The Aral Sea is located in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, in the far northwestern part of Uzbekistan. While once the fourth largest lake in the world, over the last several decades it has lost 90 percent of its water, mostly due to irresponsible Soviet agricultural practices. Scientists have long considered the Aral Sea to be one of the greatest environmental disasters in human history. I saw a National Geographic article featuring the impending destruction of the sea around twenty years ago, and a small seed of fascination was planted. It has been without a doubt my biggest bucket list item during my tour in Uzbekistan. We were fortunate to finally make our visit happen two weeks ago – one of the most sad and contemplative, yet amazing and mysterious trips I’ve ever taken.
As the month comes to a close, I can say that it has probably been the most bewildering and discouraging month I’ve had here yet. Between increasing work demands, family concerns, and illness, I am being tested, over and over again to the point where it almost seems comical, all while having less reserves than usual.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I talked about whether or not we were homesick, and what, if anything, we missed from the United States (the “who” being a given).
It started when I made a comment about missing something I wished I could have (which usually goes hand-in-hand with an inadvertent failure to be grateful for the present and whatever’s right in front of me). I don’t remember now whether it was avocados, or Ambar, our favorite Balkan restaurant that we frequented on Capitol Hill during our years in DC, or something else. But it was something I was surprised to learn my husband had really enjoyed at the time but didn’t much miss.
I have been having some technical problems with my blog during the last three weeks, so I’m a little bit behind on posts. A lot has been happening lately, so I will try to catch up with a few posts this week.
Thursday, May 21, the night I arrived in Uzbekistan, I heard that my UAB (otherwise known as unaccompanied air baggage, or “air freight”) had beat me here. This was totally shocking for me (in a good way), as my air freight had only been packed out less than two weeks before.
I’ve heard dozens of times from officers in all different parts of the world that it generally takes UAB at least three weeks to arrive in Customs in the host country, sometimes longer.
Today was my last official full day in LRU 100, better known as the 28-week Russian introductory + basic course.
In order to help me prepare for my final assessment, my instructor and last remaining classmate BB put me through a kind of “murderboard”. For nearly two hours they peppered me with questions on democracy, economics, human rights, current events, terrorism, education, mass media, public transportation, immigration, ecology, American values, hobbies and yes…even kangaroos. (Because I did my postgraduate degree in Australia, I suppose it was fair game!)
Last weekend I came down with a cold. My husband was out of town and it was snowing outside, so I got busy with one of my most popular tasks since last fall: sorting items in preparation for my upcoming move to Uzbekistan. While conducting another epic scan-and-shred fest, I came across the journal that I wrote during the Pre-Service Training (PST) which preceded my Peace Corps Volunteer service in the Republic of Macedonia.
If I had known what trouble you were bearing
What griefs were in the silence of your face
I would have been more gentle and caring
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
I’ve been reflecting for the past several weeks on everything that’s happened in my life during 2014. It’s been probably the most up and down year of my life in a decade, filled with changes. It’s been one of my busiest and most memorable, too.
The Russian word “счастье” (pronounced schast’ye) means happiness, bliss or luck. That is honestly the way I would summarize both my thoughts and feelings about studying the Russian language.
Today I learned the location where I’ll serve my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer…
Last Wednesday I said goodbye to my staff position at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC after nearly four years of work. It was bittersweet, but made easier by the knowledge that I only had about a year left on my appointment, and that I was leaving to accept my dream job in the Foreign Service. I was also comforted by the knowledge that I will be eligible to come back someday (after my time out equals my time in).
In this post, I’ll give some background on my aspirations and timeline for joining the U.S. Foreign Service.
For almost a decade, I have wanted to join the Foreign Service and become a U.S. diplomat, specifically doing consular work. At first this goal sounded pretty far-fetched, even to me. I used to think that only political appointees or other well-connected folks could become diplomats. (Not true.) People who have known me for many years, if given ten adjectives to describe me, would not be likely to include “diplomatic” on their list. And I would probably have been inclined to agree, up until about eleven or twelve years ago.
It’s been a very long time since I thought I had something blog-worthy to write about.
Eleven years ago this spring, I was about four months into my service as an environmental education and management Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Macedonia. I would frequently use my laptop to compose lengthy email missives to family and friends about my experiences in Macedonia, back during a time when email was the primary means of non-verbal communication. In those days, if you went online and tried to Google search images of Macedonia, you wouldn’t find much, as I discovered between accepting my invitation to serve and desperately trying to glean a clue about what Macedonia looked like.