Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Women's Day

International Women’s Day. It isn’t a big holiday in America because we have mother’s day. However, in Kyrgyzstan it is a BIG holiday. And let’s just say as a woman I kicked it! It was also my counterparts birthday, and she is awesome so we had to have a big party.The 7th was when the teachers rocked out. There are no male teachers at my school so the women through their own party. First, at the school we had a concert and my students gave me cards, candy, flowers, and a little angel figurine(very me :P). After the concert the teachers thought all the students were gone and were joking around saying, “We got wine and there are no students or men are coming along! So, We are going to drink and PARTY and be loud and stay out all night!!!”(we stayed out till 4 when the pay checks came in) What they didn’t realize was to male students were still in the room taking care of audio equiptment and they were mortified.The Physical education teacher at my school also gave me a Russian Language book for beginners. She kept putting a lot of emphasis on the Beginners part. I kept nodding acknowledging that I know I don’t speak very good Russian.At the party in the cafĂ© we ate so much. I was bit over joined at the abundance of cheese, which I can’t afford. I kept whispering to myself, oh, sweet, sweet calcium. Also, when I took a little bread, with a piece of kalbasa, and some cheese… having a psuedo-sandwich and getting protien and calcium at the same time. It was too good to be true.We sat around singing old Russian songs. I’m currently trying to learn two. We danced to Russian techno and there were only 3 songs on the play so we heard the songs 4 or 5 times a piece. There were some soldiers who danced with us for a while. They ended up buying us women a bottle of champagne to celebrate with. In my mind you sit around and enjoy champagne but we had to take it as shots. They also made me sing a song in English. I went with I just called to say I love you, by Stevie Wonder. It’s easy and for some reason they all know it. They also made me stand up and give a toast so that teachers who didn’t know me could get to know me a little bit. My counterpart told me I could give it in English and she could translate if need be. I didn’t want everyone thinking I couldn’t speak any Russian and also didn’t want to give a bad toast, so I might… MIGHT have spoke a little long. For some reason even though I know very little Russian I know a lot of toasts and congradulatory phrases. So, I just kept talking. Fortunately I proved that, yes I do in fact know some Russian and it is alright to talk to me in Russian, versus chopped up English.Later that night Svetlana(my counterpart) took me to a concert. It was mostly in Russian but a little bit was in Kyrgyz and Ukrainian. When the Ukrainian part came up I was like dang I don’t understand anything. Fortunately, Svetlana calmed my nerves by leaning over and telling me that it was in Ukrainian.The next day actually on the eigth we had a party at Svetlana’s it was women’s day/her birthday party. She invited another volunteer, Rick, from a near by village to rock out with us too. There was sooooooo much food. All Rick and I could keep saying was I’m so full, I’m so happy, mmmm, ahhh I guess I’ll have one more plate full. I have already written to Max after Man’s day about the dish she made for us(he is the only one that regularly asks about the food) it was Scalloped potatoes with cheese and pork. On Man’s Day I ate about half the tray this time with Rick there to compete I got a little less. But she also made us Bish Bermak, because I ahd told her that I didn’t know what it is. It is a Tradtional Kyrgyz meal that has noodles and normally Mutton(she made it with beef). It’s literal translation is five fingers. Your suppose to eat it with your hands, but since we were in a Russian home we dished it out with a spatula and ate it with forks. We also had a cake that had like Grahmam Cracker layers, it was amazing!Mixed in with the eating was a good bit of Kareoke and dancing. On Man’s day I had to sing all the songs on the English Kareoke CD by myself. It was nice because this time I could pawn off some of the songs onto Rick. I did an amazing back up to his Losing My Religion and Hotel California. However, when I tried to help with My Father’s Eyes Rick yelled(put southern drawl on it) “Carol be QUIET! I’m singing like ERIC CLAPTON RIGHT NOW!!!!” I had to reliquish myself to back up dancer. When my turn came to sing like Whitney Houston and belt out some I Will Always Love You, Rick and Sasha(Svetlana’s husband) did not settle for being backup singers. Even though I had a microphone I could not overpower them. I got my turn later when I made them sit through Hello, Dolly and they didn’t know all any of the words. Sasha and Rick were readily best friends despite the fact that Rick, though he speaks it perfectly, he only speaks Kyrgyz. Sasha being Siberian, only speaks Russian. Although they all did force Rick to sing a couple songs on the Russian CD despite, him not knowing any of the songs.Overall it was a great time. Can’t wait for women’s day next year.Spraz-nikam.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

All Up in the Air!

So sorry that I haven’t written here for a while. Life has been a little crazy. This entry will probably be a little boring but it is to catch people up on my life.I recently switched sites. New school and an apartment to myself. The apartment came furnished with only a couch so it is my little oasis in the mass of my junk that I have no place to put anywhere. The apartment also came with; hold your breath, a hot shower and a FLUSH TOILET!!! This was very exciting for me, and since I have no real furniture to speak of the first few days I spent hanging out in the bathroom admiring my flush toilet. I ended up putting up a map of the world I have in Russian so I could feel like I was learning something hanging out in there all day.My new school is awesome. A much better fit for me. I teach 4th and 1st form, although I haven’t had 1st form because they have been on vacation all week. I’m running lots of different clubs: Debate Club, Science Club, Conversation Club, ACCELS club, and I’m going to be starting some sports clubs soon. I also teach adults English twice a week at the American Corner in the Library. It is strange starting at a new school because I have to start the process of introducing myself with everyone all over again. The other day I had to use the bathroom before my classes but an older lady, I don’t know if she is a teacher or not beat me to it. So, I patiently waited as she turned off the light to the bathroom I said Hyet, Hyet, ne nada (no,no, no need) She gave me a little bit of a dirty look and didn’t say anything. She then pointed to a door down the hallway. I looked at it, and then looked back at her. She then took me to the other door and told me this was the student’s bathroom. I said fine, not understanding at first that she thought I was a student and then she left. I looked in at the squatter holes that are for the students and back down the hall at the teacher’s bathroom with a flush toilet. The older lady had turned down another hallway but I could hear her talking so I knew she was close by. I decided to make a run for it; the only problem is I was wearing my rain pants still. I was wearing because it is always muddy and dirty yet everyone talks about if I have mud on the bottom of my pants so I was trying to keep them clean. I made a run pasted her only 5 feet from her swishing as loudly as possible. I locked the door and took my time hoping she wouldn’t be outside the door when I opened it. I must have stalled long enough because she was gone. It’s weird I have always been considered much older than I actually am and now I’m an adult and need to be viewed as one I get accused of being a student. There is a very good sports complex near my school, so I wanted to take some classes there. I found the perfect one for me, belly dancing. I have already gone to two classes. I’ve always been bitter that I have never gotten to take a dance class and there might be good reasons for me never having taken one before. I’m terrible. I have no expectations though and just view it as a chance to get out in the community and meet some more people. It’s also one of the perks of being a foreigner. In America I would have to acknowledge that I know I look ridiculous, here I’m just the foreigner that doesn’t know any better. Love it! The first lesson was tough because I was in the very back of the room and couldn’t see the instructor and it was like a bad game of telephone where everyone is just watching the person in front of them and it becomes slowly worse down the line. Even though I couldn’t see the instructor in the mirror in the front of the room I’m a good 6 inches taller than anyone else in the room and could easily watch myself. I have lessons three nights a week so maybe by the end of my service I’ll be able to do one maybe even two moves correctly. I’m really focusing on the hand movement parts more then the booty shaking and the actual belly dancing part.Before moving to my new site I spent a week down in Naryn which is considered the “Authentic Kyrgyz” part of Kyrgyzstan. It was very interesting for me, because to be honest I don’t know much about actual Kyrgyz people. Although, now at my new school I do have a few Kyrgyz students and my Director/neighbor is Kyrgyz. I got to spend sometime with my friend Remer’s family which was interesting for me because it was one of my first interactions with a Kyrgyz family. Remer’s host father told me I speak good Russian. When I said that wasn’t true he corrected me with, “I said GOOD not Excellent.” Ahhhh. Thanks I stand corrected. That has become one way I have figured out if guys are flirting with me when I am talking to boys my age, they will tell me I speak good Russian. That being a blatant lie that we both know is a lie I now know where we stand.Overall, everything is going well and it is good for me to have a new site. I like it a lot and hope things will be going better now. Sorry for not updating sooner for those of you who have complained and please email me telling me how you are doing.