Tag Archives: peace corps

The Days are Getting Longer

24 Feb

Thank goodness for the solstice and increasing sunlight!  Our days here are filled with more sunlight and more work and I love them both.  I’ve been on a real kick lately repeating our country director’s mantra regarding Peace Corps: it’s all about the work. I mean, a lot. I think people are going to get sick of me.  I can’t help it – it helps me get through some of these days in which I feel like I am forever playing catch up.  Because, despite what I find to complain about – no heat, no water, missing my family, my list goes on – I wouldn’t change any of it for the great projects I’ve been fortunate to work with lately. I think I’m at my mid-service high and I’m hoping the momentum continues. There’s a lot going on here, team!

And isn’t that weird to say? Mid-service? We’ve been here nearly a whole year. Though we don’t know our exact close of service date (and won’t until July) we will potentially be going home in May 2015.  There’s finally enough going on that I don’t go stir crazy and I don’t know that I’ll ever fit it all in.

While I don’t always use my time in the most appropriate fashion, I do feel just real exhausted lately.  We discovered some intense black mold growing in our kitchen; who’s to say if it’s the culprit or not, but I’m blaming the extra fatigue on that culprit! Combine that fun fungus and long days and a heck of a stiff bed, and I’m pooped before I even start my day.

So, let me blame my lagging behind-ness in my Year of Gladness on all that, but I’m hoping this energy refocuses into some stellar movements. I’m fortunate to be so busy and I do hope it stays that way.

To catch up, let’s go back and recount this missing week and a half:

13th: Thursday! We had our first community village meeting with TONS of community members show up to talk about the school project. A great day with lots of energy.

14th: so glad to spend, truly, one of the best Valentine’s Days with my partner. We made our famous Cajun pasta, drank a little wine, the power went out to make the candles even more perfect, and had a lovely evening chatting in the glow of our gas stove.

15th: first weekend back at site in a long time! I was able to enjoy the sunshine and do tons of laundry and clean our bath house – the joys of warmer weather.

16th: spent the day in a village with friends and food. Saw the weirdest turkey in the world, met some very kind people, and explored a new part of our region.

17th: back to work! We had a solid meeting regarding our school project between the volunteers and our counterpart. I finally feel that I have a good handle on where to move from here and we enjoyed some delicious pumpkin pilaf.

18th: held my first teacher conversation club. It’s been in the works for ages, and it was truly a success! We had 20 great teachers and I look forward to continuing the discussions.

19th: hooray for TOEFL Wednesday. It has quickly become one of my favorite activities. We had a great discussion on some English phrases and I am forever being impressed by their wit, knowledge, and energy.

20th: one of the highlights of my service so far. I was able to lead our next community village meeting. In front of a room full of village elders, respected staff and community parents and members, we discussed the project and how the community can contribute and what we need in a school. It really is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

21st: made my way to the south to lead a teacher training seminar with my fellow teacher trainer. We met up with my dear friend and her host mother and had tacos with REAL AMERICAN TORTILLAS sent from the states. Perfection.

22nd: had our second teacher training seminar. Thirty-two teachers! It was a great group of people from all over the region and much more than we expected. That evening, I had a dinner with one of the coolest families I have had the pleasure to meet. A lovely evening of good food, good conversation, and a picture of a man standing on a giant potato. Love it.

23rd: despite a 7 hour ride to get home, it was a good day and I had a lovely lunch with my partner. He’s the best.

AND, that’s today. Let’s hope this busyness continues  – I love it.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.  – 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

Thursday Rundown

9 Jan

I’m not typically one to give long rambling narratives of a day (at least, I try not to – you can be the better judge!) but the whole of this Thursday was wonderful in so many ways I feel I just have to capture it all, both to share it’s greatness with you and also as a solid reminder to myself that fabulous things can happen.

Thursday, January 9th:

On Thursdays, my sitemate Kathy and I teach English songs and games to a group of 4th grade students.  This is nearly always my favorite part of the week and today was no exception. As we have been off these past two Thursdays, their typical enthusiasm and strong hugs were amplified; it is always the best feel-good booster to walk into that classroom and be swarmed by adorable, giggling, Russian/English/Azerbaijani babbling faces.  Last time we met, the students colored pictures of their favorite animals. We cut and pasted them onto poster paper and used them to give us animal sounds while singing “Old McDonald” today. Their hilarious imitations and gestures, combined with pronunciations of “E-I-E-I-O” made the whole hour a true and golden moment.

Afterwards, Kathy has a conversation club with a teacher friend of hers. Typically, I trek off to find my counterpart, but as she is visiting her son I was able to stay and join in. During the hour, several older form students dropped in and shared the time with us. We ended up having this amazing conversation about descriptions and our word choices.  In my experience, it’s quite common in Azerbaijan to describe someone as “that fat woman” or “the uglier sister.”  In a beautiful round-about sort of fashion, the students discussed how they might feel to be the person being described as such, and how in America we try to describe someone using words that would make that person feel better. They talked about loving their eye-color, and their friend’s curly hair; they suggested ways to build each other up and I loved their sincerity and somber faces when sharing some real life examples.

Next, we joined with our fellow sitemate and took the bus to visit our friends at a village school. We have some big ideas brewing in regards to helping them build a new school –  a huge undertaking that found its way to us this past month. While so much is still in the preliminary stages, having this time to discuss with the director and teachers was quite possibly the most rewarding experience I have had thus far during my service. Often, while I know my counterpart enjoys my presence, I really feel like I am pushing ideas onto her in ways she doesn’t always desire. Everything we discussed and took part in at the village, however, was a direct result of a conversation or point brought up by one of the people most involved. I even had a teacher ask if she could call me with questions she had about a lesson in her book. Seriously, this was a major step forward, my friends. Major.

On the way back into town, we had a hilarious bus ride.  Typically, I sit awkwardly on the little van bus and try to ignore all the stares and moving old ladies as much as possible. Everyone who got on today, however, was somehow related to this village school and only had wonderful things to share. We met the director of the Parent/Teacher’s Association who offered to help in anyway he could (side note: they have a PTA??? also big news!); we met this wonderful grandmother who said she was looking forward to visiting us next Thursday – she wanted to learn English and said it was never too late to learn!  A random woman jumped on, noticed we weren’t Azeri, and welcomed us to her country with kisses and hugs and invited us over for tea. We laughed the whole bus ride home.

Today, I was so glad to be a part of this community.  And, for once, I really did feel like a part of it all. I felt it so much I could burst. These were the sort of days I dreamed of and precisely why I joined the Peace Corps, and I can only sincerely wish and try my damnedest to make everyone one of these diems as seized as possible.


A Love Affair: Visiting the Dentist

8 Jan

I obsessively brush my teeth.  And I don’t just mean like morning-noon-and-night obsessed, I brush my teeth – no exaggeration – a good seven or eight times a day.

When I was younger, I looked forward to visiting the dentist’s office with the joy and warmth of a child on Christmas morning.  I felt there was no better heaven on earth than the clean, white space of the dentist’s office, the creak of the slick chair as it lowered you down, and the clicks of the tools against my teeth.  The waiting room held a tall, glass display case with various figurines of dentists, dental tools, and smiling molars.  They were all my friends, all there to witness the opening of my gigantic mouth and to see my pearly whites in all their clean, cavity-free glory.

I think I sought the dentist’s commendation more so than that of my parents.  To hear my dentist say, “My, you have great teeth, Olivia!” was a stamp of highest approval.  I wanted – no needed to have healthy chompers.  It wasn’t so much the need to be praised nor the desire to have better teeth than anyone else.  I think I thought of it more along the lines of, these are my teeth.  They are here to help me eat and smile and swallow and it is my responsibility – nay, my privilege! – to brush and care for them.  Who needed a pet when all this responsibility and pleasure could come from one’s own set of thirty-two?

In retrospect, this may not be normal.

My husband, on the other hand, could care less.  I feel like a dictator, but I do not allow any partner of mine to slumber until a good solid brushing and (if we’re lucky) a quick swish of the mouthwash has taken place.  I mean, I’m not cruuuuuel, but seriously, how hard is it to brush them before you sleep?  How can you even fall asleep unless you are minty fresh?  I will never understand this.

Today, as planned, was our visit to the dentist to get x-rays and check-up approvals for PC.

Leading up to this appointment, I have been urging said spouse to brush more frequently, throw in a good flossing or two, and brush again for good measure.  I laughed devilishly to myself, nearly anxious for the doctor to commend my high dental hygiene and set me as an example for my spouse. “You see here, Matthew, if you just brushed your teeth as much as your wife, you wouldn’t have all these gross cavities and your smile could shine brilliantly, too!”  (Or something like that.  I’ll admit I fantasized several scenarios, but all along this similar vein.)

We had a quick check-in, got our x-rays, and waited to meet with the lovely man, each in our own respective rooms across from one another.

And then it happened.

That son of a bitch had not a single cavity.  He was the picture of high dental health. My partner has the teeth of an angel, that bastard.

I, on the other hand, may or may not have two fillings set up for next week.

I like to justify my decay.  My dentist mentioned I have “very deep pits” in my molars.  As such, he highly recommended filling them in before further decay ensues. Nothing I could have done to prevent that, right?

He was a great doctor, helped fill out all our PC forms, and had even heard of Azerbaijan, throwing in some facts and asking lots of funny questions.

Too bad, really. He could have helped fill a big hole in my heart since the passing of my first dental love.

Instead he’s just filling holes in my teeth.




This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
There is no better than it and now.
 – Walt Whitman

One Step

7 Jan

I have been purposely ignoring my blog these past few weeks.  Usually when I post, I spend a fair amount of time planning and rewording and getting my thoughts into a somewhat ordered chaos.  But last time I posted, I just blurted and wrote so many feelings.

Which, some people do all the time, and it is a beautiful thing. But I almost feel wrong, like I said all these personal things and I want to take them back, and I don’t want to face them. 

You are all so kind and supportive.  I never mean to sound desperate or attention-seeking or anything of that nature.  And while I could go on and try and to scoop up the pieces, I just want to say thanks.  Seriously – thank you.

Okay, enough of that.



RECENTLY! Matthew and I have been scrambling to make sense of packing lists and purchases and appointments.  We received our medical files – and have had nothing but giant migraines ever since.

While we have health insurance, so many of the tests are not covered (of course).  We contacted our regular clinic and they estimated our bill to ring up to nearly $2,000.  WOOF.  Just to draw a few drops of B+ and confirm we have neither Yellow Fever, anemia, the mumps, nor any other intolerables to pass amongst our fellow man.

We never joined the Peace Corps to roll around in the lap of financial luxury.  And we are always accepting of the funds we need to contribute and the hoops we need to jump through. But seriously?  Our insurance company even told us that they could cover up to 90% of the costs, but it all just depends on how the clinic codes our services.  And when we asked the hospital to make sure they could code it the right way, the told us “Well, it all depends on how the doctor is feeling that day. We won’t know until you get here.”


My dear partner is a saint.  I have dug up so many statistics and laws about universal health care and rambled about so many things that NEED to happen in this country.  But I’ll spare you. Though, really.  It’s ridiculous.

We were also told we could schedule our appointments through a VA Hospital.  I was so hesitant at first; I feel like I am abusing something that isn’t for me.  Though after lenghty discussions with family and friends (and the damn clinic in Rapids to no avail) it made sense.  And even after all of that – we haven’t found a VA hospital that is willing to work with PC volunteers in the state of Wisconsin.   We are waiting to hear back from one last place… let’s just all cross our fingers.  We have 30 days to get this junk figured out.

Aaaalso, we went to Appleton this past weekend and found some really nice luggage, and the Eddie Bauer was going out of business, so fancy, warm, and cheap sweaters for us!  It feels better just to have some of the packing settled and can begin to see what 50 lbs in a check in bag really looks like.

Tomorrow, we are set to go to the dentist (oooooooh!) to get new x-rays and all that jazz.  Such an electrifying January we are leading!


A short update, but an update none-the-less.

Until next time – here’s what one W. W. might add:


The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.
I am enamour’d of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.
– Walt Whitman




11 Dec

What seems the weirdest, I think, is that we have been official Peace Corps Invitees for nearly FOUR whole days and I have yet to ramble on and post all about it until today.

My sister got married this weekend (!) and we went to a Packer game (also !) and I was super sick the past day and a half (not !) so perhaps, combined, that is a collective excuse for not screaming our good news from a mountain top until now.

But I also think I am feeling this weird sort of calm.  We have been planning this forward adventure for so long, receiving our invitations felt mostly like, “Well duh!  Here it finally is!”  Which, is sort of naive, as we have always told ourselves nothing is set in stone and we aren’t guaranteed anything.

Which may also be why we are feeling such content.  I honestly don’t think it will feel totally real and underway until we are actually in our host country, beginning training, and finally immersing ourselves into this big wide world.

Until that beautiful point in time, however, I am digesting as much as humanly possible about our country – Azerbaijan! – as possible.  The further we dove into this process and the more bits and pieces of information we received, we began to narrow down our options for placement.  As this was all just a big guesstimate, we never discovered nor discussed the possibility of Azerbaijan.  Which, truthfully, is really for the best.  Until it became official, it wouldn’t have mattered what we hypothetically accepted anyway.  And now that it is more or less the definite location, everything we read seems so real and is slowly sinking in.

I am still constantly shocked and find it hard to believe.  We leave in less than four months.  Mostly – and don’t take this the wrong way family, as I will miss you all – I keep thinking about my brother.  I obviously will miss all my family immensely, but my teeny tiny baby brother is one I’ve been having an especially weird and tough time these past few days coming to terms with.  Someone remind me how great Skype will be?

Other than that drag, we are so excited to be moving forward.  I think the world might be a bit overwhelmed with the bits of news they are shortly going to be hearing about Azerbaijan, but such is life.  Let’s do this!



Explanations: Day 19

19 Nov

I never previously felt as if I’ve needed a disclaimer for this blog, but maybe I do need some sort of introduction; I recently began intensely exploring this blogging world and have stumbled across some pretty fantastic stuff.

In comparison, then, I’ve turned to mine and thought – what the what?

I have been really trying to keep up with NaBloPoMo, and I feel a little bit saddened when I don’t make a post for that day.  But only a little bit.  This may be a sad sign of my obstinate nature.

So – and I think this was a prompt earlier this month which I ruefully neglected – here’s a brief explanation into the goings on in Something Much More Ordinary by one O. Nelson.

(Note: I did it in bullet points, since I thought I would change it up a bit.)

(Also, some people have noted I ramble in my paragraphs, so I tried hard to make it short and sweet – may have failed, but this one is for you.)

(Additionally, I am aware that this is not the most earth-shattering post, but see point three.)

Four Something Much More Ordinary Monday Fun Facts

  • I work on this blog with the desire to share our experiences in first applying to the Peace Corps and, eventually, as a way to record and express our life overseas for two years as Peace Corps volunteers.
    • Side point: as we are draaaaaagging along, and I just really, really enjoy writing, this blog sometimes veers from the “main objective.” So if somehow you came here with the direct purpose to hear pc news, sorry to let you down.  Skip this for awhile!
  • I go through an absurdly long process figuring out what to post.  I just think, does anyone really care?  Who really wants to know what I’m rambling about anyway?  I always feel like I should put a little message in front of each post like, ” Real sorry if you found this boring!  Don’t feel pressured to read it!  Sorry if it is rotten!”  That probably says something about my inner-confidence or my lack of conviction in self-expresion, but such is my life.  I blame it on my Catholic-guilt raised father who passed always-feeling-bad-about-something along to me.
  • I hereby decree I will never start a post, “Sorry we haven’t posted in awhile” or “I have just been too busy to keep up” because… I don’t know.  I just don’t think it is necessary to make that sort of apology.  In my high school math classroom, on the wall was a poster that said, “No excuses, just results.”  And, as cliche a mantra it can be, it’s true and I like it.  It does me little good to rant about all the reasons I didn’t.
  • The title of my blog, Something Much More Ordinary is part of a lengthy quote from a great novel, and used in this instance means…frankly, I just liked the way it sounded.  I’ve thought of several equally awful little tags to go under it, like “Making the extraordinary moments ordinary” and other atrocious references, but it is sort of the way I wanted it to go. Here was my train of thought:

When I am traveling or on vacation or just spending the day somewhere new, I am wholly astounded and obsessed with trying to absorb each and every detail. I have never understood people who say, “Well, we had such a great time on vacation, but are really looking forward to just being home.” Say whaaa?  I never want to be home.  That’s not a jab at my home life or job or anything, but if I could spend every single moment exploring, I would do so in a heartbeat.  I don’t want those moments of amazement to be rare and uncommon… I want them to be a part of my every day life. (You know, I want them to be something much more ordinary.  Zing!)

So, there you have it.  Thanks for reading, amigos.  I have absolutely loved all the new activity and followers and comments – I cannot tell you how irrationally pleased it makes me.

And, as is tradition with any PC-related post, enjoy the following:

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself f the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
– Walt Whitman
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