Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disappointment Leads to New Opportunities....

Yep, just when you think you know what you're doing next, the universe surprises you with unexpected changes!  I had spent recent months since prior to completing my Peace Corps service planning for my next adventure in the beautiful country of Georgia...then *poof*...

A week and a half ago I received an email from my recruiter stating that the program in Georgia (Teach & Learn with Georgia) had passed on my application.  I was stunned, disappointed, angry and dismayed.  

Since that time I got a phone call from the recruiter telling me that because of the change in government and the recent election, the program is being discontinued until further notice.  Suffice it to say that I was skeptical, but after doing my own investigation, have found this to be accurate.  Just this morning a friend in the TLG program confirmed she and other current TLG volunteers have been notified that because of the elections, the program for new volunteers is on hold at least until January.

So for me, that translates to continue seeking other jobs as I can't see waiting around that long.... I have been applying for other overseas teaching jobs and have found China to be the most "age friendly" for those of us over a certain age, and those lacking a TEFL certificate.  I have had several positive responses from China (and initial interviews with a second interview today) and this leads me to think I may be heading back to Asia!

Currently the only other interview is for a position in Ukraine, which is also quite interesting to me.  That initial interview is this afternoon.  Thank goodness for Skype!  

For the time being, I am trying to relax and enjoy the companionship of family (that new grand baby makes it awesome) and friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The old and the new....Similarities

Being back home in Ohio has been great for catching up with loved ones, old and new..... The old being my mother Marguerite and the newest my grand daughter Gretchen.  This adorable baby, though a "surprise" to her parents is a delightful, easy going little bundle.  Marguerite saw her when she was one day old, but sadly doesn't remember.

Marguerite has been suffering with Alzheimer's disease (a form of dementia) for several years and has noticeably declined in the two plus years I've been away living in Mongolia.  At first she would occasionally respond to one of my letters or post cards with a short letter.  By the start of my second year, no word from Mom.  At one point, my sister Sue brought Mom over to her house so we could Skype.  She was pleasant and it was good to see and talk with her, but she did not remember it later.  At all.

For the first few days I saw Mom she constantly told me how good I looked (who doesn't love that?) and kept asking me how long I would be home.....where I was going next...and repeating the same comments about how exciting my life is, great I'm not bored...etc.  After the first few days, she stopped telling me how good I looked (now that she was used to seeing me), but has asked continually where I'm going next, how my boys are and commenting about my exciting life.  Bless her little heart.  

Baby Gretchen is all of the wonderful things babies are.... cute, tiny, cuddly, sweet, beautiful, adorable, and I could go on and on...  Since it's my choice to live far away and get to know her and watch her grow up via Skype with visits to Ohio in between, I'm enjoying hanging out with her, holding and admiring her as much as possible while I'm here.  

I have noticed that there are some similarities between a baby and an old lady who can't remember...... they get frustrated and have limited ability to communicate... a baby cries and fusses, my mother cusses and rants... 

Understandable in both, but definitely more disturbing with Mom.  Her standard rant I discovered while hanging out with her a lot... "oh my god, *heavy sigh*, jesus christ.....*heavy sigh*.....repeat.

So with the baby, you pick her up, "oh what is it"?  hungry?  diaper need changing? tired?  ... And you can fix it, usually relatively quickly with little discomfort for all concerned.

Not so with Mom.  When you ask her "what is it? " She may or may not remember what it is that just upset her.  Then because she can't remember, her frustration mounts and the cycle repeats itself.  She frequently remarks "i don't remember", followed by a nervous laugh, "it's terrible getting old", "this is my hell" and of course the litany of "oh my god", followed by the *heavy sigh*, "jesus christ".....oy.  This all seemed funnier to me while I was relaying the story to my sister after having stayed overnight at my Mom's..... Now it seems sad, freaky, weird and funny all together.  Guess the nervous laughter or seeing the humor in the situation is the same coping mechanism in Mom that it is with me.  
Marguerite with her favorite baby girl, Pookie the cat
me with Gretchen, my favorite baby girl:
Other similarities between babies and old people include an inability to feed one self.  Not that Mom can't cook  or should I say she is perfectly capable of heating food in the microwave, though in very strange combinations.....Well,  she used to be able to cook...aside from the fact that she kept forgetting food that she put in the oven to heat, and we ended up flipping her breaker for the stove before she burns herself and her cat up.  She now tells the story that her stove stopped working and the apartment complex won't fix it because she has a microwave.  I repeatedly told her that she can't use it because she forgets to turn it off. 

Unfortunately sometimes old people either lose control of their bodily functions or just don't realize they need to go.  Unlike babies who haven't learned this yet, old people lose this skill.  Case in point, poor Mom sometimes has accidents and doesn't even realize it.  She has some adult diapers and says she wears them all the time, but actually she doesn't remember that she does not wear them.... So it's good to check the back of the pants before leaving the house with your old loved one.   I don't mind changing a baby diaper.... but not the other kind, thank  you.  Mom of course then gets angry, frustrated and annoyed when you tell her...oops, better wear a depends and some clean drawers before we go out in public.  The rant begins, "oh my god" *heavy sigh*, jesus christ, *heavy sigh*....

I've heard that as we age we revert back to the beginning; the circle of life.  oh my god *heavy sigh* jesus christ, *heavy sigh* repeat.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back Home Again....for awhile

Bangkok airport is beautiful

Thailand loves their King and shrines are seen everywhere, even at the airport

see you later girls:) at Tokyo airport
Finally done travelling for awhile!  Though I thoroughly enjoyed my Peace Corps stint and my vacation with Shar and Britt, it feels good, comfortable and familiar to be home.

I have been back in Ohio for a week now... adjusted to the time zone changes and the travel weariness, busy catching up with family and friends!  

In the past week, I was surprised at the airport in Cleveland by not only my sister Sue and her hubby Tom, but also my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Jack!  They are my Mom's siblings and Mom has Alzheimer's so it would be too confusing for her to pick me up.  Marilyn lives in a Cleveland suburb, and Uncle Jack came to visit from California.

We have enjoyed lots of  time with the extended family from Mom's side, cousins, etc... I've also met my new grand daughter, Gretchen Victoria, who made a timely arrival earlier the same day I arrived home! Sue surprised me with the news by saying she had a picture to show me!  

Pete and Nicole with baby Gretchen
The family gatherings have been a good time, as well as catching up with some of my daughter's friends...Courtney, Cody and baby Carter, Heaven and her daughter Wynter, and Joanna, expecting a baby girl soon!

The Merstik Clan (my sons are absent)

Courtney with Carter:)

JoJo's baby shower, lots of pink!

Good thing I have at least 6 more weeks to go...I have yet to see my younger son Zach (who lives in Southern Ohio) and so many other friends before I head off again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Murphy's Law: Vacation Tally

I'm not so sure I really believe in Murphy's Law, "anything that can go wrong, will"; but I do believe that I lose and misplace things, as well as injure myself on a regular basis.  The losing and misplacing happened frequently on this trip, with me carrying too much stuff in my backpack and not having it well enough organized.

At one point we were keeping a tally of my things that I had lost (most of which were found, of course in my bag) and it looked like this:

-pen             -shoes           -flip flops       -coffee (yes I brought a jar of instant coffee as well as creamer and sugar cubes, all of which I never used)
-notebook (that I later found, but think it's gone missing again)
-carmex for my lips was never found but I did buy a new one
-safety pins (turned up but never used)     -passport photos (left in big suitcase in storage at airport, needed one for Cambodian visa)
-watch, also left in suitcase                     -pillow (yes really, small travel)
-Dove soap (later found after buying a new bar of soap)
-camera charger (found among my stuff)     -earrings (lost one)

The best one of all was my train ticket.  We were taking an overnight train and it was delayed four hours.  After a long day of traveling and waiting around, we went to the station just to get to wait until 1 a.m.  We were all hot, cranky and sleepy.  I was so tired and my main concern was getting to sleep, that I forgot the conductor would soon be around to check and punch my ticket.  I'd just taken off my shorts (I knew the ticket had been in there) but had also just used the toilet.  He peeked in at me and he ended up giving me his flashlight to search for it.  I was nearly in a panic thinking, either I'll have to pay again, or they'll throw me off the train!  Long story short, after fiddling around and moving everything, the ticket was right there under the blanket.  I waved him back, showed it to him and went to sleep.  It was a restful night on the train.

Injuries for me are a life long pattern of tripping, bumping into things and just generally being a little too clumsy.  Thus far in the past 3 weeks, I slipped and fell onto the beach at the Full Moon Party, just getting to the beach.  The only injury was wet sand all over my clean shorts.

Brittany stubbed her little toe on coral and ended up with a cut which she had trouble keeping sand out of.  It healed nicely.

When crossing the border in Cambodia with my sneakers on, I slipped on a wet muddy patch of slippery sidewalk after navigating a couple blocks of the same without injury.  This hurt my pride more than my right knee, which scabbed over and was fine.

A couple days later, I banged my head at Angkor Wat while playing with my camera while leaving a temple.

In Thailand while trekking in the rain forest/jungle on our way to a waterfall with a guide and several other tourists, while drinking my bottle of water, I tripped and banged my left ankle.  It was a narrow path and my left foot slipped and slammed into a pipe, cutting it in two spots.  It bruised pretty quickly, but I poured some of my water on it and Toby our guide put band aids on and Brittany found some ibuprofen from another group.  It's given me issues since then, with the ankle swelling quite a bit.  Then both my feet were swollen and after resting and elevating them the other night they're mostly normal, though the bruised one is all scabby looking.

Fortunately, nothing too major, though right now I am missing a wad of cash that I'm hoping turns up soon:)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

South East Asia...what a variety of fresh food

coconuts on left....fresh juices and fruits abound...heavenly:)
Wow.  One of my favorite words and a good way to describe my travel fun with Shar and Lil B after Peace Corps.  I cannot believe the amazing food we have been eating....veggies we haven't seen for the past two years as well as an abundance of delicious tropical fruit..yum.

Thailand and Cambodia have been sources of delicious healthy food and a great transition from the limited food available in Mongolia to the abundant deliciousness that I'm looking forward to upon my return to Ohio!

a sideways pic of bananas growing

star fruit (sideways....)

enjoying our creations after cooking class....
I've enjoyed sweet corn twice here, roasted over an open grill, but it's not as tender and sweet as what I remember at home.  Oops, starting to drool on my computer.  Here in Thailand there are "long beans" which are huge swirly green beans and we used them in our Thai cooking class yesterday.  I'm excited for fresh green beans as I remember them, picked right from the garden!

lunch on the train, purchased from ladies at the stop who get on carrying trays...fresh pineapple, sticky rice and a tasty chicken leg, all for less than $3.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Kingdom of Cambodia

It really is called the Kingdom of Cambodia and what a gorgeous place!  Rice paddies abound in this lush tropical paradise, and the soil is red and muddy where ever there is no pavement.  For our brief visit here, the day long traveling and the $20. Visa fee was worthwhile.

The girls and I traveled here to experience the ancient Angkor Wat complex of temples.  Built in the 11 th century, it is a huge complex of small and large temples spread across a vast area of land.  We opted for a one day pass and chose to see the major and most commonly known temples.  Angkor Wat literally means City of Temples.

The big temple is the most commonly recognized and is even the symbol on the country's flag.

US dollars are welcome here, though the local currency is the Riel, with a dollar being worth 3,800 Riel.

Children begging/selling things was difficult to witness here.  Immediately upon arriving at a temple in Angkor Wat, a swarm of small children would descend upon us and ask, "madame, you buy my post cards?"  They were 10 for a dollar and lovely.  When we told them "no thanks", they had a sad face on and said,"I need money to go to school".  It was confusing and tough to decide to buy or not to buy.  

We each ended up buying a small thing one time from a different child.  Then today we found a brochure in a store explaining that it's illegal to make children work, that the parents should earn and children learn and NGO's  can cover any school expenses though elementary education is free.  To me it's kind of like do you give money or food to a homeless person or ignore them?

This is my first encounter with begging children and I can't even imagine the mixed feelings people must have when confronted with them daily in other destinations.  I have apparently been a sheltered traveler, and as always just when I think I have learned or understand something.....nope.  Another insight I have recently gained is that all languages that are not written in the Latin alphabet look like gibberish to me...not just Mongolian, and certainly not just Georgian!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bum Blaster

....and other weird Thai delights... ok that doesn't sound quite right, but let me say that a bum blaster is a like a "butt bidet".  A common thing here in Thailand, and from what I understood from my site mate Puyja, also in India.  Puyha said that toilet paper is not used to clean one's self after toileting, only water.   I'll be sure to report further about the toilet situation in Cambodia once I explore the facilities there.
After two years in Peace Corps Mongolia, I've seen some rough toilets.  From my own apartment facilities which worked sometimes, to the worst outhouse ever that my friend Shar had.  Shar lived in two different hashas and both had the frailest, falling down bungalows to ever pass as a jorlong.

Though I don't really know what this sprayer device is called, it was coined the "bum blaster" at our guest house on the island.  It's just like a sprayer in a kitchen sink.

the familiar Western toilet

Turkish stand on the sides, squatting over the top
Some photos to illustrate the variety of toilets, all with the accompanying sprayer.  Western style with the seat is what we're used to, then the Turkish which I hear is also quite common in Georgia.

I've had many different toilet experiences since leaving the USA, from squatting along side the road on long bus trips, to using less than sanitary outhouses, to bad smelling indoor toilets and now this new fangled water blaster thing.  Life sure is an adventure!  I applaud diversity in all things, even toilets and am thankful I can squat when it's called for:)