17 December 2008
I have heard Peace Corps in Eastern Europe referred to as the Posh Corps because we don’t “rough it” like other PCVs do in Africa, Asia, the Americas, or a tiny island. Indeed, I have a nice roof over my head, a well-made bed, and even a satellite TV (we catch MTV Turkey). But in many other ways, I know that I am “roughing it” like so many other PCVs.
First: I live in a very snowy region. In fact I do not think that it will thaw out in Lerik until April. This means that when nature calls, I have to go the outhouse. Going to the outhouse in the snow is the most paradoxical thing, I have experienced. You need to bundle up just to drop your pants (or lift your skirt in my case). This morning, I threw on a jacket, headlamp, and hat over my pyjamas to find my way to the outhouse. Do not read the text in the brackets if you are squeamish. [Despite how cold it is getting to the outhouse, it is always surprisingly warm in that little shack. I know that I shouldn’t be too surprised considering the whole structure sits over a compost heap and everything is leaving your body at a supposed 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.]
When I am done with the outhouse, I again must go through the snow to get back to the house. The next fun part is washing your hands. The reason why I am using the outdoor squat instead of the indoor squat is because all the pipes are frozen. If any water can come out of the tap, it is freezing cold, so my host family had to show me how to hold a 2-litre bottle of water under my arm and direct the water to wash my hands. A fun experience. By this time, my hands feel like ice, and I have to stand over the gas pec in the living room or my bedroom just to feel my hands again.
Second: I am grateful for all the warm clothes I own, but I never thought I would have to wear them all at once. Since moving down South (I always associated going South with heat), I wear three layers. On the top, I wear long underwear, shirt, and sweater; on the bottom, I wear tights, long underwear; and on my feet, I wear wool liner socks and a pair of hiking socks. Don’t forget that I am already wearing a pair of tights. For some reason, I still can never feel my feet in class. I keep changing the foot combination hoping to discover a solution. Current thought is sweat gets trapped in the tights, so leggings will be worn tomorrow.
In fact, the only time I do not wear three layers of clothing is when I am going to bed. Then I wear wool socks and long johns. I sleep in a Peace Corps issued sleeping bag that is rated for -20 Fahrenheit. It is currently my BEST friend. Seriously, I love that sleeping bag. I have not been cold one night in Lerik.
Three: Have I mentioned it snows here? Look, I know some of y’all are from snowy places. That is great, and I admire your ability to deal with the snow and the cold. BUT (my sixth grade history teacher used to say “but” negates everything you said before the “but”) I am from south Louisiana. I went to school in southern California. See a trend. Amy is from the SOUTH. I can deal with hot. Summer in Louisiana is no picnic. It’s hot, and the heat index always says it feels five degrees hotter. It’s humid, so humid that you know you will be drenched with sweat just walking to your car. There are blood-sucking insects. I must be homesick because I think all of those things sound delightful.
It must have snowed at least 6 inches today if not more. It’s fascinating. It’s pretty. And I have no clue what to do with it. It may not be roughing it for some of y’all, but it’s a completely different animal for me. Give me until March. I’m sure I will sound like a proper winter weathered individual by then.
I am sure there will be more to come soon. After all, I have not washed my clothes yet in Lerik. What do you do in a place where you line-dry clothes and there are icicles on the clothesline?