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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April blog

Spring has Spruuuunnnngggg!!!!
March 25, 2009

I want to sing it from the rooftops, I am so happy to see green! Five months in a brown wasteland is enough to make any nature lover go a bit bonkers, and coming home a week or so ago, I saw a tree near my house in full bloom, flowers and all, and I almost up and hugged it right there in broad daylight. Thankfully, I stopped myself, being as the last thing I need is another bit of gossip circulating about ‘the American’ (Murat said that Jeren and Shemshat saw her hugging a TREE yesterday! Do you think, maybe she really IS crazy???) No thanks. It doesn’t matter that there is still no grass here to speak of, but just the reassurance that something grows in this land outside the well-manicured lawns of the Capital is enough for me. I was beginning to despair that my surroundings would be an earth colored monotone for the next two years of my life-but no, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is colorful.
Added to this epiphany, I have been complaining to my host mom about the lack of nature, and announced a week or so ago that I was going to start a garden in the wasteland that is our backyard, and then this week my host father turned off the TV, arose off his caboose, popped outside, and dug out a well organized garden plot, and planted some cucumbers in about an hour! Needless to say, I was pretty impressed, not to mention a wee bit embarrassed. In preparation of this grand garden idea, I had gone so far as to check out some appropriate reading material from the Peace Corps Library, researched what kind of seeds I should get, and made plans for where I should map out the compost pile to better fertilize the soil. Although I have a bit of experience with gardening, I have never embarked upon a solo veggie garden, so I have been gearing up for it. But in a little less time than it takes me to get ready in the morning, my host father had the entire plot dug up, trenches set it, seeds mixed in, and had begun to water it. Moral of the story: in learning to do something, just ask a local-it’s a lot faster than trying to learn from a damn book. But I did my part and went and bought some tomato plants and carrot seeds, as well as some flower seeds to start a flower plot in our front yard, which somewhat resembles a crater on the moon. So this Wednesday I am going to finish the job and set in some tomatoes and some petunias, and get our little garden a’ growin! Now to see if it will actually survive the scorching hot sun of this summer-that is the true test. But I am going to save some reserves to put in flowerpots and put them in my room for a bit of color. Now I just have to remember to water the damn things….

My first Field Trip,
March 23, 2009

Over this spring break, I held a few clubs and gave a seminar, and as everyone else was vacationing, I felt that I was due for a little trip. I agreed to help my host mother, who is also an English teacher, chaperone a picnic trip with her students to Kaka, a town about an hour away from us. She had planned a lunch at the foot of the Kopetdog Mountains, which makes up the Northern border of Iran. Kaka was actually the site of some volunteer training mates of mine, who went back to America a few weeks ago, but before they left they had visited the valley and said it was gorgeous, so I was pretty excited to see it.
Monday morning, at about 5:30am we were all up and about as a bus honked outside our door. Imagine 15 16-year-olds motivated enough to get up on their own at 4:30 in the morning to pick up their teacher just for a picnic! I don’t think that would ever happen in the States! We all piled in the bus and drove about 45 minutes to a large mosque which is in this empty field miles from anything, where we all got out and walked to a huge tomb. It is a special place for my host mother, as her son is named after the Turkmen buried there, because as a new wife she had gone there every week to pray for a son, as well as for my host fathers’ safe return from Turkey, where he was working. As both things came true, she has a strong attachment to the site, and it is very holy for her. The tomb itself is impressive-a black marble structure about 20 feet wide by about 50 feet long. One by one all the students gave thanks to Malik, and we walked in a line three times around the tomb in silence, dragging our hands over the marble all the way around. After the third go around, we sat in a circle, and one of the mail students ‘read’, or prayed, for all of us. I am not a particularly religious person, but I do respect how the power of ritual can unite people, and listing to the Arabic words repeated as the sun peaked over the horizon was a pretty neat experience.
After the stop at the mosque, we continued on past Kaka, and began our accent into the Valley. It was like we had entered another world- there were rolling grass hills in every direction, and everywhere we turned there were waundering herds of goats and sheep, all kept guard by a man or woman propped atop a shaggy donkey. My little host siblings were cranky from being woken up so early, so the students cheered them up by yelling “ Huny Malik Aylar, Eshek!” (Look, Malik and Aylar, there’s a donkey!) every time we passed a heard. Our bus driver, who I nicknamed the Surgeoun, and his assistant, keep constant guard over our ancient bus the whole way up, and every time we passed a stream would stop and refill the radiator and coaxs the engine a few more miles. We finally made to this little town at the gateway of the valley, and passing through that, made towards the river. After about 15 minutes, we pulled up alongside the river and unloaded, yelling hello’s to all the other picnicers who were out. My host mother cooked a huge vat of stew with water pulled straight from the stream, and my host father and his nephew tended the fire dutifully to serve the bundle of hungry teenagers. Afterwords, we took turns exploring, and I hiked with my host sisters to the top of the bluff, where we could look out over the valley. I pointed out the mountains to one of my host sisters. “Enegul can you see what’s over there?” I asked her, referring to the snow. “Yeah,’ she said “That’s Iran.” “Oh yeah, well, that too….” says I sheepishly. All in all, it was probably my favorite day I’ve had thus far in this country, just for the mere fact that we were froliking in nature. Thus far all my trips here in T-stan have been either chore-filled or involved the capital in some way or another. On our way back the bus broke down a few times, and while the Surgeoun tore out the engine, cut some pipes and started putting it all back together on the side of the road, some of took advantage of this, and we explored the ruins of an ancient city nearby, complete with castle wall and hundreds of house foundations. Also there was this thing, which is called the Uly Tamdyr (big tamdyr) by locals, that was the bread oven which supplied bread to the entire city of a few thousand people. It literally was about the size of a tw-story house, and the brick side had a doorway width the size of three grown men. It put the little Tamdyr in our backyard to shame, to say the least. It was like a bread oven on steroids, and hundreds of years old. Definitely a pretty neat place, and totally worth getting up at 5 am for…. So after the nice holiday, it’s now it’s back to the daily grind. 8 weeks and counting until summer!!


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