It’s Tuesday, September 6th, my second day back at the library after what feels like a long time away—my last day of work was July 14th, I think. Almost two months have passed since then and so much has happened—moving out of my little house; traveling 40 hours to get to America and then the hecticness of trying to see my friends and family spread across the country; returning to Ukraine/Crimea/AkMechet and my new living place; trying to be helpful to Nadjie; returning to the library and a new office/office mates. And attempting to find time in all of that to assess what these changes mean in my life, where they are taking me, and where I want to be going.
Unless Nadjie ends up not coming back to the library—which I so hope isn’t a possibility but know that it is—by far the biggest upheaval in my life is the change in my living arrangement. Due to a rent increase, I had to move out of the small house I have been living in for the last two years—not the greatest place, to be honest, but the space was mine and I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. And for nine years before joining the Peace Corps, I also lived alone. And so it is quite an adjustment to all of a sudden to be living with other people—and not just one other person as I have done most of my life—but a whole family, something I haven’t done since I was part of a family—and that’s been a long time ago. I did, of course, live with a host family during training for ten weeks, but this feels much different. Only time will tell how it will really work out, but right now there are many things I love about living with the Seytaptiev’s. Physically, it is a much more comfortable place—I have a wonderful, spacious room with lovely northern light from a large pair of windows, and of course, their house is an immense improvement over my shabby, falling apart, limited heat and water home. I so appreciate the effort they put into getting my room ready while I was gone to America, as it seemed to be a major remodeling job. They provided me with a decent bed (a vast improvement over my former beds—no backache so far), but I needed to purchase the rest of the furniture, including a wardrobe, as there are typically no closets in Ukrainian homes. I wasn’t quite prepared for how much all of that would cost—wardrobe, book shelves, desk, night stand—and of course, I also should have realized that this is Neshet’s house and he has a definite sense of design and what would be the appropriate furniture. But in the end it all worked out as a gift from my cousin took my mind off the money worries, and Neshet and I between us found some furniture that we both liked, which was something I despaired of happening on our first foray out into the world of Simferopol furniture stores. I am feeling a bit guilty about the fact that I will have one of the nicest bedrooms in the house because I can afford to buy furniture for it—Serdar still doesn’t even have a desk—but I think I will just relax with the idea and enjoy having a really comfortable place to live.
Of course, the most wonderful thing about living with the Seytaptiev’s is not my improved material circumstances, but the opportunity to develop more of a relationship with each of them, an increasing possibility as the constant Russian speaking continues to improve my language ability. I like talking with Safie about her school day, trying to get her to speak English; consulting with Lenura over recipes; sitting around the dinner table after supper, listening to Neshet’s take on Crimean Tatar life. But more than anything, I like how much closer Serdar and I have gotten, even in these few short weeks. I am someone he can bounce his ideas off, turn to for advice, share his new political music discoveries (not all of which I appreciate, of course, but some I have found quite interesting). And for me, he provides an important English speaking presence that can help me understand the ins and outs of household living and with whom I feel I can somewhat share the difficulties of my life here. And we just have a lot of fun joking around. I love knowing that I will get to see him every day.
There are hard things, too, about living with the Seytaptievs—all the family dynamics swirling around me, the reality of a patriarchal household, the loss of independence that has been an anchor of my life for many years. It is hard to imagine living in this arrangement into the future; but on the other hand, now that I am with all of the Seytaptiev’s on a daily basis, it is hard to imagine a life that does not include them, especially when I think of Serdar. I know by the winter I will have to make some decisions about my future here—am I going to stay in the Peace Corps another year (which theoretically is possible as the maximum service allowed is four years)? or am I going to return to America to live, and if so, where? and how (financially)? if I choose to stay on in Crimea, can I get a residency permit? meaningful volunteer work? and where would I live?
It will be an interesting year, I think, as I try to adjust to the new realities of my living situation and work situation, as I wrestle with these questions and also try to just be here, to experience whatever is happening in the moment, and to trust that whatever I am suppose to be doing will be revealed to me along the way.
With love from Crimea.