Yesterday (Oct. 20) I came home about fifteen minutes later (6:45) than I have been and my host mom asked me why I was late. I never had a curfew (except PC’s curfew of 11:00pm) to begin with. I felt like a teenager, although when I was a teenager, I never had this problem with my parents. This morning she tried me to get to eat custard (I think; pale yellow pudding in a tin can) on my bread. When I declined she asked if my stomach was okay. Turkmen just don’t get that custard, cookies, and candy are not appropriate breakfast foods. I realize that she’s just trying to look out for me, but I feel smothered. It doesn’t help that she’s only six years older than me and most of her food prep and housekeeping directly opposes what my own mother taught me in terms of cleanliness and hygiene. She dropped tomato on the bread tonight and proceeded to lick it off the bread and put the bread back! I’m not a germ-phobe by any stretch of the imagination. At least, I wasn’t back in the U.S. But here, I find myself giving myself daily pep talks about sucking it up and pretending I don’t see or smell certain things.
I feel like I should know more language now that I’ve been here three weeks, but several things are hindering me. One, we don’t get language all day every day, even though it feels like it. And we don’t do much (if any review) in class to make things stick. Two, I can’t do much review on my own because it’s too noisy at my house and I’m mentally drained anyway. Three, I keep wanting to throw Spanish (or French) into the mix. I caught myself almost calling someone on TV “feo” in front of my family and sometimes think “si” or “como se dice” when I’m in class and wish I’d been placed in Guatemala.
Today (Oct. 22) was the first day of our ECA. We’re supposed to have ECA’s instead of camps because the Turkmen government doesn’t like camps. So we have camps that we call ECA’s instead. We are supposed to do one ECA as trainees and then probably some more when we get to permanent site depending on how our school works. This ECA is two days. We played games and sports with the kids and taught them dance and did arts and crafts. Andrea and I were in charge of dance and Shannon and I were in charge of sports. It was really fun trying to get the kids to do highland dancing and the twist and the swim. They just about died when I did the moonwalk, chanting Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson. (I think Andrea started the chant, actually) We did Frisbee with them and relay races. We had them teach us Turkmen dancing and their version of Red Rover, which is basically our version but they say more stuff and don’t try as hard to break through the arms.
We had forms 4-6 which is ages 9-11, I think. Young enough to be fun without being so young that we can’t control them. Still, it was exhausting. We are very popular since we’re American, and the last half hour was pretty much them asking us for our autographs and to have their pictures taken with us. It was surreal, but now I’m prepared for when I really do become famous. Afterward, we talked about what worked and what we should tweak for tomorrow. We’re thinking of stopping earlier tomorrow, as we will be pretty spent. But I’m excited. Tomorrow we’re going to teach them the Macarena and the chicken dance among other things. And it’s nice to be popular, especially with little kids. I felt like the Pied Piper.
ECA part deux
The second day of ECA was even better. We had fewer kids which made the whole thing more manageable. We did different dances and different relays, and the kids really swarmed to me today. I had a few girls who were literally hanging on me. Afterward, we went to the ruins of a mosque in Anew. The mosque was unusual because it had dragons above the entrance. Normally, you would never see animals depicted in Islamic art because it’s forbidden (but there are a lot of ways Turkmen don’t really follow Islam). The legend of the mosque says that the king of Anew, Seyitjemaleddin, was a kind and generous person. There were two dragons who lived in the mountains and one day, one of the dragons came to the village and asked for help, but no one would help him because they were scared of dragons. But Seyitjemaleddin was so kind, that he went with the dragon to help. The dragon led him to the mountains where the dragon’s partner was choking to death on a goat’s head (the horns had caught in his throat). Seyitjemaleddin climbed into the dragon’s mouth and sawed off the horns so the dragon could swallow it. The dragons were so thankful that they showed Seyitjemaleddin where to find gold in the mountains and promised to protect Anew. S brought the gold back and built the mosque with the dragon motif as a reminder that they would protect Anew. The mosque was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948. I got some good pictures, but of course it will be a while before I can post them. After the mosque, the two Anew PCT groups got together at Shannon’s house and made Mexican food. It was so good! We were able to find tomatoes, black olives (not pitted), corn, peppers, onions, and ground beef at our bazaar. We used a cheese that’s similar to gouda. We couldn’t find tortillas or lavash, so we went with Doritos to make nachos. And one of the volunteers had brought fajita seasoning packets from home. It was so much fun to relax and play games and not worry about being culturally sensitive or not being able to communicate or not trusting the food.