Update on Peace Corps

Ragnarok
I tend to update more on facebook, but I know some people only have this as a reference.

I've transferred to Albania. After 2 weeks of evacuation to Armenia, it was finally clear that no volunteers would return to Georgia, period. So then the bureaucratic mess to send us on our ways started. Peace Corps is a now or never kind of thing for me, so knowing that if I go back to the US I'll wither away at some crazy job I hate, I tossed myself into the transfer pool. And here I am in Albania.

I'll be in the same education program, but with less restrictions on my actual job description. Meaning that I'm assigned to a school, but here I will have the choice of whether to devote my time to the school, or let secondary projects potentially become primary projects.

I'm going through an abridged training in Tirana (the capital), learning the language, learning the ropes, etc. I will be permanently placed in Corovoda, which is in the mid south of the country. I'll be teaching English at a high school. My counterpart, I've heard, is psyched to start a debate club and Model UN; big pluses to my interests and experience. And in Albania, I will be living on my own in an apartment. So visits are totally welcome. I am literally all by myself not only in the city, but in the region (Skrapar). I'm surrounded by mountains, canyons, and rivers great for white-water rafting and canoeing. ;)

So check out my facebook, where I've posted my mailing address and a wish list of goodies. <3

Take care!

Aug. 12th, 2008

Ragnarok
I'm safe.

My village was close to Gori, and... the news continuously gets worse.

But my safety and the safety of the volunteers has been the top priority of Peace Corps. We were evacuated from our sites on Friday, and after the developments by Russia within Georgia (outside Ossetia), we have been relocated to Armenia where we will be waiting for things to calm down. If it calms down, we'll return to Georgia to finish our work. If not, we'll be evacuated to USA.

More to come. I'm safe. And because I'm safe, I have a lot of time to worry about my host country nationals, my host family and the people I've grown to love.

Aug. 3rd, 2008

Ragnarok
Written on August 03, 2008

Greetings from Georgia (the country, not the state). It's been a long while as I'm now 75% through my Peace Corps volunteer training. I've gotten to experience quite a lot in these 7ish weeks.

All this time, I've been in a little village called Gomi (which has a vodka distillery; if you ever find Gomi Vodka in stores, drink and think of me. =D). There are no labeled streets, addresses or even telephone land lines. The cows are walked through town twice a day at 7.

I live with a host family for the duration of training (10 weeks). They're very nice and take good care of me. They actually speak a little English which is a bonus. With them, I've experienced the various aspects of Georgian culture. The warm hospitality, the family relationship, and the amazing food.

I'm in the TEFL - Education Track Program for Peace Corps Georgia, which means for 2 years, I'll be an English teacher at a village school. Granted I have absolutely no experience, and never had any desire to be a teacher, it's been a challenge. So after 4 hours of morning Georgian language lessons (6 days a week), I attend technical training sessions about the Georgian education system, teaching workshops, etc. Teaching is always difficult, but when there are limited resources (Soviet textbooks, no electricity in classrooms) and drastic differences in the educational culture (due to disorganization, unemployment, etc., there is no real internal or external incentive for a village child to do 'well' in school), some days it makes the battle rather depressing.

But even if I can't change Georgia by myself, I was reminded the other day that I should try to be that teacher that loves their students. To be that one teacher that made a personal impact on you when no one else would care about you. I can't fix all their problems, but I can remind them that they deserve better and are capable of better.

I got a chance to visit my permanent site (where I'll be stationed solo for 2 years) the other week. I'll be in a village pretty close to Tbilisi (the capital). It's not unlike any other village, even with it's proximity to 'civilization'. I've met most of my counterparts, who I'll be personally working with at school. Their English is fantastic and they're brimming with enthusiasm to be working with me. Though even though I've met 4 English teachers, in the entire village, I've yet to meet another person that can speak English beyond 'hello'. So I have my work cut out for me.

My new family is wonderful. They speak little to no English, but it's wonderful to see their relationships with the community. Everyone loves them and speaks highly of their warmth and caring for their neighbors. Neighbors in this village might as well be considered family. The house is a step up from my training site (has an actual indoor toilet, as opposed to my current outhouse latrine), and even has an inground pool. Its proximity to the capital and to a giant clothing bazaar is fantastic. With all these wonderful things, the one glaring downside to it all, is that this is a malaria zone. I'll be heavily medicated (preventative measures, as there is no vaccine) for the remainder of malaria season for my two years there.

So now I'll be working to finish my language training and my teacher training before swearing in as a full Volunteer on August 22nd. I've gotten to hold a model school for 3 weeks in my training village and got some hands-on experience with children. Many ups, many downs. But I know (and my trainers apparently couldn't stop singing their praises of me to the training director) that when I can bring positive dynamics and somehow mold it into an applicable educational lesson, I can really be an effective and -good- teacher.

That's me. Internet is ridiculously sparse, so I've 'weaned' myself off it. It's best to call/text me at: +99591151124. My writing address is posted on my facebook. If you're sending something, text me so I know to expect it. As there are no addresses in the villages, I'll have to pick things up at the PC office in Tbilisi (which is luckily close!). Send love, letters, pictures, music, shows/movies, and Bath&Body Works Antibacterial Hand Moisturizer (dead serious).

Till next time. =)

Staging

Ragnarok
I think I'll make a separate Peace Corps blog and make it friends-only after this entry, because Peace Corps officials tend to be nazis about looking at blogs and force you to edit (or threaten to kick you out) if anything culturally insensitive is said. Granted, I'm not even in Georgia yet, but that bothered me a bit (I'm drunk as I write this). So most of my stuff will be physically written in a diary and not on LJ. I mean, it's unfair to assume that we'll only have positive things to say about our post, but that's all we're legally allowed to publicly blog about. I know it's for our safety, but to me, a big part of mental healthiness is about releasing these stresses to people that can sympathize (you my audience).

So tonight, last meal in America; ate a Philly cheesesteak and had cheap domestic beer. Hooray. After I land in Georgia tomorrow and not understand anything, I think only then it'll hit me.

Tty on Thurs/Friday~

Official Peace Corps Assignment

Ragnarok
Assignment: Education, Community Development
Country: Republic of Georgia
Orientation: June 12-14 (Orientation will end with departure to in-country training for 2 months)
Dates of Service: August 24, 2008 - August 25, 2010

One month left... To end life here, and to start a new one over there. Scared? Not yet, but I know the day will come soon, where I'll sit and cry my eyes out, because I'll realize that I'll really miss my loved ones.

Have to quit my jobs... I feel bad, because I actually do like what I was doing. Jess, if you get the job (*knocks on wood*), please do the position justice. =)

I've made only one purchase for my actual trip so far. A hardcover journal. It's simple, boring, brown, and with the word, "COURAGE" in the center. The caption inside says,

Ignore people who say it can't be done. No matter what the statistics say, there's always a way. Feed your hopes, not your fears. Fight for the greater good. Know in your heart that all things are possible. Treat all setbacks as temporary and always remember that you are never alone. Life is the grand adventure and any life worth living is worth recording.

I even treated myself to a really nice metal bookmark. I live by Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Success" (yes, I know that it's incorrectly attributed to him, but we all know it that way, so there. Google it though, it's a lovely inspirational piece). So I found one with an Emerson quote, Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.

I'll miss you all. I doubt that I'll have internet. Still playing with the idea of actually taking my laptop or not.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to go save the world.

Reflections

Ragnarok
It's hard to say whether or not I'm glad at where life has currently dropped me off. There's a myriad of good and bad things, but all in all, I always try to remember that even worrying about the bad stuff, is a luxury. Why? Because "bad stuff" can mean, "Argh, I suck at keeping in touch," or, "Argh, why can't I lose that annoying bit of back fat," or, "Argh, what the hell was I thinking." Those are all luxuries. Because I'm not saying, "Argh, I have no food." "Argh, I'm homeless." "Argh, I'm sick and have no means to take care of myself."

Currently working at the Better Business Bureau. I'm pretty much a professional hater. I hound and bitch at business owners who deceive consumers, run frauds/scams, etc. It's a non-profit, so we don't have any legal weighing. But since we work closely with the NY Attorney General's office, we're called on to submit evidence and offer testimony. By then, we're working with really shady companies, that based on addresses and patterns, are international rings, mob rings, and other kinds of illegal rings (please don't ever buy electronics from online stores with contact info in Brooklyn, NY kthnx). It's part-time, but I'm satisfied. I feel fulfilled and challenged. I feel like I'm doing my part to help with the bigger picture.

Relationship with Raymond is going along swimmingly. <3

Peace Corps... oh, Peace Corps. I'm not the brightest bulb around, so I can't be competitive when applying for my dream jobs or dream grad school programs. If only ambition and enthusiasm counted for something. Paying for grad school will be fun too. After quite a few arguments with Citibank (who handles my undergrad student loans) about missing funds and missed payments, the realization hit hard that I can't afford my higher education AND my independence (as in, moving out of home). Frankly, I couldn't afford either of them separately anyway.
Since schools tend to throw money at Peace Corps volunteers, I figured I'd get the hands-on experience in non-profit too. Win-win right? I would just have to actually get through the program. After running around finding and paying for doctors to complete health evaluations, I'm pretty much set to go. Now if only I knew where and when the heck I am going. Last month, I was told Middle East/North Africa. This month I'm being told Eastern Europe/Central Asia. Though supposedly I'm being shipped out mid-June. Bye bye guys~ o.o

The long run? I finish my service, come back, and get myself into grad school asap. I move out and start life. Hopefully, with Raymond there. 2 years should be enough time for each of us to get the experience and resources we need to pull it off.

I honestly had no idea where my life would at this point. I had planned up until college, and here starts that fuzzy period that's supposed to end with me in some awesome career. Way to go fuzzy period.

Thank you life. It could be worse, and maybe I'm a bit confused about the path right now. But at least, I'm enjoying it. =)

(Bad) News in my own backyard =(

Ragnarok
I'm a bit shaken up about the news development.

Those of you in the US, I dunno if it made national, but this week in NYC (where I live), a psychologist was stabbed to death with a meat cleaver and two other knives. (Story & video = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/nyregion/13doc.html?bl&ex=1203051600&en=bf8812ecc5524a95&ei=5087%0A) Stuff like that happens in a big city. But it seems that the killer, lived the building next door to me. ._.;

This afternoon, I left to buy groceries, and when I got back, there were news vans and police cars surrounding the block. The next door building is owned by the same management company, so we share gardens, parking garages, laundry room with the people there. Right now it's clear that this person has a long history of mental instability. He's been arrested and removed, so right now the police are probably tearing the apartment apart for clues.

This makes me really uneasy. There are a number of mentally unsound people in my own building. Heck, there's one on my floor, right next to the elevators and stairwells. She lives alone, and it's easy to tell when she's off her meds. She'll leave the door open, start screaming and crying, walk around the building in pajamas, and once came to my door and asked for help opening a jar. Jesus, I know it's horribly unfair and insensitive, but I'm going to be scared shitless if I'm in the elevator alone with her.

Life, you silly thing...

Ragnarok
So...

Stuff happened. Family stuff, personal stuff, relationship stuff, leaving the country on a whim stuff.

Sorry to everyone that kinda got washed away in the excitement of things. Happy Holidays, Happy Birthdays, Get Well Soon, Good Luck, I Miss You Too.

Unfortunately, you'll have to get used to it, because my time here is limited. Due to more life stuff, it's viable that I'll get shipped to the Middle East in late spring (as a civilian, so get the idea that I've joined the military out of your heads) for about two years. And after that, I would leave again to who knows where.

In the meantime, I'll have to find work to keep up with the student loan payments. Though it's been interesting to just flap along with the breeze.

ttyl.

Work Peeves

Ragnarok
-People that call the reception line, not hiding their disappointment that it's me on the other line and not the main receptionist
-Crazy incompetent people, aka brokers
-Brokers that complain to me about crap that I can't fix
-The blatant lack of recycling paper
-Refrigerator space hoggers
-Large complicated mailings done ONLY to outdo rival firms, not because it's better for the customers or more efficient. (Mailings = Printing, folding, stuffing, and labeling of junk mail to send out to hundreds of recipients around the city)
-The phone
-Evil machines that constantly rip apart my copies
-The offering plan filling cabinets crammed with thousands of packets hundreds of sheets each
-Dirty coffee filters that are never cleaned (which is why I've invested in my own teapot for fresh tea)
-Disabled USB ports *sob sob*
-People that leave their print jobs on the printer for hours

I've been offered the permanent position, which will be at the same pay rate, but with insurance, etc. I haven't told anyone at work yet, but I will definitely reject it. I'll simply work out the 3 month temp assignment.

The people are nice and it pays well for entry level. But it's not my field, and I know that I don't want to do real estate. It's been busy, so no one has been able to go over database entry. With my assistant account, I don't even have access. So I'm the monkey that prints, stuffs envelopes, and photocopies. Oh, and I answer the phone twice a week at the front desk.

This week has been a 1,500 piece mailing for a workshop on repairing townhouse facades. The address range from people in Venezuela to Yoko Ono. To think that it disrupted an earlier mailing that was a binder, with 15 numbered pages (that I had to copy and sort), with a business card in a slot, a map clipped to the folder, and a personalized pen in the bottom ring. 450 times. Very specific instructions and the broker literally walking in and checking random binders.

I refuse to do this for a living. I am better than this. Rawr.

Anyways, Raymond is coming Nov. 4th. Yay! And I'll be getting my New Year's kiss too. *gloat gloat gloat*

PS: Cindy and Annie suck for not even getting back to me when I've invited them almost 2 months in advance for apple picking. So forget it. =(

Trials and Interrogation

Ragnarok
First the funny part.

This happened Thursday at work.

In the mornings from 9-12, I sit at my desk in the basement, and literally do nothing. I go and bug people to see if they have filing or anything, and nothing. So I stare at the wall in front of me.

After lunch, I go to the reception desk and train on the phones (it's a big office). The outside is nice, all front windows facing the back of the Natural History Museum and the little park. Anyway, a white van parks in a spot, and the driver gets out and leaves. A passenger remains. Repeat. Driver comes back and leaves again. Passenger is still there.

Police officer comes by, and starts to write up a ticket. The passenger naturally argues with the police officer about it. And to be fair, normally if the car is simply 'standing', then it's okay to be a spot and not feed the meter, provided that it can be moved ASAP. But since there was no driver and the van was there for quite a bit of time, the ticket was merited.

So the passenger gets out and resumes arguing with the police officer. Eventually, the passenger is told to stand aside, and the officer calls for backup. Two more cops come. Then a car. Five cops. Another car, 7 cops. A paddy wagon. 9 cops in total. All talking amongst each other. The passenger standing where he was ordered.

All this for a parking violation?

The receptionist with me is Dominican, aka, chismosa, aka a gossip. And we're sitting deliberating what the hell merits 9 cops, three vehicles, and the entire block SURROUNDED on all four corners. Eventually, one of the brokers goes outside and asks what's happening. He comes in and says that the original officer claims that the passenger touched him/made aggressive contact with him. I was there the entire time, even before that one cop came. I said this, the broker goes out, talks to the group of cops, and points to me.

._.;;;;

The receptionist (Addy) is going nuts and I want to hide under the desk. The police come inside, and by now the entire office is peeking at the lobby as they ask me what happened. So I explained that yes, they were arguing, no, there wasn't any physical contact. Okay. They left, the passenger got another ticket for being non-complaint, ticketed the van as intended, and left.

Yikes.

----

Second, the frustrating part.

I want Raymond to come over and spend the holidays with me again. We had such a great time last year. We traveled, saw friends, and stuffed ourselves silly at the family banquets.

So I asked my parents about two weeks ago, and they've flat out avoided answering me.

I'm 21 and I would like to have him stay in my room, instead of on the couch with an 11pm curfew. And this time, I'd like it to be from November - New Year's.

I'm bothered that they won't look me in the eye or give me a straight answer. Is it so hard to imagine that your 21 yr old daughter is an adult, and wants to have adult time with her adult boyfriend? o.o I don't see what is so unfeasible about this. Furthermore, they wouldn't even give an answer as to whether he can stay over or not. Raymond has been nothing but a gentleman. Has great manners with them, he sincerely cares for Mariana (I blame this on her being a flirt), and has been nothing short of respectful and a pleasure to be with. Yet I can't help but feel that they're taking it out on him.

Anyway, as of right now, he can come over and crash on the couch (nothing has changed). Oh well, it's better than not even being able to talk to him as things currently are (my job + time zones = no baymond).