On Christmas Eve, we went ice skating. I hadn’t been in forever (I don’t think any of us had) and it was really fun. We played tag and it sort of wore me out. I called Lale to come meet us there and she did, though she didn’t skate because she has a fragile back and didn’t want to get hurt if she fell. I gave her some pictures of our Anew group that she can put in the frame we bought her. She’s going to be working two teaching jobs starting in January. One in Anew and one at a kindergarten in Ashgabat. It was good to see her, though I wish we could have had more time together. Some of us had Pizza Haus again for dinner (but this time I had a burger, yum). Then we headed to the U.S. embassy compound where we went Christmas caroling to the families there. We ended at the chargé d’ affaires’ home and she invited us in for drinks and snacks. A select few of us (me included) spent the night that night and the next. A chargé d’affaires is similar to an ambassador and essentially the difference is a matter of semantics and politics than job description. The current chargé d’affaires of Turkmenistan is Eileen Malloy, who has served as an ambassador to other countries in the past, so she is still called an ambassador when being addressed by us, just as past presidents are still called President.
On Christmas Day, at noon, we gathered at the embassy compound for the first annual War and Peace Bowl. PCVs (Peace) took on U.S. Marines (War) in football. We lost both games 7-5, but I think that’s pretty good considering the Marines play every Sunday (and they’re Marines). Most notably, I was knocked unconscious when two Marines pummeled me when I caught the ball (no, it wasn’t tackle, either, they just play rough). I remember the ball coming toward me and the next thing I remember is someone telling me I could let go of the ball now. According to onlookers, I got some whiplash motion and the back of my head hit the ground pretty hard. I was dazed for a bit, but after a sip of water and a minute of gathering myself, I got back up and kept playing. All were pretty impressed with my fortitude. It felt really good to play a sport again. I’ve missed Sunday ultimate Frisbee games. But I was pretty sore for a few days afterward, especially my neck.
After football, we went to the PCO, where the director made Christmas dinner for us. It was a good feast and we made merry. We had a secret Santa exchange and I got baby powder, a Snickers and nail polish from my Santa, who turned out to be Andy. Those are all good gifts and he was obviously helped by Lindsay in picking some of them out. I had drawn Owen’s name and I got him a ball cap that says ‘Owen’ on it. I actually found it at the bazaar in B-bat! You find the most random stuff here sometimes; it was serendipitous.
It was very nice to stay in the ambassador’s home because we got to sleep on real beds and shower in pristinely clean facilities. And we took advantage of her washer AND dryer (dryers don’t exist here and I had forgotten what clothes exposed to fabric softener feel like). Plus, Armed Forces Network television and U.S. newspapers (even if they were a couple weeks old).
On the 26th we had to head back to site. (Tear running down cheek). It was slightly depressing because not only did we have the comedown of the end of the holiday, but we also left knowing we wouldn’t be seeing each other again until sometime in March when site restriction is lifted. You see, for the first three months of service, you’re not allowed to leave site overnight unless it’s official PC stuff like a meeting. The country director technically had a meeting with us in A-bat on the 24th in order to make this get together kosher and paid for by PC. Site restriction is hard for two reasons, 1) I don’t like being tied down to one place that long, I have the wanderlust and feel trapped if I know I can’t leave a place and 2) there are people I don’t want to wait two and a half months to see again. I think it’s particularly hard right now because none of us have cell phones yet, so we can’t even text or call a brief hello. Still, at least we have some email access. I count myself very lucky to have Lindsay and Andy around. And I quite enjoyed our time together in the taxi ride back to B-bat.