Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The ebbing! The flowing!

Yeah, I thought the title could use some excitement, like random exclamation points.

A couple of times this week, I felt like I wasn't sad or homesick but I could read the signs detailing how to get there. I toed the edge, deciding whether or not I should let myself tumble over into 'that feeling'. There's really no point in going there, that wilderness outpost known as 'homesick', but it almost feels like a lie that I am not sad. When I want to, I can really put my denial blinders on and plow through, but it's just starting to seem wrong. I have met some amazing people here, people I hope to become friends with (but I am being a complete weirdo, I fear), but why should I be happy when everything that really know and love is further away in space and time than I can even imagine?

I am the furthest I have EVER been away from home, for the longest stretch of time BY FAR. The longest I had been away from home before this was when I lived with my sister for a summer. 3 months was a long time, but it seems much different than 9 months. And let me tell you something that I am 100% sure of - and there aren't many things that I am THAT sure of. Macon, Georgia is NOT St.Petersburg, Russia. The good news is that people don't fight every night and I don't share a tiny room with a 2 year old and a 12 year old. Unfortunately I am positive that I can't drive home from here in 15 hours, or at all, even if I had a car, which I don't.

Good news - I haven't had a panic attack here at all (knock knock knock on wood!), and I am not a complete fuck up at teaching so far either. I think I have been trying hard. I actually WANT them to learn and I want to learn, so at least we are on the same path.

Basically the title is about the fact that since the beginning of last weekend, I have been really happy, and pretty frustrated, irritable, and content. Normal daily mood swings, but slightly intensified with less of an outlet for them.

Not exciting, but neither am I lately. Sorry.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Um, relevant.

Fakin It - Simon and Garfunkel
When she goes, she's gone.
If she stays, she stays here.
The girl does what she wants to do.
She knows what she wants to do.
And I know I'm fakin' it,
I'm not really makin' it.

I'm such a dubious soul,
And a walk in the garden
Wears me down.
Tangled in the fallen vines,
Pickin' up the punch lines,
I've just been fakin' it,
Not really makin' it.

Is there any danger?
No, no, not really.
Just lean on me.
Takin' time to treat
Your friendly neighbors honestly.
I've just been fakin' it,
I'm not really makin' it.
This feeling of fakin' it--
I still haven't shaken it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Adapt, damn it!

While I was walking around the market today with some new friends (can I call them friends yet? I dunno - I am uncomfortable calling a relationship so one-sided 'friendship') I was marveling at how malleable, how adaptable people are. I mean, this 'thing' I am on isn't that crazy of a change as say, moving to Zimbabwe or something, but it illustrates my point anyway. At first glance, people are very stuck in their ways. They like their coffee with two sugars, skim milk, extra hot, with a shot of espresso. They just cannot sleep on anything less than 800ct sheets, and heaven forbid if their cellphone drops service.

In reality, people don't need all of this. Don't look at me like that. I understood this principle before coming to Russia, but it is so much easier to see what you can give up in life from this side of the world. In the US, people complain about the roads being pitted, or a bathroom without toilet paper, or the fact that their house isn't being regulated at 71.5 degrees, as they would like. When that same person is thrown into a situation where things are much different....they can just change. Of course, the choices are change and accept or be miserable and die. We can accept having so much less than we expect. Not only can you accept it, you can get used to it - it becomes your baseline, your norm. Already, I am getting used to not understanding anything I see or hear, I am starting to fill out my 'foreigner' mold and give up on trying to not act stupid in situations where I just can't help it. I will eat anything anyone gives me, because it's food, and I accept that I need it - regardless of what 'it' is. And, bathrooms stink by nature, rarely have toilet paper or soap. But you gotta pee.

This paints a perfectly clear picture of what is important in life. Some things are given up with just a wince and acceptance, some others feel like someone is cutting my pinky off with a dull, rusty blade. I didn't grip my pillow and cry at night because I couldn't have a single deluxe cheeseburger from Culvers (but, oh my does that sound good...) or because my sheets were scratchy or because there are no street signs anywhere in the city. Leaving my friends and family (and other people who don't neatly fall into either category, but deserve their own) racked me with grief. It's the people, the relationships, the memories that matter.

It's because I have been reassured to the nth degree that these will all still be there when I return that I can push past that hole in my heart and face those other adaptations. Love can travel over any distance and powerfully change people, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Read me first

ok. Well..... this morning's little rant seems pretty dramatic right about now. Today is going well - a fellow teacher took me to the clinic to get my HIV test and had me come home by myself, which was fine... I figured out how to pay for the bus when you don't actually pay the driver. And then.... wait for it.... the SUN came out! I don't think I've seen the sun in almost two weeks.

Don't let the next post down worry you too much. Right now, I am FINE. And tonight, I am totally taking a sleeping pill to try and make it through the night. No naps for this girl today. I think I should make a new rule about blogging. No new posts between 1am and 8am. That is undoubtedly the worst part of the day for me. The sky didn't start to get light today until 8:30! Crazy. And it's only gonna get worse. On December 21st, the sun doesn't rise until 10am and it sets at 3:50pm. But then begins the upward swing....

Ok, I have to go to Petergof with Fiona now to teach. I've planned a lesson where I mime this story that they write. Should be LOADS of fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Backlog of posts

From November 9th -

Have you heard? (there’s a rumor in St Petersburg!) They have another American - ME! I am writing to you at 3am - I have already had like 5 hours of sleep and woken up a number of times thinking I was late to get up. Somehow I thought I was going to escape jet lag - ha!

My apartment is…. Not what I thought it would be like. It’s European large - 4 bedrooms and Russian nice. Everything is pretty old and dirty, but because it exists in our apartment and performs its functions, its almost a luxury. The people who have been living here haven’t been paying for internet, they’ve been stealing it from some unreliable unsecured source… I will probably convince them that we should just pay the $5 a month and actually have internet consistently. They seemed like they were working in that direction anyway.

I got to the apartment around 4:30pm local time and just wanted to crash. Forced myself to put away my clothes and met most of the flat mates. Cassie and Aaron I met last night, Zahra was on her way back from the UK and got in too late, so I haven’t met her yet - and she’s our boss! I met four other teachers last night too, but two of them I don’t really remember their names because we just randomly passed them on the street. The other two were in my apartment when I arrived. Elizabeth from Maine and Stephanie from Scotland. How about that folks?! When I meet people I CAN remember names, when it means the difference between being all alone in the largest country in the world or actually knowing someone who can help me negotiate the grocery store (which we did - I got pasta, 2 liter of soda, water, bread, and cookies for about 200 R - $7.50) and get a cell phone (which I believe they will take me to do today after work).

From Yesterday -

It’s 5am and I am up, again. Jet lag really sucks guys. I thought I had it licked on my first night. I didn’t go to bed early, just woke up at 3am, milled around for a bit and went back to bed. I wasn’t all that tired on my first full day, went to bed around 1am, woke up around 730 and I was so freaking exhausted. Yesterday I slept from 11:30am til 1, went to the main school for an appointment, came back around 3, slept from 4-5:30, went back to the main school from 7-8:30 to observe a class, came home again and ate dinner. I was WAY more tired than I have ever been in my life, as far as I can ever remember. Went to bed around midnight last night, and I am up at 5. What the hell?! Today Ashley is taking me to the clinic to get my HIV test - my SECOND HIV test- and I have to teach tonight in Petergof. I hope and pray that today’s classes will go better than the first ones. That was literally torturous, for both the teacher than the taught.

I better try to go back to sleep, or at least rest. Damn internet won’t let me connect from anywhere right now, so this will have to be posted later in the morning. Love you.

From Right now -

Will every morning be like this? I can’t sleep and can’t sleep so all I can do is think and think and cry and cry. Why on earth did I do this? Why would I voluntarily send myself half way around the world for 9 months? It’s worse than prison right now. I don’t have a phone, we barely have the internet. I certainly can’t have visitors and I can‘t go anywhere out of fear. I am not guaranteed food - I can barely acquire it myself. I feel like I am going crazy. When people say ‘homesick’, I usually think - oh, suck it up, what’s so great about home? So not true now. I could literally throw up I am so upset right now. Teaching is scary and hard - by the end of today I will have almost doubled my total teaching hours. Funny thing is, I guess if I get fired I get to come home. Oh, this worries me so. I am not supposed to feel like this so soon. I keep thinking - seriously? NINE MONTHS?! That’s just so long. But then I try to rationalize, it isn’t THAT long, relatively. It is, but it isn’t. When I am trying to sleep, its an ass long time. But when I try and think about nine months ago, where I was then…. Oh shit. That still seems like a long time ago. February. I was working at after school, it was cold as hell outside. That’s when I decided to do this. It felt like my life was going nowhere, and it was completely dull and boring and I needed excitement. That’s exactly what my life would be like if I were home right now I guess. The only reason my life was exciting up until I left was because I was working towards THIS.

I know I can come home if I really NEED to. But, I would be letting so many people down. And what would I DO when I got home? I really tried to prepare myself for being gone for 9 months, and everyone I know accepted it too. If I didn’t have a good reason for feeling the way that I do now, you should be worried about me. Please don’t let this freak you out, but, if I get so depressed that I think about doing rash things, I will come home first.

I just want to hear someone’s voice. The last person I talked to was my dad, when I was on the plane in Chicago. On SATURDAY. So I haven’t heard anyone’s voice in 3 days. Anyone who actually cares whether or not I am ok. It doesn’t seem like long, does it? But, think about it. When you are just walking around in your everyday routine, you talk to your friends, your sig. other, your parents, coworkers. Most of the people we choose to talk to care about us in some way.

Our only major break is two full weeks at Christmas and new years. I really thought that Christmas would be too soon to come home, plus, I don’t think I will be able to afford the plane ticket, but going the full nine months seems like it could be nine years.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I don't like this.

This is much harder than I expected. I have probably walked 3 miles pulling 100lbs of luggage and carrying another 30 or so. Alarm clock didn't go off this morning, woke up half an hour late. Forgot to print out confirmation sheet - HELLA hassle. Haven't eaten since 6:30 this morning. Very very tired.

Started crying (and again now) when on the phone with the US Cellular customer service lady after she said that my phone would be canceled as soon as I got off the phone with her. I was thinking 'no! I am not done yet! I need to talk to my people.' But alas, I don't really. I don't have time. But, she is canceling it tomorrow anyway, not today.

I am 24 years old, sitting in an international airport terminal and I can't stop crying. Sad sad sad. I will let you all know when I get there. Love you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cross that one of the list

So - 'the trip' has seemed far off and dreamlike because of all of the things that were to come before it. Like - Seattle. Like - the election. Like - my birthday. Fun days, things to look forward to, to put before that long flight to my new home. Tomorrow, I put a big fat check mark next to the last milestone.

*deep breath*

I sent out an email update to 33 people yesterday and started getting some real email back. I will wholly admit that 90% of the reason I sent out the email was to get some sort of communication from 'back home'. This is happening after 10 days of being gone. The only way that I will be able to get through this in one piece will be to convince myself that I don't need anyone and that I never did. THIS IS ONE GIANT LIE THAT I WILL TELL MYSELF TO KEEP MY SANITY. I promise I love you, but I have to pretend that you don't exist to keep moving forward.

Unless I can find a balance. That would be nice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I guess all I have to say tonight is, please, please vote. I do care who you vote for, but I care more that you actually vote, regardless of whom you vote for.

The question mark in the title of this post is there because almost everyone I know has already voted, so if you read this.... I am preaching to the choir. But, I guess it's the citizen's duty.


Sunday, November 2, 2008


The structure of my life at the present time is almost exactly like that of an middle school student on summer vacation. I live with a couple older than me, I have no way to get around, I basically have no responsibilities, no place to be.... It's almost an exact duplication of my life 10 years ago. I play with the dog (some might call it torture, but we would need to check the definition of that), watch TV, waste time online (this is new, but wasting time sure isn't), and eat way too much. This situation was depressing for a while, not being a contributing member of society, instead being a semi recluse. But that feeling is wearing off. Now I just want to lay around with nothing expected of me. Kind of. I guess I know this will end quite abruptly on Saturday, when I have to be up and out of the house before 7am, to spend 18 hours in transit. Then, a REAL job.

I am supposed to be writing up a summary of my two 'break-out sessions' from the leadership conference last month for the evangelism committee at church. But, I don't want to. As corny as this sounds, I know that when that's done and submitted, they won't have any use for me anymore. I will have done my job, and I will be free to go. Nobody will have a reason to talk to me.

I am kind of kidding, but I wasn't a couple of hours ago when I was actually working on the paper and started this post. It's possible though. I'm not really sure why they want to talk to me anyway... WAIT. Why do you want to talk to me/read this post? Oh geez. I gotta stop.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple

This is supposed to be an encouraging song. I won't try to interpret what she is trying to say exactly, cause I am sure I will get it all messed up. So.. on the surface it tells me that I am stronger than I think, and that I don't need anyone's help. And I totally am the baby of the family, this first stanza seems to fit my life pretty well, everybody watching over me and telling me that I am doing things the wrong way, somehow. This song is how I would LIKE to feel.

I am the baby of the family, it happens, so
Everybody cares and wears the sheeps' clothes while they chaperone
Curious, you looking down your nose at me, while you appease
Courteous, to try and help, but let me set your mind at ease

If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can't help it, the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me, or treat me mean
I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine

Do I so worry you, you need to hurry to my side?
It's very kind
But it's to no avail; I don't want the bail
I promise you, everything will be just fine

Because I might be masochistic

So, I know I have written about this before, but, I really enjoy accentuating or enticing a mood with music. Basically, I can make myself feel really crappy, really quickly. Or, to put it another way, music can force me to confront how I truly feel quite easily. I just subject myself to it to get out of the denial loop.

This is my playlist for this 'trip', which anchors me in emotion and reminds me exactly what I am doing.

Adventures in Solitude - The New Pornographers
All Will Be Well - The Gabe Dixon Band
Brand New Colony - The Postal Service
Capturing Moods - Rilo Kiley
Chicago - Sufjan Stevens
The Circle Game - Joni Mitchell
Do You Realize? - The Flaming Lips
Everything Reminds Me of Her - Elliot Smith
Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple
Far From Home - The Gabe Dixon Band
Fearless - Gerald Collier
Forever My Friend - Ray LaMontagne
Here For Now - Ani DiFranco
High and Dry - Radiohead
Keep it Together - Guster
Melt Your Heart - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Not As We - Alanis Morissette
Sing - The Carpenters
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2
Urge For Going - Joni Mitchell
Wisconsin - Bon Iver
With Arms Outstretched - Rilo Kiley

Some of these songs are supposed to make me feel bad about leaving things behind, some of them are supposed to encourage me, some (like the U2 song) make me scared. I might post some of the lyrics from these songs and try to explain what they mean to me, but, not tonight! Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!