camp, part 1
There are many stories to tell since the last time I logged in. Most of these stories are personally embarrassing. We’ll see if they make it onto the blog or just sit on a disk somewhere. I’ll start backwards.
I’m at a camp up in the mountains near Kazakhstan’s eastern border with Russia. Ace of base is blaring (my deja vooooo, you’re my obsession, like dejavu, everything is up to you, my deja vuuuoouuoouuoouu) and the second group of campers just went in for dinner.
The food here is okay, but I generally skip two to three items per meal (5 meals/day at 3-hour intervals). Today, I skipped the wretched orange soda/poison and also, after deciding that I would never successfully eat meat from it, the “chicken” that seemed to have a good many more than the average number of vertebrae. The breakfast fluid is okay with me, although I haven’t figured out if it’s supposed to be coffee or hot chocolate. It’s a soothing bluish color.
The campers have been alternating between blowing me kisses and trying to me bad words. The favorite, a repeat vocab word, is the Russian for “panties.” The counselors are trying to get a handle on this (teaching the American bad words), but it’s very grass roots and endlessly amusing. And my Russian is much worse than I thought. I have been continually kicking myself for not being more aggressive about it, but of course, I also need a lot of help with Kazakh. The situation I’m in now is even harder than last summer: I have to use (bless her) Almira to translate everything into and from Kazakh so that I can understand. Everyone, everyone speaks only Russian here, except for two boys who speak some Kazakh (mostly calling their friends names to me) and Almira. There are a couple people who speak some English.
Peace Corps magic – the instantaneous increase in volunteers’ perceived attractiveness/ coolness (to locals) – is at work in my life once again. I can grin like a fool and shake my head “yes” or “no” all day long and attract swarms of children who tell me everything I do is cool, that I’m beautiful, that it’s SO COOL I can swim. I seem to be especially popular with the baddest of the bad, the boys who drink vodka and the girls who reject them. A couple of these girls took me up on a piece of amazing Soviet playground equipment that is like a swing and a ship combined. They made it swing much higher than they’re supposed to. They all want my autograph.
But this is my second session at camp. The first was unscheduled, or rather, scheduled over what I really intended to do. I was going to go hiking here for two weeks, but I missed my train for the first week and was told, on my (expensive) way to make the second week, that it was cancelled. Agh. In five minutes, my regional manager had me hooked up with another camp in the same region. And I continue to depend on the mercy of strangers.