Saturday, September 15, 2012

Off to Ukraine tomorrow!

I just remembered that I started this blog 5 years ago for Turkmenistan, and then never wrote in it.  Maybe I'll do better this time around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


OK, İ'm a horrible blogger. Sorry to the 3 people who might actually read my blog. In the past few weeks I moved into my own apartment, the school year ended, and İ took a trip to Turkey with my friend Kate. Today is my last day in beautiful İstanbul, and İ'm really sad to be flying back to T-stan tomorrow. The past few days we stayed in a tree-house hostel in Kabak Valley on the Mediteranean coast (near the town of Fethiye, for those of you who have maps). İt was amazing; İ can't really explain how nice it was to be able to relax outside amongst gorgeous scenery without children screaming my name and people watching my every move. So peaceful.

Friday, March 28, 2008

3 months

After spending 3 months at my site without seeing another American, I came to Ashgabat a couple days ago and have been enjoying little luxuries like running water 24/7 and furniture. The schools all have this week off, so a lot of the TEFL volunteers are in town, and it's been great talking to everyone about their sites and students, both complaining about kids who won't participate in lessons and discussing ways to make the schools better. It's also nice just to hang out with friends and be normal.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I'm sorry I haven't updated my blog in so long, but this is the first time I've been online since Christmas. Likewise, four days ago was the first time our apartment had running water in 7 weeks (it's brown, but you don't have to chase down a water truck to get it). Turkmenistan is just getting over its coldest winter in 40 years, so it was unprepared for all the frozen pipes. It hadn't snowed in Hazar in about 3 years, but this year we had snow on the ground for a solid 3 weeks. Adding to the fun of winter is the school were I work, which is not heated, leading to the ironic situation that while this is the warmest winter I've experienced (compared to MN and MA), it's the coldest I've personally been. Does that make sense? I think I'm getting worse at English.

But hopefully my students are getting better at English. I'm teaching 2 classes each of 5th, 6th, and 8th grade, and one 7th grade class (school in T-stan only goes up to grade 10). I was really bored in January (classes were only 20 minutes because it was too cold in the school), so in February I started 5 English clubs--3 for students and 2 for adults. So far clubs have been stressing my out because each one usually has around 25 students each week, and new students keep coming. It's just too many, so I think starting next week I won't let new people join. Also problematic is that half the population doesn't speak Turkmen, so for my Adult Beginning English club I'm faced with a room full of people who only speak Russian. Last week my friend Jamilya, who speaks really good English, translated for me. My student clubs usually only have a couple kids who don't know Turkmen, which isn't a problem because the other kids are good about translating the instructions I give in broken Turkmen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

visiting Balkan

Last week I left Ahal Welyat (think province or state) for the first time to visit my permanent site in Balkan. I will be living in Hazar (Soviet name: Cheleken), which is a small city on the Caspian Sea. I’m really happy with my site assignment because there is a huge beach, so whenever I get stressed I can go watch the waves. It’s not Hawaii or anything, but for Turkmenistan it’s nice and there are even full-sized trees in the city, which I’m sure is no easy feat considering the desert goes all the way to the shore. To get there I took a flight from Ashgabat to Balkanabat, and then came an awesome 90 minute gypsy cab ride through the desert. There are no towns along the way, just lots of power lines, and the desert invades the road such that you need snow plows to push back the sand dunes (I suppose in T-stan you’d call them sand plows).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Underground Lake

A few Saturdays ago all 37 of my fellow PC T-stan trainees gathered at Kow Ata, an underground lake west of Ashgabat. There are only four other trainees living in my village, so it’s always really exciting to be with a big group of people, all of whom I have the language skills to converse with. Also, I have friends in other villages that are always good to see. We spent the morning just hanging around outside the mountain, being really loud and wearing jeans (It’s not really acceptable for men or women to be wearing jeans in the village; they get relegated to being your special Ashgabat wardrobe). We also had a cross-cultural session on generalizations and the differences between Turkmen and Americans, and then binged on all the non-meat filled food at lunch—hooray vegetables!

Kow Ata is basically a big sulfurous pool in the bottom of a mountain. To get there you simply walk down a long, steep staircase into a dark cavern. About two-thirds of the way down is a changing area with a few plastic shower curtains (I think I went behind one with purple dolphins; a festive touch). Below that is another flight of stairs that lead directly into the lake, which is as warm as bathwater and smells like the boiling mud at Yellowstone. Other than a single light near the base of the stairs, the lake itself isn’t lit, so after about 2 minutes in the water I got out to get my headlamp. Bringing a headlamp was my friend Shannon’s idea, and it was a good one. Along with a group of trainees I went exploring to find out how big the lake was (at most it was a 50m swim to the far wall). It was really cool to be able to swim around in a dark cave with just one little flashlight, and at one point I turned it off and it was completely black. The PC safety officer got concerned and swam over to tell us to come back towards the light because there might be dangerous things in the water (sharks?). After that I ditched the headlamp and dove off a big rock a few times. But eventually I started to feel and smell like a hard-boiled egg, and it was time to get out.


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