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Just a Little Rain

26 Feb


After what feels like weeks of dark heavy skies, this evening all broke open into a soul washing downpour of spring.

On the trek to the bath house, it was cool and dark and damp and perfect. And the scent! Nothing announces spring better than that deep, full smell of rain in the air.

It couldn’t have picked a more perfect day, either. With all the great things that have been moving and shaking, and with our clubs picking up momentum, a smooth re-beginning is exactly what we need to push us through til summer.  And what could announce that better than rain showers and buds on the trees?  So glad they have made their return to our city.

And, so as not to miss a day: yesterday I received the closest to a compliment I have ever received – and probably the closest she’ll ever get – from my counterpart. After a long hour of conversation lessons with my group of teachers, she looked me in the face and said, “You worked hard today.”  With a nod, she took off.  I’ll take it! Glad for that, my friends.

Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there,
pick’d from the fields, have accumulated.    – Walt Whitman




10 Feb

I experienced one!  First (and, really, hopefully last) earthquake for this gal.  I’d like to recap a wild and hazardous tale, but frankly it was over in five seconds and at first I just thought it was real windy.

However, earthquake it was none-the-less!  We finally arrived home again at site after our stint in the capitol and after washing dishes (at last! water!) I plopped down on the bed to catch up on some emails.  A few seconds later, the bed wiggled a bit. I thought Matt had bumped it, but when I looked up he seemed to be staggering a bit and the floor shook slightly again. Our house made a stretching, creaking sound and then, just like that, it was done.

I thankfully haven’t heard any reports of injuries or problems as a result and I’m insanely glad for it. Hopefully, everything stays positive and it we can look back twenty years from now and say, “Hey, remember that time we survived the earthquake in Azerbaijan?” How bitchin’ does that sound?

Fierce-throated beauty!
Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music! thy swinging lamps at night;
Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all!  – Walt Whitman


9 Feb

I don’t certainly dislike college basketball, but I’d never admit to any stirring of passions.  Keep it on if you will, change the channel, I’m cool either way.

I will, however, say my favorite thing of today was watching my partner geek out over getting to watch the Wisconsin vs. Michigan State game, live-streamed on an actual real live t.v.  He get’s way more into it and giggles like you wouldn’t believe. And, with a two-point shot for the win in the last two seconds, I was even kind of liking it, too.

image (3)

The day what belongs to the day–At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.     – Walt Whitman

A Movie

8 Feb

Frankly, this whole being in the capitol more than at site this month has been a giant mess of ridiculous.  I feel sort of caught between two places – wanting to first and foremost keep projects going and dive into these upcoming opportunities at site; at the same time, being in the big city brings with it some luxuries and comforts I gluttonously adore and its easy to forget no water and cold beds.

I decided today to be firmly and wholly where I am. I can’t do much to change the situation and I’d rather commit to life than shuffle around the guilt from where I’m not or where I’d rather be – be that site, home-home, here…

And so, I went to a movie. A movie!  Seriously team, hitting up a real live cinema is one of my favorite pastimes in the whole dang world.   We’ve made ourselves a goal to catch all the Oscar Best Picture nominees this year.   Tonight, The Wolf of Wall Street on a gloriously huge screen with chemically altered popcorn and enough Cola to make your heart stop. It was raunchy and awful and hilarious and an absolutely perfect way to spend this evening, and I’m very glad to be here.

love me some leo

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.  – Walt Whitman

The Red Wing Shoe Store

7 Feb

Did I ever tell you the story about the shoes?

Like all good evenings, it started with a glass of gin.

Rather, it began with several glasses of gin.  And one can of Lienies, shotgunned to prove a year-long quest for championing bragging rights.

I like to think it was a Saturday night, but since in those college years every night opened itself up to unbounded zest and possibility, it very well could have been a Thursday or Friday. Or, really, a Wednesday, Monday or Tuesday.  It definitely wasn’t a Sunday, though.  In fact, I think it was a Thursday.

After rambling chats and a few slamming of drinks in my apartment up the street, my partner, my buddies and I moved the gathering down to the bar a few blocks away.   It was that perfect late summer-heat, the kind that leaves small beads of perspiration on your back and pushes you to laugh just a little bit harder and love the swoon of liquor just one moment grander.

Together around the table, the five of us drank and argued and  toasted to the complete perfection of the evening. My poor partner, bless his heart, finished his drink, smiled, and with the pushing-in of his chair, bid us all a good night; while some of us could sleep off the evening in the morning, he had to face an early shift that was already all too near. We saw him off and with a sloppy kiss I wished him well. He smiled, patted my head, kissed me on the nose, and promised I’d be safe and Not Be Stupid and call if I needed anything.

We wandered over and got a burrito, of course, and devoured them on the corner.  We stopped into our favorite place, saved for last, and finished the evening with found friends and too much loud music.   Since we’d spent our last dollars and were now regretting the burritos that sat poorly on top of gallons of booze, it was decided It Was Time To Go.

I still remember the exact feel of peeling out into the cooling evening, the heat of the cramped bar behind me and the street lights buzzing on the crowded streets. Everyone in town, it seemed, couldn’t get enough of the Indian summer. With hugs and slaps and promises to meet up for breakfast, we separated ways and I turned back home.

And that’s when I saw him.

He looked familiar, though he was tucked a little into the corner between buildings, shadows covering a bit of his face.  When I walked a little further down, I recognized him as one of the high-school kids I worked with at the waterpark that summer, The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had In My Life, Ever.

I turned back to gaze a little harder, not to catch eyes and say hello but because around his neck hung three pairs of laced work boots, a pair of unlaced ones on his feet and another in his hands.  Despite mild tipsiness, I was fairly certain this was Extraordinary.

“Liv!” he shouted. “Hey! Come on! We’re taking the shoes!”

I blinked a few times and laughed in surprise, then stopped.  Through his spurts and general blubberiness, he managed to explain that he had been walking past when he noticed the doors to the Red Wing Shoe Store had been left open.

“And,” he continued, “no one can even see inside. I’m waiting here til a friend of mine gets back and we’re going for more.”

He was right: you couldn’t see anything.  With the spacing of lamp posts and the angle of the door, anyone could have been going in and out  all evening. Which, it seemed, was the plan.

I stammered a bit, raised a finger, opened my mouth to respond — and bolted.

Blame it on being the middle child, a bossy rule-follower, a former 5th grade Safety Patrol Captain; chalk it up to being a goody-two-shoes, an acts-tough-but-tries-hard-in-school attitude, a desire to Do The Right Thing; call me a snitch and a narc and a tattle-tale but my immediate and full reaction pushed me to Get Some Cops.

Full of stamina, a lifetime of following the rules, and one too many gimlets, I rushed down the street, scanning for the cops that always stood watch on the college town street but of course were no where in sight.  I reached into my pocket to pull out my cell phone, realizing I could easily call for back up on this mission that had suddenly consumed every inch of me and needed – nay, demanded! – my full and undivided attention.

You see, it was just too much.

Not only was he stealing, but from the Red Wing Shoe Store. The shoe store! Quite possibly the smallest and most adorable store ever. I walked past the shop every day to class, the small frame of the elderly owner hunched in back, shuffling papers and stacking boxes –  the quintessential owner of a small, family owned business. It was really quite a depressingly perfect place.

And he was stealing! He was breaking the law!  I hardly knew him aside from his name and the fact that we did, in fact, share an employer but I’d yet to see him actually turn up for a shift, and any loyalty I’d felt towards him vanished the moment he laughed at the misery of that poor old man.

I felt injustice! I felt violated! I felt several ales cursing through my veins!

When I finally managed to pull my phone from my pocket, it was, of course, dead.

I looked around, panicked. There were dozens of people out but at that moment I knew there was only one thing to do.

Three minutes later, out of breath and even more jacked up, I burst through my sleeping partner’s front door having run the seven blocks to his house at world record pace.  Switching on all the lights, I swung open his bedroom door to find him rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Wha -” he started.

“SHOES!” I shouted. “Give… me… your… PHONE. 9-1-1!” I stammered between breaths.

I rushed his nightstand for his phone and ran into his blocked arm.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Calm down. What are you doing?” He tried to pull some clarity, which is fair, given that the last time he saw me I was leading a brigade of fellow lushes on a quest for Mexican, but I was having none of it.


With Wonder Woman strength, I pulled the phone from his hands and dialed 9-1-1.

Still out of breath and trying to shush a confused partner from ruining what had now amounted in my mind to a Threat to National Security, I spoke to the kindly dispatcher.

“The shoes!” I continued, picking up with her where I’d left off.

“Ma’am,” she said, “you’re going to have to calm down and be more specific. I am here to help you.”

“Okay,” I said, taking deep breaths. The room was a little swimmy, my heart was racing, I felt a tugging need to toss up some cookies,  but this was it.

Finally, in one long breath, I blurted out the entire story, including the summer heat and the waterpark and the fact that right now, they were stealing his shoes and It Needed To Be Stopped.

She paused. She asked me if I was okay, if anyone was hurt, and if I could repeat again what was happening and where.

“Lady,” I said. “The shoes.” I heard her talking to someone in the background.

“Ma’am,” she came back. “We just got another call about a break in at a shoe store downtown and are sending officers over. Is this what you are trying to tell me?”

“YES!” I shouted. We had done it! We had saved the country.

“Is there also something happening with the burritos? I didn’t understand that part,” she said.

I told her that they were just simply delicious, thanked her for her help, and hung up the phone.

With an unwarranted smugness, I gave my partner back his phone, smiled at our bravery, told him not to worry, I’d fixed it all, and promptly passed out on the couch.




In this crazy Year of Gladness, I am infinitely pleased to stumble across this video today from my beautiful city and the Red Wing Shoe, Co.  During this week of long trips away from site, weird hospital visits, missing home and everything stable, I loved seeing familiar sights and thinking of ridiculous days with beautiful people and the craziness of life that makes things all worth it.


Press close, bare-bosomed Night! Press close, magnetic,
nourishing Night!
Night of south winds!  Night of the large, few stars!
Still, nodding Night!  Mad, naked, Summer Night!
~Walt Whitman

Just a Sec (and Thursday Rundown 5)

6 Feb

If fortune ever had it I should become a superhero, my catch phrase before jumping into action would inevitably be “just a sec!”

I don’t even like the way this phrase rolls off the tongue, but damned if I don’t find myself saying it. ALL. THE. TIME.

It is not even three whole words. Really, it’s not even a sentence. It’s disgusting. The grunt of the “juh;” the abruptness of the midwestern “uh:”  the chopped off “seeeehk;” combined together, they sound infinitely more like a sneeze than a response to a request.

I can use this reply no matter what or when or how I find myself caught up.  You want me to pass those peas? Just a sec!  Can I read through that email? Sure, just a sec!  Lend me a hand with this grocery bag? Just a sec!

Heaven forbid anything seriously demanding ever happen.  Give you the Heimlich? Yeah, just a sec!

I like to think of it as an automatic response, one that doesn’t so much mean I am not eager to help you right away, but just my internal phrase showing I heard you, here I come!

Truth be told, it’s really because I thrive on procrastination.  Doing things now, now, now get’s me all sorts of anxious and distracted. But give me a sec? I’m all up on that!

Which, in small doses, can be fine but you pile those seconds up and here we are, Thursday Rundown Five, without a single post in between.

Which really was the point of this long tangent.

I’m madly in love with this goofy Year of Gladness. It’s been a rough start to the year. Great things have happened, team, but for the umpteenth time this month I’m back in the capitol for some medical mumbo-jumbo.  I’ll blame the traveling on my lack of posting, but we all know the truth.  This gal just needs to get a better handle on life.

All that aside, here’s a quick rundown of this Thursday and each day’s gladness until today.

Thursday – February 16

We caught the early bus into the capitol.  I think the universe was totally avoiding another “hot bus” post as it was a delightfully comfortable ride and we got here quite easily.

After checking into the hotel and confirming tomorrow’s appointments, we had a nice time taking showers and charging up batteries. With the recent cold spell, we haven’t had water at site for nearly a week.  We have some stored up, but certainly not ready for bathing and this hot water from a spout was pure heaven.

Afterwards, we navigated some new bus routes to head to the greatest (and maybe only true) Chinese restaurant in the capitol. Pricey, but so worth it.

When we got back, I finally did some catching up on emails; we watched a little t.v., and now it’s off to bed for an early morning.  It certainly wasn’t the Thursday I dream of, filled with singing goofballs and energetic conversation clubs, but one I am glad for none-the-less.

To catch us up, one thing to be glad for each day last week:

Friday: delicious spaghetti with good conversation and friends.

Saturday: a warm hotel room! We had massive snow and ice; those of us in the capitol for meetings had to stay another night as the buses were not running back to the regions. Drats, right?

Sunday: my beautiful sitemate J. She was such a fun trooper and always positive as we endured the 11 hour journey trying to get home.  We finally made it, and I’m so glad for her smiles.

Monday: post-Superbowl Superbowl feast.  We missed the game, but all got together for junk food, junk food, commercial-viewing, and more junk food.

Tuesday: a great meeting with my counterpart. Lots of good ideas in the works, a friendly chat, and plans for the month!

Wednesday: Coca-cola. I had a rotten migraine, but that jolt of caffeine at 4 in the morning after 10 hours of throbbing was a perfect shock to the system.


To think of time–of all that retrospection,
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward.   – Walt Whitman


Thursday Rundown (4) … and catching up

30 Jan

As you know, my friends, I will never make excuses for missing a post now and then. Personally, nothing is more off-putting in opening a blog than the first lines of “so sorry I haven’t posted in ages!”

However, I would extend a teeeeeeny weeeny apology, as I love sharing moments from each day and feel a bit of sadness for those I miss.  I have been in the capitol WAY too many times this past month; additionally, I’m fairly certain we have attic rats messing with some wires as our power at home keeps going in and out and in and out…  fun times in the palm, amigos.

Yet, as is tradition, let me give you a more in depth of Thursday (and then do a brief catch-up on the highlights of this past week).

My dear partner and I are fortunate to both serve as mentors for the incoming group of AZ12s -the 12th group of volunteers to serve in country.  Today was our meeting to discuss the program logistics, chat about what info is good to pass along, and get acquainted with our role these next few months.

Before our gathering, however, my crew from back at site snuck in an early morning breakfast meeting with one of our staff members and had a wonderful, thought-provoking discussion about our village school project.  From the beginning, we’ve known this was a huge stretch and dream, but it was actually rather uplifting to hear our options and recognize the ways in which we can focus in on our goals.

After the mentor meeting, we had a chance to grab a late lunch with some fellow friends and volunteers at one of my favorite places in the capitol.  Squeezing back onto the bus later, it was a return to the hotel to catch up on site work and emails – on which I am still falling sadly behind.  This evening, the partner and I caught up with some other volunteers who were also in town for various mid-service meetings and had a great time talking over food and drinks.

And now… its back to the hotel.  I often feel both insanely pleased and terribly uncomfortable staying in the capitol. On one hand, nothing is better than waking up in a real bed and having an instantly hot shower with a big breakfast and heating.  Yet, at the same time, there’s always this pang of missing out on my work and life in the region. When I’m walking around in my hotel slippers and robe, sucking up all the electricity and internet I can find, I think back to where I would be at this moment back at site; instead of dining with volunteers in a swanky restaurant, I’d be sharing the afternoon with my great 4th formers, singing songs in a language they don’t quite know, wearing jackets in the classroom to stay warm and waving goodbye as they cross the muddy streets back home to swash through the beauties and struggles that come with life in Az.   I’m glad for all these experiences – both high and low – and only hope to better understand their connection and meaning the longer I am able to serve in Peace Corps.

And, to stay true to the Year of Gladness, here’s a snapshot of some of the best things (both momentous and mundane) that happened each day this week:

Last Friday: I found my grey and white striped hat I was SURE I had left in Tbilisi; the best bottom-of-purse-find ever!

Saturday: Coming back to site to find water, gas, electricity, AND internet all in tip-top shape; a productive evening if there ever was one!

Sunday: so glad for sunshine! Beautiful, fluffy-clouded, ray bursting sunshine to dry all the clothes and warm up the house.

Monday: easily getting visa renewal photos taken. Any time I have to complete a new adventure in Az, I’m always preparing for the worst and most confusing time ever.  And yet, we were in and out in five minutes, with actually decent looking photos in hand. Score one for paperwork!

Tuesday: back to the capitol yet again.  This time, I took a wild stab at it and took a small marshrutka bus into the capitol and boy did I win big!  For whatever reason, this fella was not stopping for ANYTHING.  The normally 4 – 5 hour trek? Busted that record in 3 1/2.  Loved it.

aaaaaand Wednesday: despite having to visit for some medical reasons, I loved getting to ride around with one of the Peace Corps drivers.  I’ve wrote about this ridiculous, food and car loving former professional driver before – he is always ready for a good story. I had the best twenty minutes listening to him and the PC doctor holler and laugh about what constitutes food.  No matter what she said, he refused to believe vegetables, put together to make “salad,” would ever constitute as real food.  Truly, he had some valid points…

And there’s the week. Here’s to another great one.

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.   – Walt Whitman

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