Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Long Goodbye, month 2 -- "Margaret looks like she's been shot out of a cannon."

As cold, snowy January turned into an equally cold and icy February, nothing seemed to improve on the apartment front.  I even had some intervention from my Peace Corps regional manager, to no avail.  Lesia at this point was telling people that she had to come over because I was too irresponsible to be left alone.  My biggest offense -- leaving one of the chairs in the middle of the living room so I could put my space heater on it, directing my only source of heat in the 30 below weather directly on my body on the couch.  Apparently, a disarranged living room might just cause irreparable damage to the apartment!

The placement of this chair is certainly cause for alarm . . .

The combination of the seemingly imminent apartment change and being a first year teacher was turning me into one giant ball of stress.  In the middle of implementing an "English Week" at my school, considered a test of my muster as a teacher, one of the Peace Corps Medical Officers made a visit.  An aged hippie nurse from New Mexico, she made it her business to visit all of the Peace Corps Volunteers about a month after their group swore in to make sure that everyone was chugging along swimmingly.

The day Lydia, the nurse, came to visit me I hadn't had water for more than 48 hours and was full-on overwhelmed by English Week.  With the temperature far below zero, the path to the well impossibly icy and living in a fourth floor walk-up, I was prioritizing my water use, hoping the water turned back on before she got there.  Unfortunately for me, she showed up four hours early, finding me in the midst of trying to hide my dirty dishes rather than wash them, and with my living-room looking like an office supply store had vomited all over it.

Lydia took one look at me in my crazed state and started to make me tea.  She ordered her driver (Peace Corps has it's own vehicles and hires local drivers, who rock, to ferry them around the country on official business), Sasha to bring up water from the well.  Strapping, Ukrainian Sasha managed to bring up four buckets in half the time it would have taken me to bring up one, and all without falling on the ice once.  Lydia proceeded to ask me what the hell was going on, so I gave her the crazy landlady run-down -- she was appalled.  She couldn't believe that my landlady had been acting that way for over a month and the regional manager hadn't taken more decisive action.  Lydia said she was going to try to force Peace Corps to either pay Lesia off to leave me alone until I moved  or to furnish an apartment for me so that I could move more quickly.

With Lydia on the case I started to feel much better and like things might actually improve.  She called me later in the week to make sure I was still OK, telling me not to worry because everyone was going through something -- two of my friends were "eating nothing but sticks and twigs" because their sites hadn't provided them with refrigerators.  Hanging out with those friends later they told me Lydia had shown up at their sites proclaiming "Margaret looks like she's been shot out of a cannon!"

"Sticks and Twigs" with "Shot Out of a Cannon" towards the end of their service . . . obviously all three managed to survive and thrive despite that first rough winter.

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