This week, the Peace Corps sent us on a "site visit" to see some real volunteers in action. I was sent with a few other volunteers to Taraz, which was about 10 hours away on train (apparently the trains are very slow and it is about 6 hours by bus). The trains were very similar to those in India, with beds stacked to the roof and tons of people with little space, but they were pretty cean (didn't brave the bathrooms though- thank you camel power). 4 of us "trainees" stayed with a PCV (volunteer) in a swank apartment, complete with a hot shower, indoor toilet, and internet! It's like they are trying to see how many times they can make us go through culture shock in a 3 month period! But it was nice; we got to watch a lesson at a pedagogical college (like our vocational schools), a village school, and an English club at a local NGO. We also went to the public banya (like a spa/sauna full of naked people) and to a night club to dance! I definitely understood the idea that some PCV's live like expats. They could surroun themselves only by English speakers if they wanted and were living a pretty easy life!
We are pretty much constantly followed by "best friends" that want to speak English with us. These friends will boldly approach us on trains, buses, in restaurants, on the street- everywhere! It bothers some people a lot- those who want to blend in and are uncomfortable with people always surrounding and bothering us. I, however, have found my zen with my new best friends. Finding my zen is my new coping mechanism; this involves turning off the "high-strung Jennie" button that has been deeply engraned into my character since childhood. Jennie's schedule, detailed plans, and complete control over life have all but disappeared when zen is reached. This is necessary to avoid a heart attach and medical evacuation. You all won't recognize this tea drinking, skirt wearing, zen master when I come back!
Things I did learn in Taraz: 1) There are innate pitfalls and hardships that will occur and 2) for me there are simply 2 ways to handle them: bitterness or what I call "Loving Life or Zen." We are rapidly realizing that there probaby will be unsupportive school directors, unsupportive staff members, English teachers that don't know English, limited resources, loneliness, culture shock, on and on and on. I am also rapidly learning that there are two types of people(obviously this is a simplified theory): those who keep smiling and find ways to be almost unbelievably happy and those that become jaded. I learned that I need to keep perspective and know that even in hard times, my situation is not the end of the world and won't last for eternity. For myself and for my success and effectiveness in my community, I need to remain happy at ALL costs. This is my ultimate goal. I will not let small setbacks make be bitter because that resentment truly harms your job and relationships that must be cultivated (and that I desperately WANT to cultivate)!
Help me stay positive, people! I think of you all at CC and at home to remember why I am here and what I want to accomplish. Everyday I am reminded of how all of you and my previous experiences are helping me adjust and be successful here. Peace Corps is definitely the best fit for me right now and I want to thank everyone who helped me get here! Miss you all!