the seaside in side

SideBeach

 

For about 8 days, 8-10 hours a day, this was my view. Occasionally punctuated by a nap or a float in the sea. Not a swim, just a float. I’m on vacation after all.

I hesitate to be one of those people who goes on and on about her vacation.  But can I go on for a moment about my vacation? If you like you can even skip all the words and go straight to the photos at the end. If you want. Your call.

Last week I spent a lovely time in Side (pronounced like see-day), a town in Turkey situated right on the Mediterranean. I know, Turkey, right? Some folks who knew about my plans were very concerned about my safety.

“But what if you get involved in a hostage situation?!”

I was never, to my knowledge, even close to being involved in a hostage situation. Things were quite quiet in Side. The deadliest threats I faced were sunburn and second-hand smoke. Oh, and that one day when a man showed up on the beach sporting a snorkel mask, a full jungle-green camouflage wet suit, and a harpoon gun. For the rest of the day we were on the lookout when getting in the water, not sure where he was and if he was going to mistake one of our thighs for a sea bass.

The reason we ended up in Side, of all places, was somewhat roundabout and I truly knew next to nothing about it before I got there, having abdicated almost all vacation-planning responsibilities. (I’m a truly fantastic travel partner.) My only request (of course I managed to find the energy to come up with a request) was that we go to a sandy beach. No more pebbly beaches for me. I’m absolutely done with pebbles. I have sensitive feet.

And I was so thrilled upon arrival to find that the beach in Side was perfectly sandy! And the water was so clear and blue! And I could walk pretty far out into the sea on a bed of soft sand without having the water go over my head. Which meant I could play in the waves without worrying about drowning. And I could easily float around. (I’m a terrible swimmer but an excellent floater.)

And when not floating I sat on the beach under an umbrella and read. Despite using sunscreen and being under an umbrella, I was burned to a crisp. My apologies if this is TMI, but the peeling was horrific. At one point I swear I looked down and at my feet lay a husk of myself, a la a molting cicada. After the burning I took more precautions and wore a t-shirt during my floats. And while reading I still sat under the umbrella but also shrouded myself in my hat, a sarong, and a variety of scarves. While the peeling has mostly stopped, the aftermath of the burning has left me with a bit of a freckle situation. This is a new (and somewhat alarming) thing for me. While I think freckles are fantastic on other people, I’m not thrilled to have them myself. As a 34-year-old woman who continues to be plagued with the very real problem of people consistently guessing her age to be between 16 and 22 (which is, by the way, not a compliment), what I decidedly do not need is a new facial feature that has the potential to make me look even younger. Woe is me. On the other hand, in the long-term this sun damage will probably lead to wrinkles, which will definitely make me look older. So perhaps this is a glass half full kind of thing.

Anyway, as I was saying, there was a lot of delightful floating and beaching going on. And then, when the sun was getting ready to set, we would manage to peel ourselves out of the lounge chairs and head out to explore. Right behind the sandy beaches of Side are lots of beautiful Roman ruins. Are these the biggest and most impressive Roman ruins on the face of the earth? Maybe not. But I was super impressed. (full disclosure: I’m easily impressed.) And there is really something magical about spending an entire day at the sea and then walking through Roman ruins in your beach clothes on your way back to town.

Side was great. Lots of tourists (Europeans, mostly) go there and it’s a resort area for sure, but it was the perfect spot to rest and relax and contemplate the end of the last two years and my upcoming return to the United States. I highly recommend Side.

And yes, I’ve officially closed my service and am now a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). I have thoughts about this, which I will share, but for the moment I must get back to vacationing. You see, I’m in Crete right now currently embroiled in the serious task of eating a piece of baklava the size of my head. It’s a hard job, but I’m an RPCV. I’ll find a way.

 

 

 

 

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don’t stop believing

About 26 months ago, if you recall, I was in a state of sorts trying to get ready for Peace Corps.  Well, here is what the inverse of that looks like:

Chaos.

Chaos? No.

While this “situation” might appear to you, an outside observer, as chaos, it is actually nothing short of a well-crafted and detailed plan that will result in me having two neatly packed suitcases. And nothing else.

This is totally possible.

[jazz hands]

I’ve got the whole afternoon, a lot of gumption, and Steve Perry’s velvety chocolate voice filling the room. This is going to happen. We will not stop believing.

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peace…out

Yesterday was swell! Why? Because the following super swell things happened to me:

  • Someone stepped on my foot.
  • Someone tried to close a car door on me. Twice.
  • A man told me he felt really bad for me because I’m not married and don’t have children.
  • A woman told me she felt really bad for me because I’m not married and don’t have children.
  • A woman who is interested in being a host mother to a future Peace Corps Volunteer told me she would prefer having a boy rather than a girl because American boys are so hardworking and neat, but American girls are messy and lazy.
  • My director, while speaking to one of the above-mentioned women, explained that I was their first volunteer and next time will be better.
  • My director also informed me that my coworkers are all hoping that the next Peace Corps Volunteer they get is a boy. Naturally!

gif-1

Ya know, some days the idea of leaving Georgia isn’t as hard as others.

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easter and the stress monster

Today was Orthodox Easter, so a Happy Easter to all of you! It came rather late this year, but did finally arrive. In Georgia there are no Easter bunnies delivering baskets of Cadbury Creme Eggs. It’s like they don’t even know the reason for the season. But fortunately there are some other pretty nice traditions that make up for this. They dye hard-boiled eggs a deep color of red in representation of the blood of Christ. They make a yummy sweet bread called paska, sometimes forming the loaves into the shape a lamb, which is quite impressive. And people greet each other by saying “Christ has risen!”, to which one responds “Truly, has risen!” This is wonderful except that the word for risen in Georgian has many consonant sounds that all run into each other, one of which also happens to be the French-like “gghhh” sound that is supposed to originate from the throat. For me it often does start in my throat,  but trips somewhere on the way out and not-infrequently deteriorates into a hacking cough as I choke on my own saliva. So for me, saying this in a way that resembles the actual word is quite a challenge.

The other thing that I really admire and love about Easter in Georgia is the way it also serves as an occasion to remember loves ones who have passed away. On Easter Sunday or the following Monday, families travel to the cemetery where their relatives are interred.  They go to the plots and clean them up, sweeping away any debris and pruning the weeds. They place flowers and some of the red eggs at the head stones, and then they toast their relatives with glasses of wine and sprinkle some of the leftovers on the graves. I was able to join my host family for this touching ritual last year and it was a profound privilege. I think it’s really beautiful the way my family and other families here in Georgia dedicate time to remember and honor those they have lost.

So that’s what was going on today. As for the day before that and all of the other days of the previous month, I don’t really know where they went or what I did.

No. That’s not true. I know where they went and what I did. I spent the last month turning into a giant ball of exposed nerve endings. A Stress Monster, if you will.

“What is a Stress Monster?” the chorus asks. “Is it like a regular monster?”

Yes, in some ways, it is like a regular monster. Though I never intend harm. For example, if I tear a person to bits with my teeth and bare hands* it’s usually just because I’m irritable and unable to focus my energies in a positive and constructive way.

I certainly don’t want to be a Stress Monster. In fact, I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid becoming one. I journal. I talk to friends. I stare at the wall for hours at a time and let my brain go to mush. But like Dr. Jekyll, I can’t keep Mr. Hyde from coming out. Like Dr. Bruce Banner my stress breaks free and all of sudden I look down and find I’ve mutated into a giant green man wearing ill-fitting cut-offs.

“But what is causing you so much stress?” sings the chorus.

The abyss.

Leaving for Peace Corps was hard and terrifying in many ways. I’ve gone back and read some of the stuff I wrote around that time and I’m pretty sure we would all agree that I nearly cracked up during the whole process of preparing and leaving. I was bananas. But y’all, I think it turns out that leaving Peace Corps is way scarier than getting into it.

“How can it be scarier?” ponders the chorus.

Sure, going away for two years to a different country and a different culture where I don’t speak the language and am  away from the people I love the most is terrifying. But you know what’s possibly even more terrifying? Unemployment.

“Go on.” urges the chorus.

Peace Corps was a plan. I knew I had a place to be for two years. I knew I had a job and security and purpose. And there would be people who would greet me and shepherd me and take care of me and feed me. And that has been the case. I have been totally shepherded and very well fed.

But now? That’s all ending in about six weeks. And I’m staring into an abyss. For the first time in my life I’ll be leaving a job without having another one lined up. It’s the first time I don’t know what the next step is going to be. Is the next step for me going to be a well-paying job in a lovely office building in Washington, DC, in either the nonprofit or government sector? Or will it be a cold death on the streets of Washington, DC, wrapped in a gray homeless outreach program-issued blanket? It’s a mystery!

“Aren’t you maybe exaggerating a little bit here?” asks the chorus.

Of course I’m exaggerating. As I’m wont to do. But underneath all this exaggeration is the honest truth that I’m genuinely nervous and frightened in a way I haven’t been in a long time. I read articles about how Americans are still struggling with unemployment or how once you’ve been out of work for more than six months you’re probably screwed and will forever and always be un- or under-employed**…and then I die a little inside. The unknown future is a terrifying thing.

“But you knew this was coming!” yells the chorus. “Have you not prepared?!”

Yes, I have prepared! I’m no grasshopper! Before I ever joined Peace Corps I built a savings cushion (in addition to the resettlement allowance I’ll receive from Peace Corps) and kept my student loans to a manageable level. I have the safety-net of kind and generous people who have offered a couch to rest on or a willingness to pass my resume around. And I’ve begun the job hunt, though that’s hard to do sometimes from this distance. So I’m working on this. Truly I am. But the threat of a long period of unemployment is still real and looming.

“Fair enough.” remarks the chorus.

So that is where I am. The other factor contributing to the metamorphosis into the Stress Monster I’ve become is that I’m starting to process the true fact that I’m leaving the home I’ve known for two years.  Yes, I miss America very much. Every single day at this point. After all, it’s been two years since I’ve been there. I keep imagining the moment I will pass through passport control and get my stamp and the border guard will say “welcome home.” And every time I imagine that tears well up in my eyes. Every damn time. (Right now. This is happening RIGHT NOW.)

But I also think of leaving my family here. My friends. My coworkers. The kids in my English conversation group. Piso! And that makes me cry, too. There is a real chance that I may never see some of these people (and cats) ever again.  And that is a terrible thing and makes me so sad. I’m working hard to appreciate every moment and savor all these experiences because I know I’ll miss so much of this when I’m gone. But I find myself knotted up inside a lot, too. I just don’t know what to do with all these emotions and feelings. So they take on a life of their own. And out comes the Stress Monster.

“You’re a mess.” concludes the chorus.

You’re absolutely right, chorus. I’m a mess. A complete and total mess.

In summary: It’s Easter. I’m sorta cracking up. And I’m available for hire.

But, per usual, I’m probably stressing for no reason. It will probably work out ok in the end. I’ll probably find a job. I’ll probably find a place to live. I’ll probably not perish in a downward spiral of unemployment and poverty.

Probably.

Anyway, to end this on a cheerier note, here are some nice photos I took at least year’s Easter that I never got around to posting. I hope you enjoy them. Happy Orthodox Easter to you!

*Hypothetical situation, naturally. I have not actually torn any people to bits…though sometimes when, for example, people cut me in line or light up a cigarette next to me in a minibus despite the No Smoking sign clearly displayed above the driver, it’s hard not to think about it.

**I’m not going to link to these articles because there is no reason for us all to be stressed out. Just trust me that they exist.  

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we can all relax now

…because spring has arrived, after all.

I walked past this happy flowering bush on my way to work today.

I walked past this happy flowering bush on my way to work today.

Today is so warm I’m wearing a summer dress with just a cardigan over it. And I could have actually gone without tights underneath as well, but I did not do that, of course, because it’s only April and everyone knows that one cannot go barelegged until July, maybe late June if you’re feeling crazy. I suppose someone could go barelegged in April but that someone would have to be prepared for lots of questions and concerns about her health from a variety of sources including family, friends, coworkers, and strangers on the street.  And I was not that person today, so I wore tights.

Fun fact: I also never sit on cement anymore. Do you know why? Because it causes infertility!! And as I’m reminded of from time to time, I have to take real good care of the five or six viable eggs I got left.

Happy Spring, Everyone!

 

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the effects of globalization

In our local supermarket there is an entire shelf devoted to AXE  Bodyspray, I think we can assume that no corner of world remains safe from this menace.

As seen in our local supermarket: an entire shelf devoted to AXE body spray. No corner of the world remains safe.

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not spring

Nary one day ago I remarked to a friend, “I really do believe spring is on its way. I can feel it.”

So, naturally, the heavens squashed my impudence by delivering a wintry mix.  Specifically, it snowed then hailed then rained then snowed a little more.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I CRY OUT FOR SPRING FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY SOUL.

Hail. Or the frozen bitter tears of a thousand crying angels also wish for spring.

Hail or the frozen bitter tears of a thousand weeping angels?

Spring, where are you? WHERE ARE YOU?!

Spring, WHERE ARE YOU?!

 

 

 

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