Here’s a sample page from the homophones book I compiled. I wish I could make a career of doing word nerd things like studying etymology and making reference books like this. Actually I learned a few words while making this. My boyfriend taught me ‘limn,’ as he was eager to help with the project. Although he disagreed with some of my entries, saying they weren’t really homophones. That’s because he grew up in Europe where they talk funny.
It’s also the public debut of my self-made bob cut.Here’s one of Leyla and me out at the disco.
This is Lindsay's new kitten. Her host sister keeps finding them and taking them in. I wish I could upload videos here because Linds took one of him climbing up my pants leg to get a piece of bacon.
Last week in honor of MLK Day, I taught about civil disobedience, starting, of course, with Mr. Civil Disobedience himself, Henry David Thoreau. After a brief overview of his protest of the Mexican-American War, I taught about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Leymah Gbowee, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in her native country of Liberia.
In America, this would have been considered an everyday civics or history lesson. But here, I recognize, it would probably be considered by many to be subversive. While I’m not looking for trouble, I’m not going to forgo teaching these things. And I’m not going to lie when I am asked earnest questions by my students.
This lesson comes at a time when the future of Peace Corps in Turkmenistan is uncertain and my students know that, even if I wasn’t the one to initially tell them. The same day I taught this lesson, a student asked me why her government doesn’t want Peace Corps volunteers here. So I told her. “Your government doesn’t want you to learn about the rest of the world. It wants to maintain power by controlling information. Your government is very afraid. This summer there were uprisings in Libya and Egypt and other countries and your government doesn’t want that to happen here. That’s why many pages like Facebook on the internet are blocked. And that’s why Altyn Asyr (the country’s only phone company which is run by the government) doesn’t provide reliable service. Many of the protests in those countries were arranged through mass communication. Your government doesn’t want people here to be able to arrange similar protests.”
I’m not sure if she fully understood what I was saying, but like I said, I may not get up in club and offer this information, but I won’t withhold it if I’m asked. I can’t in good conscience tell kids who are devastated by the idea that there might not be any more opportunity to learn and improve their English after I leave that I don’t know why they’re being denied that chance.
I don’t know the ins and outs of the Occupy Wall Street movement since I’m over here and information is limited. But I have to say I’m proud that people in my country are able to demonstrate and are exercising that right. It wouldn’t even occur to people here to protest, and if they did, I can’t imagine the chaos that would ensue.
As I said in my “Winter Break” post, I was supposed to arrive in Turkmenistan earlier for our Mid-service Training (MST). But due to weather I missed the first day. I was scheduled to give two presentations the second day so, luckily, I was able to do that. Our counterparts (the Turkmen we work with: teachers for TEFL volunteers, doctors and nurses for health volunteers) were at MST with us. TEFL and health were split up for most of MST and later, the PCVs were split from the counterparts (CPs).
My first presentation was to TEFL vols and CPs on teaching advanced students. I loved it because I got to talk about things I really enjoy like etymology and roots and prefixes and how complicated and beautiful the English language is. I compiled a dictionary of homophones and homographs to pass out to everyone. It was a project that took me three months but that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After lunch I presented again, this time only to volunteers. I presented as a member of Peer Support on depression and SAD. I was rushed for time because the ambassador was scheduled to come after me so I hurried through it, but it was okay. I got everything across that I needed to.
At the end of the day, we all got to relax and have dinner together. It was a great way to transition back into life in Turkmenistan.
So I’m back, getting unpacked, catching up on blog posts, collecting the mail that’s accumulated, and grocery shopping. After the weekend, clubs will start up again and hopefully my trip to Chicago will be a happy memory but not a siren song beckoning me back to the land where strangers smile at you and people in customer service thank you for your business.
I decided when I left for Peace Corps that I wouldn’t come to the States during my service for fear that it would make me homesick when I returned to Turkmenistan and lead me to quit. That changed, however, when I was given the opportunity to meet up with some people in Chicago. It seemed like a good idea because I wasn’t going home where all my things were; I was going to a neutral place with things to do.
December 29: I was lucky and convinced a staff member to drive me to the airport at one in the morning for my 5am flight. Otherwise, I would have had to take the bus at 9pm and sit in the airport for six hours before even checking in, and the Ashgabat airport is the most unaccommodating international airport I’ve ever seen. From Ashgabat I flew to Istanbul where I had a five hour layover, then flew to Chicago.
December 30: I was so relieved and happy to see Greg waiting for me at O’Hare, ready to take me through the labyrinthine ways of the Chicago public transportation system. We took a train, then another train, then a taxi. Our cab driver was an angry individual who did not care for Chicago and its “supposed democracy.” I wanted to tell him he should try Turkmenistan on for size but thought better of it.
After I took a much needed hot shower, we ordered deep dish pizza and settled in for the evening. Greg had recorded the new show Grimm for me since I’m such a fan of fairytales and we watched the first episode of the season. That was about all the excitement I could take after such a long trek.
December 31: Because I was still a little jet lagged, we took it easy today. We saw The Muppets, which was really good. Then we just went around town to check out some stores. I hadn’t been in a legitimate bookstore since I left the States, so it was nice to wander around Barnes & Noble even though it’s not as good as Borders was (R.I.P.). I picked up a math book for one of my Turkmen students. Barnes & Noble does not give a Peace Corps Volunteer discount, if you were wondering.
We had decided before I even came that we wouldn’t go out on New Year’s Eve. It’s too expensive and a big headache. So we went to Whole Foods and bought a rotisserie chicken and some sides and sparkling grape juice. Greg made baked potatoes and green beans with bacon to go with our chicken. We watched Times Square which is an hour ahead of Chicago time and then switched to televised coverage of celebrations in Chi-town. Then went to bed immediately after it turned midnight. What can I say? We’re old.
January 1: We went to Navy Pier today. I love Navy Pier because it’s free to walk around and I like the stained glass museum. Plus, the last time I was there, my bff wouldn’t ride the Ferris wheel with me because she’s afraid of heights. She’s still wonderful though. So, Greg and I rode the Ferris wheel. I picked up a small Chicago souvenir for Phil, a PCV who’s from Chicago, so he can give it to his new host family.
January 2: We went to see Sherlock Holmes 2. I’ve been on movie withdrawal. Sure, I can watch movies on my laptop in Turkmenistan, but I can’t go to the movie theater and see a brand new movie on the big screen and eat movie theater popcorn. (When I lived in Nevada, I went to the movies every weekend with my friend.) After that we had drinks at the top of the John Hancock building and enjoyed the view. Later that evening we met up with my pal, Carrie, and her husband. It was great to see her again and catch up.
_ January 3: Today we went to the Oriental Institute (one of my faves). I ran into two Egyptologists from Egypt there and asked them what they thought happened to King Tut. It was fun to see them argue with each other. One thought he died of natural causes/a disease; the other thought he was assassinated by his head priest. Then we made our way to the Museum of Science and Industry. They were having a special exhibit on Dr. Seuss, but it was sold out. However, we got there late enough in the day that our tickets to the rest of the museum were half price. In the evening we went with Greg’s sister and her boyfriend to see Second City. It was funny and a nice balance to the day after museuming it up. (I am a museum fiend, but I understand that not everyone digs them as much as I do; Greg’s really nice to go with me.)
January 4: We wandered around some shops and took it easy, waiting until we could go meet my parents who had driven down to meet up with me. We had dinner with them and opened the presents they brought.
January 5: My parents and I met up with Greg and we all went to Shedd Aquarium. I hadn’t been there since I was about ten and it’s grown significantly since then. We spent pretty much the whole day there, then walked over to the bean in Millennium Park. I had to say goodbye to Greg because he was leaving early the next morning. It was hard. When my parents and I returned to the hotel, my brother joined us shortly after and we chilled as a fam. I showed them some of the things I brought from Turkmenistan and talked about the culture.
_ January 6: We did the Field Museum where they had a special exhibit on whales and another on chocolate. I’ve always liked the Field Museum too. Chicago really is a great place to visit. Probably when I finish up in Tstan I’ll go again but budget more time. After the Field, we spent some family time together.
January 7: I shopped for some stuff to take back and said goodbye to my brother and parents who are amazing and incredibly supportive people. Then I boarded the plane to Istanbul.
January 8-10: After a five hour layover in Istanbul, we flew out to Ashgabat. We got all the way there only to be turned away because of fog. We landed in Baku, Azerbaijan to refuel and continued back to Istanbul. I had no clue what to do from there, so I just followed the mob to a desk where I heard another passenger speaking to the clerk in English. I asked if I could follow him and he said ok. He introduced himself as Doug and he’s Canadian. He waited for me to buy a visa (which I needed to enter Istanbul) then we headed to the Turkish Air hotel desk where we waited for them to call our names for the shuttle that would take us to the hotel they arranged for us. The shuttle took us to a hotel but after we all unloaded and lined up at the desk, we were informed that they were booked up and we would be going to a different hotel. So we clambered back up into the bus and rode to the Ramada. We got there around 11am. They gave us vouchers for lunch and dinner and we were told a shuttle would pick us up at 6pm to take us back to the airport to fly out. I took a shower then emailed PC to let them know what had happened and ate lunch. Then I napped until close to dinner. After dinner, when we all met up in the lobby again, they told us we weren’t going to fly out that night after all and that we would get picked up at 4am. They provided us a small breakfast at 3:30 before we left.
Once we got to the airport, it was totally unorganized. The people at the counters didn’t seem to know what was going on. I followed Doug to the business class desk where he made sure we both got new boarding passes. He tried to get me access to the business class lounge but they wouldn’t let him bring a guest. Still, it was nice of him to try. Our flight finally took off sometime after 8am.
We landed in Turkmenistan around 3pm. I didn’t get out of the airport until 5ish; we were the only incoming flight at that time, which tells you something about the organizational skills going on there. I missed the first day of our Mid-service conference, but the good news is I made it safely back and in time to make my scheduled presentations on the second day.
Taking John 10:10 to its logical conclusion and sucking the marrow out of life.