Imagine a dry summer creek bed, paved with cracked dirt and infested with nomadic insects, a path meandering in and out of brush and leaves and shadows to such a degree you cannot tell where the edges of the bed really lay. Now, come back to that same bed towards the end of winter--a winter that really matters--and what do you see? Not the bed, that's for sure. The edges of the bed you could barely discern are now briming with cold, urgent water cascading from the mountains, from the quickly melting snow.
Got that image? From parched earth to waterly deluge?
Now apply that image, metaphor, what have you to a couple of Peace Corps bums waiting around for an invitataion. PI (pre-invitation, an eon of our life forever subjugated to abbreviation) we were the insects, though thoroughly unnomadic, planted in that riverbed. Nothing came by except passerbys and the dry wind. Now, post-invitaion (another PI would be sorta of confusing), we're rolling along the bottom of that creek, pushed along by the force, the flood (god damned extended metaphors), of information.
Once we got our invite and put our electronic information to some Yahoo groups like:
the water came rollin' off the mountain.
Most significantly, we've recieved buku emails from a RPCV couple named Jack and Else. I mean BUKU emails. They've sent along a lot of practical advice. Advice about drinking, clothing, shopping, pickpocketing, and 24 or so newsletters they wrote while in Ukraine. A lot of useful information--a good portion of the water ripping down our creek-cum-river bed.
Some recent tidbits from Jack and Elsa:
"I bought a new 1 year old model laptop on e-bay, before I went. Get one that you can afford to lose."
"Sometimes the best answer is to say that you never drink. One of our compatriots got drunk regularly. He was rolled, his money and passport stolen. Getting drunk means that you have no resistance to danger. Don't do it."
"When we were there, the housing was supposed to be the responsibility of your primary site. I know that this was relaxed quite a bit after we leftand Peace Corps was paying for apartments in many cases. Strive for the best that you can get, don't settle for a small terrible place. Rents were about $50 per month. You should get a 2-3 room apartment. We had a 3 room apartment in the suburbs at first and then moved to a 2 room apartment for most of our stay. In an apartment, you get a bathroom and kitchen and then start counting rooms. There are no closets to speak of. The two room apartment has a living room and a bedroom. The 3 room apartment has aliving room and two bedrooms. Balconies are good for drying your clothes, otherwise they will have to dry in the bathroom. The hot water is controlled by the government and is pumped into your radiators. There is a circuitous pipe in the bathroom for the heat and you can dry clothes on it. In the summer it is nice to use the lines on the balcony. If you have 2 balconies (a little unusual, but we had that setup in our first apartment) you have a choice of where to hand clothes, so you can pick the sunny side. This is not such an important point, but one balcony is nice. If it is large enough, you might even sit on it sometimes. Watch out for tiles falling off the sides of the buildings, you could get injured."
"As a couple, you will rely on each other. Nevertheless, resist turning in on yourselves. Be individuals and be independent; learn what there is to learn, and do the best you can for your host country nationals."
And my two favorites, "Never let the bastards get you down" and "If you knew nothing, you would figure it out."
Thanks for fillin' up our creek bed folks!