddies, Anastasia on my left, and Ira on my right.
On the summit of Chatyr Dag.
A view from Chatyr Dag.
Nadjie and I at the library's 20th anniversary celebration.
Serdar and I on the bluffs near my home. That is Chatyr Dag in the background.
Monday morning at the library, trying to ignore the voices around me and my lingering irritation at not being informed there would be a meeting at the library this morning and thus no English class. Not untypical due to the lack of advanced planning here and something I have gotten somewhat used to, but irritating nonetheless, especially on a Monday morning!
But to get on to my work for the day. Last week was the 20th Anniversary conference at the library which I plan on writing a post about in my library blog, but first I thought I would write in my own blog some of what I have been doing lately.
Last week much of my time—and thoughts—were taken up with the fact that Lenura was in the hospital. Apparently, she had some kind of planned operation—not sure what, maybe a hysterectomy or something along those lines (“woman’s problem” Serdar called it). I visited her twice in the hospital and called her often, checking up on how she was doing. She recovered remarkably well—two days after the operation she was walking around, and a week later when she came home, she spent her whole first day at home cleaning! She won’t be going back to work for a few weeks, but she sure won’t be resting, it seems. I tried to encourage her in that direction, but she just laughed. Saturday night I went over to their house to make chili and cornbread for them, thinking it would keep her from cooking on her first full day at home, but of course, she also made manti for dinner. Maybe it didn’t seem right to her that she wouldn’t be preparing any of the meal. Her parents were there, and also a friend of Neshet’s. They all seemed to love the chili (I had gotten chili powder from an American friend) and especially the cornbread—Lenura and her mom, Liliye, made sure they got the recipe.
But what I really want to relate in this story is the experience of the hospital. Sometimes when I see the fancy stores in the city center and some of the nice cars driving around, I forget that I am in a developing country. But walking into a hospital certainly brought that reality back. According to Neshet, the hospitals here are all owned by the government, and viewed from American eyes, they are pretty scary places. This is the hospital where Lenura works as a surgical nurse, so at least she had the comfort of knowing the staff, but I don’t think you would find a hospital like this anywhere in America these days. She was in a “recovery room,” where she stayed for two days. There were six beds, one sink, and a few bedside tables and that was it. No bathroom, no chairs for visitors (no room for chairs), no curtains for privacy, no television, no way to ring the nurse, old hospital beds that did not work, sheets brought from home, no water pitchers, etc, medicines and bandages in a cardboard box by the bedside. Everything had a run down dinginess to it, the hallways were dark and poorly lit, there seemed to be little staff around (this was on a weekend—maybe it is different during the week). I know the Peace Corps quickly evacuates any volunteer who needs hospitalization, and now I see why. The Ukraine hospitals are very, very far from what we call “western standards.”
Another “interesting” thing that happened to me last week was my debit card number from my bank account at home got stolen after I used it to buy a pair of shoes (something I am unable to do on my Peace Corps salary, at least ones that are wearable without making my feet ache for days). Somehow it ended up being used to withdraw money from a number of locations of a Lebanon bank which banks in the Middle East, Cuba, and Belarus. I was able to get the money back with help from my friend Pam at home and a great person at my credit union, though it cost me a lot in the phone call I had to make to Visa to cancel the card ($25 for 7 minutes!). But except for the fact that I now no longer have a credit card here, things are fine. I will just have to live off my Peace Corps salary, which I do anyhow, except when I want to travel out of the country…or buy a pair of shoes!
But some great things happened recently too. One was the 20th anniversary of the library which resulted in a gala event at the library last Thursday afternoon. Guests from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and the Republics of Baskortostan and Tatarstan in Russia were present. I have written more about it on my library blog. After the event which consisted of many speeches and some wonderful music (does everyone here have these incredible voices that they can just burst into beautiful singing at the drop of a hat?—that is what happened at this event, and also the anniversary event at the children’s library…), everyone went to a performance at the Crimean Tatar theater. I ended up sitting next to a professor from Turkey. She was at the conference to give a talk about her father, who was a famous Turkologist and a contemporary of Gasprinsky. Turns out she lived in America for a number of years, including the city where I grew up, St. Louis. She is a fluent English speaker, and we had a nice time talking, and she ended up inviting me to visit her in Istanbul, which I just might do. I’m sure I would see a whole other part of Istanbul, visiting her.
And another thing that happened recently that made me happy, was I finally got to go hiking on Chatyr Dag mountain, something I have always wanted to do, as it is the mountain I see in the distance on my frequent walks from my home. Serdar and I have often talked about going there together, and I had hoped he would join me and my new hiking friends (from the library in Alushta, a town on the coast near Chatyr Dag), but despite his wanting to, it was not to be. He pretty much has to spend all his time studying these days and didn’t feel he could take a day off. I understand and encourage him to stick with his studies, of course, but it was disappointing, nevertheless. I do miss him.
But it was great up on the mountain. A vast open plateau—the fifth highest mountain in Crimea—with beautiful views all around: the mountains up and down the coast, the Black Sea stretching out to the horizon in the south, Demerdji Mountain where I have hiked looming up on the other side of the pass, and way in the distance, Simferopol and Ak Mechet. So now when I go for my walk at home and see Chatyr Dag rising in the distance above the fields and villages, I can think about standing up on the plateau and being surrounded by the beauty of Crimea. What a precious sight it was.
Love to all from this beautiful place I call home.

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