ab Chasing Kate

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wrapping it up. (11-8)

2 years. Approximately 8.3% of my life so far. I’ve used 9 bottles of Kaopectate and only 5 bottles of shampoo. I’ve bathed approximately 240 days out of the last 830 days. That’s about twice a week- sometimes less. The longest I’ve gone without bathing is 17 days. I’ve been on 6 I.V.s – before Peace Corps I was on zero. I’ve had giardia, a bacteria infection, a viral infection and worms at the same time. I’ve almost been medi-vac’ed three times. During winter 2006, I finished season 5 of “24” in 18 hours—that’s without sleeping. I wrote and won 2 grants. I’ve lived with 3 families. I had 20 girls at my summer camp. I taught approximately 250 students in 7 different grades. The longest I consecutively slept was 22 hours. The number of times I’ve cried in the last week totals 13. I leave in 3 days.

I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Absolute euphoria and absolute despair. Sometimes at the same time. I wish I had the number on how many marriage proposals I’ve had, how many people I’ve met or how many lives I’ve touched but those numbers are inherently incalculable.

The last Tuesday morning in my village was spent finding someone who could sew. My first go-to-girl was Tot Luba (Aunt Luba), since most Russians can do pretty much anything. I knocked on the door and asked her daughter if her mother knew how to sew, but she disappointingly said no. I enlisted the help of 3 children playing in the street if they could direct me to someone who knew how to sew. No avail. I finally went to one of the small stores in my village and asked a trusted woman to whom I could go. Oh. Right. The purpose of my pilgrimage was to turn a pair of pants into a pair of shorts. She told me to go to Skolnaya Ulitsia “School Street” to find Natasha, the village seamstress. I must have knocked on several fences and doors before I found someone who could direct me to her. I finally found her, introduced myself, brought her my pants and had her tailor them. By the time I was finished she was promising to write me letters in America and to make sure I visited her when I come back.

I thought of this story and how much sense it made to me at the time, then briefly recalled the life I knew back in America and how ridiculous it would seem to randomly knock on people’s doors to see if they could perform a certain skill. And how eager people were to help direct me towards someone who could.

Subsequently, I’ve thought of the absurdity it is that I’m in this village. Imagine you’re a local. Some person, some American, comes to your village, your home, with the promise to “transform” your school and your lives. No wonder we get hassled, strange looks and unwanted attention. Think of how weird it would be for this volunteer, this person, this no one, to come to your home and unrealistically expect them to change it for the better. We, as volunteers, try to impress upon people the ideas we have of positive sustainable change, however challenging that may be. Whether or not that’s our goal is arguable. Whether or not that ideal is attainable is arguable. Whether or not we try to, is personal.

Leaving was close to impossible. It's equally uplifting and heartbreaking to recall my last two years in the country but I know I will return to see my families, friends and students and to see how they've grown, changed and progressed. Some day soon, I hope.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ages and Ages.

It’s been ages since I posted so I’m assuming most of my readers (even the diligent ones) have stopped checking to see if I posted. I have several excuses for not writing, none of them being good ones, so I’ll skip over them and start from about where I left off.

This Life

I went back to my Russian family this past weekend, since recently I had been feeling doubtful, anxious and irresolute in general. They have a very Russian way of grounding me and setting me straight.

I woke up after an 11-hour slumber and my sister was cleaning the kitchen floor and she told me to go stroll in the garden until she finished. As I made my way through the gardens, I picked myself breakfast off the trees starting with at the apple orchard moving on to the plum trees and ending with the raspberry bushes.

I spent the day doing farm chores, hauling grass for the cows, feeding the chickens, and clearing the gardens but none of it felt like work, it’s always somehow therapeutic. It took me a long time to explain how my family in America usually goes to the country to pick their own fruit, peach picking, apple picking and cherry picking, as a leisurely activity. That is part of their livelihood so they don’t understand why we wouldn’t want someone else to do the work for us.

I came back just in time to see their new born calf, Zabava, I expected her to be shier but she was so friendly and curious to see what I was up to. After I finished hauling the last bushel of hay to the troughs I untied her and sat down to watch her (she’s tied up during the day so she doesn’t eat the vegetables or flowers in the gardens) to give her a chance to roam around. As I was sitting in the gardens watching her with my apron on with dirty hands waiting to be called for my banya, I couldn’t help but think that this life, this story, could have just as easily been mine.


All summer long, volunteers were in the “placement frenzy”, where the K-15s would go, which K-13s would be replaced. Typically old and new volunteers shouldn’t overlap each other at site but since the Pre-Service Training was changed from Mid-Sept to early July due to logistical reasons, it forces the PCVs to overlap each other for 3 months. And for most communities of 2,000 people, two Americans (in my opinion) is one too many.

Most K-13s I know were lobbying pretty hard for a new volunteer at their site but it seemed that Peace Corps was intent on creating new (not tried and tested) sites. I was told that I wouldn’t be getting replaced on the same day that they told me I got a replacement. I was ecstatic, I love my community, it’s a great site, I maintain that it’s the best in Krygzstan and any volunteer should be lucky to get a site like mine.

No preceding volunteer wants to be outshined so I was secretly hoping for a good, but not great volunteer. I got a male, Kyrgyz speaker. A double whammy. All men are adored here and all Krygyz speakers are adored here. I figured they’d forget who I was before I even stepped on the plane. He came on a site visit and I gave my best cheerleadery advice to psych him up for a fun-filled 2 years. He was undoubtedly smart, friendly and seemed enthusiastic about being here.

On the day after swear-in, the day he was supposed to leave for site, instead of getting in a cab, he got on a plane for home. I was so offended. Was it something I said or didn’t say? Was it something I did or didn’t do? What went so wrong in 2 weeks? None of my questions were answered so it left my villagers and I to speculate about why he would leave.

Before I could be too disappointed about not getting another volunteer at my site, PC told me that another girl would be taking over instead. Phew. So much for being outshined though, she has taken 4 years of Russian in college. It was her major. This means that for the whole first year while I was working on a multiple-clause sentence, she’s already fluent. Great. I’m not that bitter though because it will make her experience exponentially easier since communication is pretty critical.

COS (Close of Service) Conference

The day the new volunteers arrived to site, the old ones were already starting the check-out process. The COS conference is the last training where we learn about how to reenter and reintegrate into life in America. I lived there for 22 years before I came here, should be like riding a bike, right? Apparently not. They gave us resume-writing advice, how and where to look for jobs that we’re qualified for (ha. we’re not), about medical and insurance policies and how to live in a way that’s socially acceptable to other Americans.

Out of the original group of 66 volunteers, only 30 of us were left. Almost 50%. The last time we were all together as a group was January 2006. Still unsure, still uncomfortable, still unknowledgeable about what our ultimate goals were here as Peace Corps volunteers. But this time, over a year and a half later, it was a celebration of each other, of our accomplishments, of our growth. We were finally at the point where we could congratulate each other as we recollected on the past two years, the struggles, the triumphs, and even the smallest successes. To come together again as a completely different group and hear about and reflect on all the good work that was done was probably one of the most positive experiences of my life.

Gymnasium Day

The school used the national holiday Gymnasium Day, as a way to welcome the new volunteer and a way to say goodbye to me. All of my previous students and teachers gathered into one small room to reflect on the importance of education and to demonstrate the efforts of their hard work. They performed skits, danced, sang and read speeches. They talked about what I had meant to them as a volunteer and the things I had achieved during my time here. The school presented me with their national souvenirs, a felt hat, vest, purse and a wooden and leather chess set. I must have been in several hundred pictures I’m pretty sure I have the same giddy smile in all of them. I gave a speech in Russian thanking everyone who helped me along the way and for being so patient with an American who came here knowing none of the language and very little about the culture. With a microphone in hand, addressing a few hundred people, I noticed this speech was different from other ones namely because I had a steady hand and a steady voice. I don’t think I can remember one word of what I said but hopefully I conveyed how much my students and faculty have meant to me, and how much I appreciate them opening me into their lives and hearts.

Afterwards, several teachers went to a café to celebrate and as I was sitting at the table, listening to all the stories, it occurred to me that I was finally one of them; something I have been working on for 2 years to achieve. We told stories, toasted each other and laughed and I promised them I would tell anyone willing to listen all about Kyrgyzstan and my experiences here.

Unemployment and Homelessness

Now that the new volunteer is in the village, I decided to give her space so she can establish herself in the community with as little interference from me as possible. I’m more than happy to answer any questions or give advice but in my experience every volunteer’s service is completely unique, even if it’s in the same village. For now I’m going guesting to all of the families that I’ve been close with, working on packing up and giving away 90% of my belongings and getting sorted with everything else. Nothing is more surreal than seeing 2 years of things be divided, sorted, packed and tossed. The purge has been something I’ve been looking forward to. I figure if I’m going to be homeless for the next couple months, it’s better to own as little as possible.

People ask me all the time to stay here and if I’m ready to leave. My answer is yes and no. It’ll be hard to leave a life behind that I’ve gotten so used to. It’s difficult knowing that it’s a possibility I may never return or see the people I’ve gotten so close to. I tell them that here I have a home and a job but in America I have neither. But I also tell them I am ready for something new. I’m ready to get reacquainted with my friends and the life that I left. People ask me about my next step, my future plans and I’m finally content to tell them that I have no clue and am in no rush to decide.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Rest of my Life

This week I’m back in my village placed on an all too familiar travel ban since the Shanghai Conference is taking place in Bishkek. No comment.

I’ve been going crazy since we should be finding out our COS (close of service) date soon, essentially counting down until we can officially start counting down. With all my projects pretty much finished (seminars, clubs, 2 grant projects, in-kind donations and a few camps) I feel like my job here is done especially since my replacement K-15 will arrive in 5 weeks. Volunteers tend to call this portion of our service “check-out time” and we’re all feeling pretty checked out. I knew the last three months in country would be difficult tying up loose ends but just sitting here in my village dreaming about the day I leave is driving me crazy.

All this free time to think is probably the hardest time because I’m anticipating a part of my life that don’t have any idea about. My short-term plan is to travel to SE Asia for a few months…and if it sounds like I’m just trying to further delay the ‘real world’, then you’re absolutely right. My goal is to get out of here as quickly as possible and to get home as late as possible (with at least 1/3 of my readjustment allowance in tact, Dad). It’s my long-term plans that I’m equally excited and terrified about. Desks make me want to hyperventilate.

Grad school? Perhaps, once I figure out what I want to study. Business school? Nothing would make my father happier. Culinary school? Why not, I’ve only been dreaming about it since I was 10. Sales? I’m good at it but do I love it? Real estate agent? Sounds like a good plan. Writer? I love to write! World-traveler? Absolutely, now how do I make that an occupation…

If you have any ideas or opinions about what job I would love and be good at, please feel free to guide me. Never mind that my undergrad degree in psychology (without a masters) is worthless and that the last 2 years of my life living in poverty in a small country in Central Asia has prepared me to… uhh? Right. I’m smart. I work hard. I’m creative and I need a job.

Hire me. Please.

I am a Builder.

After winding down for a week and getting sorted I was ready to get on the move again. This time about 9 other volunteers headed to the south shore of the lake to do a build for Habitat for Humanity again this year. This year was completely different since we were broken down into two smaller groups since the projects were on smaller scales. Last year was all about bricks. Making bricks, cleaning bricks, hauling bricks, stacking bricks, laying bricks and breaking bricks. Physically the labor was harder last year and we accomplished more since 15 people worked on one house but we were equally productive this year and we were with a great family.

The first day we worked on building the inner walls of the house. We nailed small planks of wood to larger planks diagonally then we wrapped wire around the nails to create a chicken coup type of structure. None of us understood what this was for until they came in with buckets of mud and told us to let loose. Three of us stared at each other, sure that we didn’t understand the directions clearly until one of the project managers grabbed a fistful of mud and hurled it at the wall. The wood and wire, it seems, were a basis for the mud to adhere to. In order to get into the smaller holes, you had to fling the mud with considerable force. Just picture in your minds a 7 year olds dream. We tore off our gloves and went at it laughing because we were throwing it so hard it was going through the holes and hitting the wall behind it 12 feet away. None of us could believe that this was our job. They would periodically smooth it out so it resembled a wall rather than globs of mud and it turned out pretty well for such an unconventional system of wall building.

This year we did a lot of work with hammers, nails and wire. The hardest day was when we built a foundation for an addition to the house. The family didn’t think they’d be able to afford it but with the extra help they were certain they could finish it by winter. The last day, our rest day was coincidently my birthday. We went to the beach in the morning to relax then we took of for Karakol and took long, much-needed showers. My friends threw me a party complete with bacon cheeseburgers and box cake complete with Nutella frosting (really big deals for PCVs) and of course a lot of beer. It was a great week capped off with a great night and great friends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In the summertime...

...when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky...

I know I haven’t blogged in ages, I haven’t seemed to find a second for myself. All previous fears of being bored this summer have dissipated. I guess I’ll start from the top.

Mom’s visit: May 25th -June 15th

I give the girl quite a bit of credit. Traveling through Central Asia with a herniated disc would be enough to send anyone packing, but she stuck it out and did fairly well. Most parents arrive and leave within a week so 3 weeks was ample time to get acquainted with my home. We traveled everywhere and I have to say the highlight of my trip was to Arslenbob, one of the largest walnut forests in the world. It’s a small Uzbek village with friendly, welcoming people, gorgeous scenery and an awesome 5-hour hike to a waterfall in the mountains.

Translating was difficult and tedious (my brain only works in English or in Russian, not both) but it was also rewarding introducing her to all of the people that have made my time meaningful here. My Russian host family was overwhelmed since they’ve basically been preparing for her visit for 20 months. They made all of my favorite meals so we helped on the farm with daily chores and ate for pretty much 2 days straight.

I think she enjoyed putting faces to names the most since she’s heard so much about everyone that I spend my time with. I don’t think she’ll worry about me anymore now that she knows how I live and survive here. I’m so lucky and so glad that she came since this has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life and I’ll always be able to share some of my experiences with her.

My Camp: June 25th-29th

I was worried about the camp in my village because I basically had a week to pull it all together after my mom left. My zavooch (vice principal) and I did a mad dash to get things done but we were (barely) ready by Monday. Three other volunteers, Megan and Machalla were camp counselors with me and Ken helped out where needed (our gopher). Twenty girls showed up and everyday had a different theme: Arts and Crafts, Health, Gender/Leadership, Diversity and Ecology. We invited speakers from different NGOs and Peace Corps employees to talk about their experiences and fields of expertise. We played sports everyday but the highlight was definitely kickball once the girls got the hang of it. On the hottest day the girls filled up their bottles in the irrigation ditches and had a giant water fight, which turned out to be pretty refreshing even though I was completely drenched.

The only big problem was that I came down with a viral infection (go figure) and missed the entire day on Thursday since I was in medical from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I got up once for 15 minutes to walk around which took all of my energy. I knew I couldn’t miss the last and most important day, Ecology Day, where we took a field trip to a nearby National Park called Ala-Archa. So I packed an extra pair of clothes and hoped for the best. The week went by so fast and the biggest reward was at the end when the girls reflected on their experiences and told us how happy they were that they came.

The preparation took a lot of hard work but in the end it all paid off. I’ve helped with other people’s camps but I had more of an invested interest because I’ve known some of these girls from the beginning of my time here. This was by far the most valuable and rewarding thing I’ve done here.

Talas Camp: July 2nd- July 6th

Immediately after my camp was finished I went to another oblast, Talas to help out as a camp counselor there as well. The camp was on a much bigger scale since there were 60 boys and girls at an overnight camp, which took place at a former Young Pioneer’s campground. The boys and girls were split into two different cabins and about 25 girls were packed in two big rooms with beds so close they were practically touching. Each volunteer in Talas invited around 5 of their best students and then they were split up into 6 different teams.

In the morning there were different sessions pertaining to that day’s theme and in the afternoon we did arts and crafts and played sports and in the evenings the kids had some free time and every night we got the whole camp involved in a different activity, we played capture the flag, held a disco and had a bon fire. The campsite also had a river so I jumped in and “bathed” at least once a day. The days were long and exhausting but so fun. It made all of the volunteers want to attend a camp our own. The only upsets were that I lost in the watermelon eating contest (I was robbed) and my team lost in the semi-finals in the kickball tournament.

The last night the volunteers held a celebration of our own and made good use of all the left over kool-aid.

After the Talas camp I think I slept for 2 days straight. I had been running nonstop since my Mom got here on May 25th and the Talas camp finished on the 6th of July. There has been a mass exodus of volunteers this summer, they all moved on to different places and different jobs. We lost 4 more and will C.O.S. (close of service) with less than 50%. We’re getting t-shirts made. It’s been really bad for morale and only makes all of the volunteers left in country dream about our lives beyond Kyrgyzstan. 4 more months seems like nothing compared to what we’ve gone through but I have a feeling the last 2 months will seem like the longest yet.

The K-15s arrived in country on June 10th and I haven’t seen or met any of them and unfortunately I wasn’t able to give the Diarrhea Talk this year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it to their PST or not but hopefully I’ll get a replacement volunteer because I love my students, my school and my site and I think they deserve to get another volunteer.

Yesterday I lost another really important person in my life here, my old host sister Jildes. She left to work at the American Air Base in Afghanistan as either a cashier or a waitress. For her it will be good money at around 300 dollars a month, money that she wouldn’t be able to make here, plus she’ll get more experience speaking English. It was much harder to say goodbye than I thought it would be. It only hit me when I was hugging her that I may never see her again. I hope to come back here, I hope that she is able to come to America but you never know what’s going to happen.

This summer has gone by ten times faster than last summer, mostly due to the fact that I have a new host sister that’s willing to take every passing second that I devote to her. Luckily we found the village pool that I never went to last summer. It’s more like a village lake with concrete walls. The water comes from mountain water runoff so I’d like to think it’s fresh but I think I’m fooling myself. Megan asked what was so wrong with it, if the bottom is really dirty or something. I laughed and told her that you can’t even see the bottom. It’s pretty jankey but I love it and it’s just what I need to survive a sweltering summer. Hard to believe that it’s already half way over.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I think my father...

is trying to tell me something about my travel plans when I'm finished.

Begin Lecture........ This is not a reason to spend all of your PeaceCorp wages (actually, it occurred to me to tell you that the IRS would take 30% of your income, because of some dubious foreign work rule, so that you would save some of your earnings). You know you will have a place to stay and food, when you get home (good Daddy - peroigies), but you are on your own for the rest, including clothes, entertainment and a car. I know this may sound a little harsh, but it is fair and we will get off on the right foot if we all know the ground rules way in advance of your return. However, we won't serve sheep fat and if you remember, all of the toilets are located in the house and there is plenty of hot running water.......End Lecture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Well I finally did what I said I was going to do since March 2006- I moved. I finally learned exactly how much I could tolerate and put up with and living with a never-before-disciplined three year-old is where I draw the line. Last Wednesday I loaded up every last little belonging on my tileshka (wheelbarrow) and it’s added up to quite a bit (thanks to all the packages I’ve gotten!). All day I moved back and forth answering all my neighbors questions, “where are you going? Are you leaving? Will we still see each other? What happened? Did they offend you? Did you have a fight?” I politely declined to answer any questions that may put my family in a negative light. They have already been shamed enough in my village from having their American move out- undoubtedly because of something they did.

So I moved down the street to another family. I live in a “townhouse” in the way that you all understand it, 2 stories, bedrooms on the top floor, kitchen and living room downstairs. All in all I say: upgrade. I have running water (from morning until 5 p.m.), and an indoor toilet, both conveniences I’ve gotten used to living without but make daily life just that much more comfortable. The family is great, they’ve already proven that they’re much more willing to give than take (a complete 180 from my other host family). The mom heard from the daughter that I love to bake so they went out and bought a brand new, functioning oven since their old one was broken. It felt like Christmas. So there’s a mom, a dad, an aunt, a 17-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. The mom and dad are building a new house so they’re never here and the aunt is in charge of overseeing everything while they’re gone. I’m already in love with the 10-year-old girl, Elena. She’s so adorable and makes me laugh all the time. My mom commented that she’s surprised she does not annoy me, hanging around me all the time, but the truth is that this is the family that I wanted from the very beginning. I love kids around the 9-15 age because they already have their own personality and sense of humor.

It was a huge decision emotionally, whether or not to stay or go but I know I made the right choice. When you’ve counted how long I’ve been here, 6 months left seems like nothing, but to me it was worth my peace and quiet to get acquainted to a new family in a new place and although I’ve only been here a week, it already feels like home.


Well a couple weeks ago we FINALLY bought the computers from my Peace Corps Partnership Grant. I wrote the grant in September and it didn’t even get posted until January (it’s supposed to take ten days) so my ability to be patient has grown exponentially. Perfect timing though, my school hasn’t had electricity for a month. They’re not set up but when they are I’ll be sure to take pictures. Since it was my first project I definitely learned what and what not to do so I’m hoping that my next projects will go more smoothly.

I also got another grant funded by US Aid to renovate my school’s library. We will clean, paint and repair the library and put in 7 new bookcases, 10 new chairs and 4 new tables. I also have a generous donation coming in from Paul VI Catholic High School of $200 to pay for the shipping for 5 boxes of books supplied by Books for International Goodwill.

I’ve reached the point where I finally feel productive. Two years is a long time but now I understand why it’s such a long commitment; volunteers don’t have the know-how and ability to get things accomplished until the second year.

My summer plans are shaping up pretty well too, my mom will be here tomorrow for 3 weeks, I’ll be involved in a few summer camps, hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do Habitat for Humanity again and I think a few volunteers and I will be going on a 7-day horse trek from Naryn oblast to Osh oblast. Time is already flying by and I have a feeling November will be here before I even realize it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Bitter Pill

Due to political instability that I’m not allowed to talk about I haven’t been allowed out of my village for over 3 weeks. This may not seem like a big deal, and I’m sure volunteers from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan would be aghast to hear me complain about not seeing another American for that amount of time, especially since those countries are more than twice as big as Kyrygzstan with half as many volunteers. But for me, this is the longest consecutive amount of time that I’ve been in my village without leaving and I’ve been going stir crazy. If I had read one more book or watched one more movie, I probably would have gone certifiably insane. I don’t even think it’s the fact that I was there so much as I didn’t even have the option to leave, the lack of choice.

So the travel ban has been lifted, I know I don’t blog that much anymore but that’s the reason I haven’t had any contact with anyone for that amount of time. I’ve been particularly frustrated because I have 4 simultaneous projects going on right now and I need the Internet for 3 of them so I felt like a lot of things just came to a halt. At least now I can get caught up.

I managed to finish seasons 4 and 5 of the show 24 within that time and I have to comment on how shameless the writers and producers have become. Saving a little girl’s life by having Jack Bauer give her his gas mask? Ridiculous. Look, we already know he’s a hero, let’s not get crazy here. We watch this show to see him break terrorists’ necks with his thighs while hanging from water pipes, not see him tuck children into bed and tell them bedtime stories. The producers don’t market the show to children, so why are they acting like that’s who their audience is?

And what’s with the new trend to spell out words in songs? It should have ended with Gwen’s song that drove me b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Save the spelling bees for those nerds whose mother’s life long goal is for their children to appear on ESPN for the national spelling bee championships. You don’t impress anybody with your ability to spell words. That’s why you’re a singer in the first place; we already know you’re not smart.

Hah. See? It’s in no one’s best interest to keep me isolated for that amount of time. We have seen winter’s wrath and it may not be bitterly cold but now I’m just bitter. Someone please send me season 6 of 24 and an e-hug.

The Black Sheep

Growing up, my family always made it abundantly clear that I was the black sheep. It was always obvious to everyone, including me, that I wasn’t one of them. My brother told the lie that all big brothers tell, that I was adopted. Except my family decided to play along with it long enough for me to question whether or not I actually was.

I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other people but growing up it was hard not to since my brother was the son that every parent always dreamed of having. Even in pre-school, Mrs. Simmons called attention to my mother that I wasn’t enough like my big brother who always did what he was told, always sat quietly and always played nice with the other kids. She said that I was more interested in playing with the art supplies while I was supposed to be singing, or dancing when I was supposed to be building blocks. And I yelled at the girl who took away my Snow White book, all things my beloved big brother would never even dream of doing according to our pre-school teacher.

In middle school and high school I was of course the troublemaker, the one with the chip on her shoulder since I was forced to attend a school that I didn’t want to go to. For college, I had always wanted to go to William and Mary but of course that’s where my brother went because I always played a little harder than I worked.

Even now, my brother is on the fast-track to investment banking. He knows exactly what he wants to do with his life and which steps need to be taken to get there. Even after being here for two years, I still don’t have a clear idea about what I want to do with my life. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas, it’s that I have too many and each idea is more radically different than the next. Plus I’m still trying to figure out how to make “world-traveler” into a profession. Most people in my family (except for my mother) still don’t understand exactly what I’m doing in Krygyzstan, why I would join Peace Corps in the first place and how I’ve managed to stay here this long after everything I’ve been through.

So far, I’m happy with what I’ve done with my life and who I’ve become even though I had a hell of a time getting here and still have a lot of work that needs to be done before I get to where I ultimately want to be. Everyday I pass sheep on my way to school and every time I see them, I smile to myself and feel smart to know that being a black sheep isn’t always a bad thing.