Thursday, March 30, 2006

follow the yellow-brick road

This is the beginning of the end; the beginning of the road home. There is a little more than two months left until I leave the wonderful world of Kazakhstan for America. This week all of the 15th group of Kazakhstan volunteers have been gathered together to reminisce and contemplate the miriad of problems that will face us as we spiral downward towards our close of service and re-enter a world that probably won't understand us, or what we've been through. We also get to have our blood taken, stool catalogued, and testicles probed. At the least, the conference has been a good excuse to party with the people who have been our friends and family for the last two years.

Part of my re-entry procedure includes going to graduate school in the Fall. The past half year has been replete with papers and emails and headaches to get it all squared away - and not just for me, but for my power-of-attorney-empowered dad (thanks dad). Last night I had an interview over the phone with two people in the Residence Life department of the University of Maryland for a graduate assistant position. I feel that it went well, but in any case I should hear back from them next week sometime.

So my readjustment to the US will be exascerbated by graduate work, a 20-hour-a-week job, tutoring, Russian language, and finding an apartment, let alone trying to relate to my family and friends that I haven't seen for a couple years, and having them realize that I've changed, but they aren't sure how. Although I'm glad to go home, the biggest thing that I worry about is that I won't be able to (quickly) readjust to the fast-paced, consumerist, set-the-bar-too-high society. In which case I may have to click my heels together whispering into the wind, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Hoping that it will take me to the place of best fit.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

of bacon and beef steaks

During our Close of Service Conference, we had a goodbye party at our director's, Kris Besch's, apartment, and as a sort of parting gift, she gave us a choice between cheddar tortilla chips or bacon. I chose the bacon. Now to truly appreciate the bacon, you have to realize that the closest thing that people in Kazakhstan have to bacon is something called sahla, which is basically big chunks of smoked pork fat. It was difficult to explain that Americans have a severe aversion to fat, and that the best bacon has as little fat as possible. It was even more difficult to explain what Americans do with the fat that they apparently cut off of the bacon. I really just don't know. They have a word bekon, which is the same as sahla, from most Kazakhstani's reckoning, but I've discovered that they don't really know what bacon is. In fact, any thing having to do with meat is general and muddled. There is no such thing as a good cut of beef - there is beef. There is no such thing as a pork chop - there is pork. There is no such thing as a chicken breast, or leg, or thigh - there are butchered chunks of chicken meat and shards of bone. British and American butchers - I assume from the apprentice system popular in Britain in the 16th-20th centuries - have perfected the cut of beef, best exemplified by the colorful language that we use, simply for names of different steaks: T-bone, New York Strip, Rib-eye. In Russian, they have a borrowed word beefshteks, to represent, as far as I can tell, anything from a hamburger to a cubesteak. There are no sirloins, no rib-eyes, no filet mignon. It's sad.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

a doppelganger's eyes of blue

I mentioned before that I looked like Tarkan - or that others think I look like Tarkan. Well it happened again, this time at my Peace Corps Close of Service conference, and from an American. She shouted at me from across the lawn like a crazed fan. I thought she had been reading my blog by chance, but she said she came up with it all on her own. The difference she says, is that he has green eyes, and I have blue.