How I Spend My Time, The Future, and Dangerous ATMs

One of the questions I got asked early on from people back home is how I spend my time here.  I realize the blog was left high and dry on that topic, although if you have been reading throughout the journey you can probably glean what I do from posts here and there.

What do you do with yourself in a foreign country, without TV, without video games, without sports, without a smartphone?  You can do a lot!

Many of my days start off with a run.  I have a trusty route that takes me through the heart of Vardenis, by Pasyilok (shout out to Wayne), by the stadium, and back into the core of town.  The runs keep my body healthy and keep my mind sane.

Running alone is not enough to keep the body in tip top shape, however.  I also alternate between two different workouts during the week.  One workout is pushups.  I loathe doing them, but I acknowledge they do a lot for me.  Abdominal strength, upper body strength, and just pure resolution.  It’s special to do something you abhor sometimes.  The other one is centered on the resistance band and chair.  I do curls and other things with the band, then move over to the chair for dips.  In the warm months I even mix it up further with pull ups in the park on my runs.

Next is breakfast, made from scratch daily.  During the week that means either oatmeal or cream of wheat, both with sugar sprinkled on.  I supplement that with some bread and peanut butter, plus juice, to have a hearty breakfast that will take me from 9 a.m. all the way until 3:30, when I can eat again after work.  I have continued my weekend tradition from the States of special breakfasts.  Scrambled eggs turned into little sandwiches with cheese and hot sauce is what does the trick for me.

After work I have lunch.  Lunch is bread and cheese, almost always.  Sometimes on the weekends I will have some leftovers for lunch, but it’s bread and cheese 90% of the time.  I throw in some junk food here too, if I have it.

Then, two days a week I go to Armenian lessons.  Despite my late stage of service, the language lessons give me a structure and learning environment that I enjoy.  The lessons are far away, so I spend about 40 minutes walking to them and back home.

The rest of the time I come home and relax.  Usually this means turning on the laptop, putting on some music, and doing some mindless and some not-so-mindless internet surfing.  Sites I hit every day include Mr. Money Mustache, ArmeniaNow, Facebook, SoccerByIves, and recently, Reddit.  I also check my email periodically (probably way more than I should).  I think I spend too much time on the internet.

Since I have no TV, sometimes I watch TV shows on my computer.  All of these shows are pirated from other volunteers or on DVDs that I own.  The TV show viewing is very sporadic.  It happens in binge cycles.  I might go 2 months without watching anything, and then I’ll tear through a season in a matter of days.  I recently did this with Game of Thrones.

Lately I have been reading more.  Topics are usually non-fiction.  Some books have come from home in packages, others from the IRC (In Country Resource Center) at PC, and others from CouchSurfers.  My latest conquest was “Emergence” which paints a very interesting picture of seemingly simple systems that have some sort of adaptive quality that rises up and makes the system “smart” without a centralized leader giving commands.  Case in point, ants.  Or city sidewalks.  Currently, I’m reading “A Brief History of Nearly Everything” and rereading “The Caucasus.”

Sometimes, but not often, I travel or hang out with other volunteers.  For example, tomorrow I am going to Gavar.  I haven’t left Vardenis in 1 month and that is starting to scare me.

More often, I skype with friends and family.  I skype with multiple people each week.  It’s a great way to stay connected to the support network and feel like a part of people’s lives from afar.

Another activity that fills my time is writing.  I write for the blog, obviously, but I am also constantly writing emails, writing little notes to myself, or writing in my own personal journal.  Occasionally I even write longhand letters.  I’m a writing fool.

And then there is the studying.  I started my service really hitting the Armenian hard.  I would spend an hour or 2 each day on it.  That diminished over time and now I spend no time on study outside of my 2 weekly lessons.  Instead, I am now teaching myself Polish.  I began back in August but only started seriously dedicating myself to it in December.  It’s a slower process than learning Armenian, obviously.  But I know probably 1,000 words, can count, say the days of the week, colors, most of the basics.  And I can say stuff like, “That carrot is too demanding.”  Step by step…

I have more free time in Armenia (I am at the office from 10-3:30 most days).  However, as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the extra time goes into daily tasks that simply take longer here than they do in the states.  Making dinner always takes at least 30 minutes since I am cooking from scratch.  No more 5 minute frozen tortellini.  And there always seems to be a sink full of dishes waiting to be washed.  So that’s another 30 minutes almost daily.  Laundry happens a couple times a week but I honestly don’t spend more time on it than I did back home.  I wear my stuff until it smells or is discolored.  Hand washing takes about 30 minutes and then it dries/freezes on the line.

My last Sunday morning was spent battling a mess in my kitchen thanks to recent water damage

Now that I’m approaching the end (or at least dreaming about the end), I also spend progressively more time thinking about what’s next.  The only thing I know about my future is where I want to be.  I don’t know what I want to do, or more importantly, how it will work.  So with that, I announce my hopeful future plans, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise for those who know me:

I’m going to Poland.  Not forever, but just for a while.  And I want to come home first for a while.  But I would like to live and work in Poland for 9-10 months.  I spend a lot of my time thinking about that and how to make it happen.  The decks are stacked against me.  Between the red tape bureaucracy (a visa will be the biggest thing) and diving into another country all over again, my mind is often racing.

So, now you know how I spend my time.

Today I went to the ATM and had this odd sensation in my fingers.  I thought, “Oh great, I have some nerve problem.”  Last year I had some nerve tingling when I bent my hand at a similar angle to that my hand was at to use the ATM.  I tried the other hand.  Same problem.  Wow.  It really felt strange.  Then I pressed my hand against the wall to test it.  Nothing happened.  Then I touched the ATM button again.  Tingly.  The buttons were shocking me.  I was shocked, and a little embarrassed at how long it took me to realize!


3 Responses to “How I Spend My Time, The Future, and Dangerous ATMs”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    Now I always pronounced it Bysoloke, but “buh” and “puh” were always hard for be to disquinquish, not unlike the “kuhs”, “duhs”and the “tuhs”. Despite all that, I’m glad you mentioned the name because I never would have come up with it on my own. I had completely forgotten about the name of that section of town.

  2. icenugget Says:

    It very could well start with a B. Whenever I say that word the Armenians don’t quite understand me. But I definitely hear “Pasyiloke”. The Armenian name, Banavan, is much easier and straightforward to say and hear. Of course, if you say that, they don’t know what you’re talking about!

  3. One Foot in the Door, One Foot Out « IceNugget's Blog Says:

    […] instead of enjoying the ample free time PCVs have (kind of), spending all of my time at home researching teaching English abroad, searching for office jobs, […]

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