Monday, January 31, 2011

Again, What Exactly Do You Do?

I love this question.

I mean, it is like asking me to enumerate and then describe (in detail) the reasons I think Rich Franklin and I should get married.

It is just impossible to do...

But, for the sake of fun, let's pretend, that I can answer this question. After 2+ years, you'd think I would be at a point where I could whip out a little "50 Years of PC" [link] tract and give you my 30-second elevator speech. I can't, but let's pretend I am not as verbose as I actually am...My job, in 30-seconds:

Wwwwelllll, Peace Corps got started on a fateful October day at 2 a.m. when JFK challenged University of Michigan students to serve their country [link]. It's been 50 years and Peace Corps has been invited to send PCVs to 139 countries and more than 200,000 Volunteers have served.

I am Youth Development Volunteer in a post-soviet secular Muslim country. It's called Azerbaijan. Yeah. Most people have no idea where that is either.

Um, I share me and my experience as an American with locals who share their unique experiences with me. I teach, I learn, and I practice making bread. I also wash my clothes by hand, which sucks. Anyhoo, check it out. They got a website [link]. If you have any questions, you can email me.

*I totally would amp up the smile at this point. Oh yeah, that speech, 31.63 seconds...score.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Crap* I Eat

Last night I was sitting down to a steaming bowl of anchovy and tuna pasta and I realized something:

This smells horrible.

Don't get me wrong. It was delicious. I have no idea how Italians figured out that tuna, olive oil, fresh parsley and anchovies were a good combination...but man, yum-yum (albeit, pinch your nose).

Anyway, this got me to thinking, what else do I eat [here] that probably would never get me a date...a lot of things. So I made a top ten list. Check it out:

  1. Tuna & Anchovy pasta
  2. Raw garlic, raw onion, and olive pasta
  3. Homemade Mac & Cheese [link](I am lactose intolerant)
  4. French Onion Soup
  5. Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Eggs
  6. Spinach with a large pat of butter (I had that for dinner a few days ago)
  7. Picante Salmon Corn Chowder (again...me and diary ain't friends)
  8. A can of corn
  9. Garlic yogurt and a loaf of bread
  10. Cabbage dolma [link]
*Not saying that any of these things are crap, just that they don't necessarily work well with my digestive tract.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So, I'm back...

I am going to be honest here and say that I thought coming back would make me feel different.

It didn't.

Last year, after that amazing month in Thailand, I felt rejuvenated. I felt excited. I felt like I could take on the world and convert everyone to Star Trek TNG fans (seriously, why does everyone like the Original Series?).

Coming back from Germany definitely wasn't the same.

I had to talk myself onto the plane. I had to talk myself off the plane. I had to talk myself onto the marshut and again to walk across the border. Of course, that extra 2 hours we spent at the border really did not help my constitution, but that was just the kind of welcome you'd expect when you were having trouble gearing yourself up.

No. This time was different. After a long week in Germany, I really wasn't ready to come back to my super cold apartment, but I did and I can tell you...

I am glad I came back.

Really. Of course, it took a day for me to get my emotions in check and to really think about what was going on, but I realized, I am choosing to be here. I chose this and I am happy I did. I still have so much left to learn and so many more goals to achieve that another year is just what I need.

Still, it is hard knowing what I am delaying and what I am forgoing to be here. I really do want to travel the world, eat white sausage for breakfast everyday, take hot showers each night...

I guess the point is that there never really is a day or a month or a year where you do not question your choice of living overseas in such a situation as Peace Corps requires. Peace does not settle in your heart and every puzzle piece falls into place. I mean, if that were the case, what would be the point? This experience is not meant for the complacent, it is meant for the hearty. The ready. The willing.

Good news. I am all those things and more...well, right now, I am cold, but I am committed. Here comes year 3.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Man of Public Service

On January 18, 2011, Sargent Shriver, the *driving force behind the Peace Corps passed from this world.

For all I knew about Sargent Shriver and the Kennedys, this past few days I have been learning how truly awesome he and the members of his family were/are. Founder of the Peace Corps, Yale Law graduate, Purple Heart recipient, Medal of Freedom recipient, Civil Rights Activist, Ambassador...this man accomplished more in his life than a small country could feasible achieve in 100 years.

Today I spent time educating my counterparts and Convo Club [link] participants about the remarkable life The Sarge led. I may have mentioned before, but everything from spilt coffee to My Girl makes me cry (while in country) and the passing of Sargent Shriver was definitely no different.

Thank you Ambassador Shriver for what you brought the world and for what you created. You will be missed.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargent_Shriver

I did not create that title, but I could never craft something as eloquent about Sargent Shriver. Resource: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/19/133049407/sargent-shriver-a-man-of-public-service

Monday, January 17, 2011

I really do like lines.

As I may have mentioned before, this blog is not meant for me to spout my political beliefs like a raging lunatic. Mostly, this blog is about my Peace Corps service experience, with a little of my cooking experimentation throw in...however, there are times when political-like things grab my attention and I want to share it with you, my faithful readers.

So, it goes something like this:
I see my job here as to help young people develop critical thinking skills and find ways to contribute to the development of their country. I find this job hard because, well, for any of you teachers out there, as you may know, young people are a difficult audience. Most days I am lucky if one young person gives me the time of day when I go off on my, "stop throwing trash on the ground!" rant.

At any rate, I happened across this news article on Radio Free Europe [link] and was blown away by these young people stepping up and making a difference! Pretty neat, if you ask me.

[New blog format prevented this video from being viewed properly. Please visit the link below to view the original video.]

For more information (and for an English description), visit New Azerbaijani Youth Group Aims at "Positive Change" [link].

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

G E R M A N Y is freaking awesome

So, for those of you who are not keeping up with this Tobin...I was in Germany for the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 and let me tell you...

It was okay.

Ha. No really, it was wickedly spectacular. I had an absolutely fantastic time. Firstly, it was nice to have all the conveniences of...well, convenience, at my fingertips. I showered every day, wore clothes once before washing, that weird rash finally went away...

and I got to eat my fill of pork, sushi and Chinese food.

And see Tangled!

It was pretty great. Spending time with my younger cousin, who, is experiencing all those frustrating (and fun) things of teen-hood that build character in all of us. I also met neat (my age) people who talked about more than just poop and/ or PC development lingo. And I got to see some very impressive and moving pieces of history (and a Disney castle).

Overall, super great trip. I now want to move to Germany.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Geez freaking Louise!

Why is everything breaking on me?

On Christmas eve, during a massive cookie-baking effort, my OVEN decided to up and kick the bucket.

A day and 2 manat later, I learned that the broken piece was irreplaceable. Geez!

So, I went out and bought a way cool and better oven. I dropped a hefty penny on it, but hey, it was Christmas and I bake so much a good oven is worth it.

Now I just need to stop eating meat or drinking cans of Fanta for 6 months to pay for it...

Monday, January 3, 2011

What to Expect When You're Expecting*

I'm gonna cut right to it, as you are filling out that PC application, interviewing, going through the medical review (and subsequent mental health review), and finally tearing open your invitation, you've got expectations.

And they mount.

Honestly, I cannot remember the expectations I had before I was invited. I barely remember what I was expecting when I stepped off that plane, and my first day of service my expectations went haywire.

27 months later, I feel like I've got a pretty good grasp on the expectations:

1. Expect to feel awkward and out of place for 26 months. There may be a few months where everything fits, but that won't stick. You'll always be learning something that tosses the baby out with the bathwater;
2. Expect to feel "funky". Stomach issues and bowel movements are the topics de jour for PCVs;
3. Expect to get frustrated. Most of my day is spent trying to explain my feelings in a way that locals will understand. Words do not directly translate, so figuring out how to extract your meaning and translate that all before your convo partner starts guessing at what you are trying to say gets...tiresome;
4. Expect a total lack of privacy. Anyway you want to slice it, you are a celebrity;
5. Expect a total lack of privacy (among PCVs);
6. Expect down-time. I've never felt more like an American except when I am railing on a local counterpart for not showing up on time and their response being, "but I had to drink tea [duh!]." It is a different pace of life...everywhere besides the US;
7. Expect disconnect. You are now in a very special club. Even if your friends/family/wife has served before, they haven't lived in your country in your situation. Nobody is gonna get it. That happens;
8. Expect to wash your clothes by hand. I am not sure why, it just seems like there are few PC countries with washing machines; and,
9. Expect to love every minute of it. This experience, albeit annoying and frustrating and tiresome, is so rewarding there are barely any words to describe it. Expect to have fun and learn so much about yourself you will feel like you have been in years of intensive therapy.

*Weird title. I know.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year


For those of you who do not know, I am in Germany celebrating New Year's. I am really excited because (1) I get to see some family, (2) I am staying in a castle, (3) I am going to eat a restaurant owner out of house and home, and (4) I am getting a much needed break from being a PCV. As much as I love my job, sometimes, you need to be off-the-clock for a week or two!

Happy New Year everybody!

P.S. Several already written posts will be auto-posting over the next week. I'm on top of stuff like that :)!