Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tapakatz Gatoshka

There are a few things that I am perpetually thankful for in the Peace Corps. As my city slowly climbs out of winter I thought it a good exercise to forcefully be thankful for a few things. The Peace Corps’ depression handbook recommended it. The suggestion came right after the section on sitting cross-legged in the middle of your room, arms raised, fingers pursed, head tilted back whispering the serenity prayer over and over again. There was also a footnote that referenced some sort of “happy place”.
Many of the new experiences, cultural differences, quirks, etc… in Peace Corps are great, but tend to loose their luster fairly quickly. In this category I would place things like… doing laundry by hand. Sure, initially it was great to have such an invigorating task to complete that produced such tangible results. I felt like one of those volunteers that you see in all the marketing materials the Peace Corps produces. But inevitably the joy of this act faded quickly, leaving me dreading my Sundays, with all the preparation of mass amounts of hot water, the scrubbing and wringing, wringing and hanging. Other things in this category would include bucket baths, snow in April, taxi-drivers constantly attempting to cheat you, etc…
But I am eternally grateful that I have been blessed with an indefatigable love for fried potatoes and that the draw of a free few hours and a book (not even necessarily a good one) still remains so attractive to me.
I’ve always loved potatoes. Fried, mashed, scalloped, twice baked, just baked once, and all other forms. In fact, when I got my placement in the Caucasus I specifically checked to see what the staple food was here in Armenia. Knowing that in many Peace Corps countries there is some sort of millet or rice, I was relieved to know that in this cold arid climate, the potato was king. And lo and behold I was placed in a potato producing part of the country, Shirak Marz. Never mind that some farmers are apparently still using soviet era pesticides like DDT. They still taste great!
What I am thankful for though is that my love for fried potatoes in particular has never left me, nor even waned for that matter. I still find myself rushing home, greatly looking forward to a plate of my golden-fried friends. Strangely “golden-fried” is a bit of an overstatement as my many attempts at preparing them has in no way made me proficient at it. In fact, it’s kind of sad that I am not better at it by now. But nonetheless, I am able to eat a cheap meal, that is available year-round (of the utmost importance here during winter) and enjoy it immensely and equally every sitting.
This “Peace Corps experience” also allows for much free time, spent… say sitting by your heater trying to stave off frost bite, or… sitting by your heater trying to stave of frost bite. I am also quite thankful that my love for reading has also not diminished. Mostly my weekends are spent sitting around my house, doing pretty much nothing except reading books. This may sound to many not ideal, but again I still look forward to my weekends nearly as much as I did in the states, (when there were so many other options for stimulation… things like say… not sitting by your heater trying to stave off frostbite.) Again, I am thankful that my excitement for incessant reading has not lessened. The book selection here is limited (the Peace Corps library is awash with mostly trashy novels) but still I romanticize the experience of just sitting, reading and relaxing just as much as when I first arrived.
Of all the ways to stave off depression, I suppose that I’ve been blessed with a few little things that allow me to skip the recommended hippy modes of stress reduction and sanity maintenance (see above.) Guess I’ll be saving the cross-legged serenity prayer chanting for next winter.

Becka. Dave wants me to give you a “shout out”. Though I am well versed in the youthful parlance of our generation, I’m not quite sure how to transfer a “shout out” textually to this blog post… so I hope this will suffice.