State of the Union

I’m a bit tardy, but we’ll have to press forward. Behold, the state of all things relevant to this blog.

Language Learning
In her evaluation of me my tutor recently said, “Kevin, I feel like you started here (hand low), then it went like this (hand goes up quickly) and now it’s like this (hand leveling out and stagnating).” Yep, you nailed it!

Conferences
I am failing superbly in the conferences department. I was supposed to help with 2 different conferences this winter as a trainer. One I was cut from the roster, and the other has been rescheduled and will be held during my last vacation.

Peace Corps Staff

Stories from other volunteers continue to disappoint me in our staff. It seems that there is a lot of weak, going-through-the-motions support going on. I have been disappointed myself on multiple occasions.

Weather
It’s stern. Stern, but fair. The last 2 days of February offered a teasing preview of Spring. That is, still cold but just warm enough to melt the snow and turn everything into muddy puddles. When I walk near the puddles and see water flowing from one to another with little tendrils of dirt dispersing through the mini tributary, I always think how perfect it would be for some epic G.I. Joe action figure battles. Now things have tightened up again and our highs are usually in the 20s Fahrenheit.

Mental State
The state of my mind has been fine. Daily moods have their normal ranges, which are indeed amplified by service, but overall everything is normal. There was a period of intense focus and worry about the immediate future after Peace Corps. This dangerous situation was steered in a positive direction with the introduction of Morrowind and other light entertainment. There is such a thing as taking yourself too seriously.

Integration
There haven’t been any new unbelievable acquaintances made in the community. I’ve long stagnated in that regard. But there is a new sense of blending in a bit more, or just not caring that people are staring. That comes from either realizing that the situation here is finite or from beginning to not give an F.

Health
Exercise has been going pretty well, although I tend to slack off on the strength training. I’ve maintained my running regimen throughout the winter, which in a cold Armenian winter full of early mornings and slightly ravenous dogs, is a thing to be reckoned with. I’ve gotten sick a couple times recently, but that’s par for the course.

Homesickness
There hasn’t been much longing lately. That’s always good because it makes the daily life easier. Recently I’ve been stricken with a craving for vanilla long john doughnuts upon entering my all purpose room. From my deductions, this is either a random craving or is associated with the “man” smell that permeates from my sheets (you try hand washing sheets and see how often you want to do it) and is oddly similar to, coincidentally, vanilla long johns.

Shoes
Not important to an American (at least me) but of vital importance to Armenians. My Merrills have been through a lot now. They are showing the proud signs of wear that only a 2nd year PCV’s shoes can show. I’m hoping to nurse them through to the finish line, despite what the Armenians think. I was recently asked at work in the sweetest way possible why I don’t change my shoes. Because I’m Kevin, duh.

Drama
My life is generally devoid of drama, which is exactly the result for which I design my life. However, being in PC provides plenty of outside drama as our organization is full of queens. The most recent drama is an error in Washington that means we didn’t get paid when we should have. Judging from Facebook you would assume that a large part of the PCVs here starved because they got paid a couple days late. I find this shocking and somewhat humorous, as I believe we get paid too much and am embarrassed by my salary here.

Armenia’s Politics
I don’t really follow it or care that much, but there is a parliamentary election coming up. The scene has already come alive. We are now getting the customary “There’s a planned opposition demonstration in Yerevan, please avoid it..blahblahblah” SMSs. Hopefully nothing crazy happens. The other big item is the tensions between Iran and the west. Little Armenia is stuck in the middle. A war in Iran would probably be devastating for Armenia, although geopolitically fascinating. Case in point, Iran is wary of Azerbaijan now, which just bought $1.6 billion in weapons from Israel. Azerbaijan is muslim and 26 million Azeris live in Iran.

Our Politics
I don’t really follow it or care that much, but there is a presidential election coming up. I’m glad I’m not home right now. I don’t want to stir up too many emotions in the ol’ fan base back home, but the GOP candidates all seem like a joke. And Obama has disappointed me quite a few times too. Congress is scary. You wonder when we’ll see a politician be able to make quality decisions for our country based on what we really need as opposed to what is good politically. The thing that concerns me most is our inability to be fiscally responsible. As one of my PCV friends who is a lot smarter than me pointed out upon me mentioning that we’re still number 1, actually, no we’re not. Look at a lot of the quality of life indices. America is nowhere near the top. We might have the most powerful economy (for now), but health, education, corruption, press freedom, and many other indicators show the true reality.

Close of Service
Our COS conference is a mere 1.5 months away. That will be the last time that I see a bunch of these crazy people in my life. Thoughts swirl in my head. “I should enjoy the remainder.” “5 months…I can do this.” “I need to sell my boots.” “What am I going to take back home with me?” “What do I want to do here in my final weeks?” There’s still a lot of time to think about it, but the end is drawing nearer.

The Work
Work has picked up considerably the last couple weeks. We’ve started the strategy thing finally, we just did the poetry contest, and I am spending a lot of time creating business and computer curriculum for another cool project I’m lucky enough to be a part of. Add to that language lessons, teaching myself Polish, searching and applying for jobs, and daily tasks, and suddenly I’m feeling busy.

The Toe
This may be too much information for some of the readers out there. But, on the other hand, if this is the straw that breaks your back, then good riddance. How have you managed to stay with this blog for so long? Since November I’ve been harboring an alien in my toe in the form of a plantar wart. What began as a slight pain and a few flakes of skin has devolved into frustrated trips to the PC doctor and a hearty smattering of home-treatment. Mr. Toe is wrapped in duct tape at the moment, as he is nearly 7 days a week straight. The duct tape helps the pain, but so far has not gotten rid of the bugger.

ETs
(Early Terminations) There have been a few in my group since Christmas, which is not surprising. We’re really dropping like flies now. I think 9 or 10 people from my group have left now, which is 15% of our total. That complies nicely with average rates. It’s interesting how everyone’s situation is so different, yet you can estimate with a fair amount of accuracy that around 15 or 20% of those fresh faces getting off the plane will go home early. Now we are getting into the territory of leaving for jobs/school or leaving because there’s nothing left, so the numbers might spike.

I can’t think of any other random topics right now. I am happy to accept updates on your lives in the comments.

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2 Responses to “State of the Union”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    First of all re read your weather section for a hint on the football quiz. Too bad I didn’t see this before I replied to your email.

    Secondly, I always used to joke about the shoe gazing by saying when knock out girls walked by, they would never see me stare at their boobs because they would be spending their time staring at my shoes.

    I agree that PCV’s are paid too much. I always had a problem claiming to be a volunteer when at the end of the year I received a W2 and had to file taxes.

    Lastly, are many of those ET’s non voluntary?

  2. icenugget Says:

    I am always getting stared at for something, but usually it’s not the shoes. It requires a person who is around me enough to not be shocked by my height, my hair, the color of my eyes, or my clothes to get low enough down to see the shoe situation.

    There have been a couple medical ETs but I’m not sure how non-voluntary those are.

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