Tuesday, August 2, 2011

There's Traveling and Then There's Traveling


There's Traveling and Then There's Traveling

I'm writing this (at least the beginning of this) on my mom's birthday, so happy birthday, Mom! Well, life is pretty even-keel here. Camp is over, which means there's not a lot for me to do at school. I think the teachers were surprised that I was still going in every day, even to just work on club and lesson plans, but now the director's niece is visiting and we've been doing daily English lessons. English clubs still haven't caught on, but I imagine it will be easier once school starts and kids are less focused on ice cream and vacations and sun.

Also, I've moved. My host 'mom' wasn't doing anything to help me integrate, no language help or anything, so my counterpart and director decided I should move out. I was supposed to stay with a host family for four months, but apparently my village is too small to find me another family. Instead, I've moved to a boarding house type of place, where retirees and young professionals live. It's interesting, and I like it so far. I have a rather large room, with a bed, table, small chest of drawers, sink, and wardrobe. It's quite comfortable, and it's nice to have some privacy. There's a cook here, so I don't have to cook for myself. Lunch consists of soup and a second course, while dinner is usually the same but no soup. Also, a few of the babushkas here enjoy talking to me, which is good for my language skills, I think.



Well, I'm still playing basketball, which is quite interesting. Last Wednesday, they said to me, "Carrie, game on Friday." And I was like, "Okay, sure, I can do that." But it was not so much a game as an entire sports tournament. I showed up at 11 to get on the bus, and the men's and women's volleyball teams were there as well. I also got a jersey, so I am officially part of the team (it's a Detroit jersey! Which tickles one of the fellow vols, because he is from Detroit). The trip was about three hours (and mind you, no one tells me these things, so I'm finding out all this as we go along. I get on the bus, and then three hours into the trip, we show up at our destination, and I go, "Okay. We just took a three-hour bus ride for this. Interesting."). On Friday, there were volleyball and basketball games.

I was a little nervous about playing, because I haven't played regulated basketball since 6th grade, when I barely got to play at all because I was a girl on a boys' team, and now I actually don't know the rules that well. I definitely committed some fouls, and once I stole the ball back when I was too close to the line, and I stepped over and we lost the ball again. And one of my teammates just said, "Line – bad." But she said 'bad' in Kazakh instead of Russian for some reason. I understood though, which was the point.

We played on an outside court, which was quite interesting. The grass in the steppe is not like PA grass. It's prickly, not fun to sit on on the sidelines at all. And the ground is dusty. My legs were dirty up to the knee; my feet were dirty through my sneakers and socks. We were told not to dribble too much, because the ground was so uneven. Passing was the key! My job was basically grabbing rebounds, but it honestly took me a little while to figure out what I was doing. Man to man defense? Zone defense? What's going on? But I caught on and then I started to loosen up a bit to score five points in the first game. We won the game on Friday 30-something . . . It was hard to keep track of the score and the time, because they were keeping time on a cell phone and on the first day they had no score markers.

After the game, we stopped in to a cafeteria for dinner and then were off again for our three-hour trip back home. But a three-hour bus ride here is not like a three-hour bus ride back home. First of all, there are smoking breaks. Even though everyone on the bus is a sportsman, the guys can't go three hours without a cigarette break. We also made magazine stops for drinks and snacks, toilet stops, and trash stops, when the trash collected from the magazine stops is thrown out into the trees.

After getting back at 10 PM, I ate and showered before grabbing some sleep, because bus call the next morning was at 6:30 AM! This time, we had runners and the soccer team along with us because it was an all-day affair. Games all day! The basketball team had two games, the first of which we won. The second game was the final, and we played a really scrappy team that kept drawing fouls and playing in-your-face. That was the game I got a couple of fouls, because the other team was really pushy and was making me angry. They knocked off my glasses twice! Unfortunately, we lost that game 14-12. So close!

My mom can testify to how moody I can get after losing games. Back in high school, after losing softball games, I would change into my pajamas, grab some comfort food, lock myself in my parents' room (because they had a tv), and watch period pieces. So yeah, I was upset after losing such a close game, to such a team, but no one else seemed to mind that we were only in second place, and I got over it pretty quickly. It's easier to get over a loss when you have things to distract you, and I certainly did. We went to the cafeteria for lunch then over to watch the soccer game. After the game, there was a little parade. Some team members from each village walked out across the field, and then the head of the agrofirm in our village paraded some of his horses. Then they gave away some TVs. I think they were for the winners, but it was hard to follow that bit. I think that's right though, because I was later told that our village got first place over all, and we got the biggest TV!

All in all, it was an interesting experience, good to get some experience, and now I'm spending the day recuperating. I'm so sore! I also got a little bit of sun on my shoulders, so now my farmer's tan doesn't look so strange. Or maybe it looks weirder because I have sun on my lower arms, and sun on my shoulders, but no sun on my upper arms . . .

What I'm Reading: The Hollow Hills, by Mary Stewart, the second book in her Merlin trilogy. (I know, still! But I got distracted.) Just finished I Capture the Castle, which I still adore, and I've been reading some Sara Teasdale poetry as well. And I just started rereading Persuasion, because I just get so distracted. I thought not having bookstores or libraries would help me finish books in a timely manner, but this little kindle thing holds so many!

What I'm Listening To: Song of the Blog Post: Shakira's "Waka Waka." I cannot listen to this song without smiling. It's definitely a pump-you-up song.  

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