Monthly Archives: July 2010

Number 73 – Wicked

I love Wicked.  It’s one of my favorite Broadway shows.  I’ve seen it a few times – in New York and on tour.  When I first heard it I became a little bit obsessed.  I was in a fan group on LiveJournal (what?) and read everything I could about it. 

Once, when we were in New York, Jesse (my super supportive and wonderful husband) and I went to the stage door and I got a photo with some of the actors… including Fiyero – aka New Kid On The Block Joey McIntyre.  I’m that cool.

I got to see Idina Menzel in the role of Elphaba twice.  She’s amazing.  I even had tickets to what was supposed to be her final performance – she ended up extending her run a week, then getting hurt and not performing her last night.

I’m not really sure why I was so affected by Wicked.  I think it may be when it came into my life.  It’s all about Elphaba and Glinda’s friendship and love and choices and growing up.  When I first heard and saw Wicked, I was graduating from OSU, moving on, moving away from the Camannie Girls, growing up.

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Number 72 – Rayne Zaughsome

Rayne is one of my favorite people in the world.  He was there when I met Jesse.  He was our best man in our wedding.  He is one of those amazing friends who you know will always be there. 

He lives his life with such beauty and joy.  He is always trying new things.  He never seems to let fear get in his way – he wants to experience the world and his life in such a big way.

He and Jesse have such a lovely eternal friendship.  They were kindred spirits when they met in the dorms and I’m pretty sure Jesse wouldn’t be who he is today if Rayne hadn’t come into his life.

Rayne constantly inspires me to do whatever I can to make this world a better place.  He loves nature and the environment and sharing his passion with everyone he meets.

It has been way too long since we’ve seen this amazing man.

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Number 71 – David Morgan

This is one of my very favorite photos from Azerbaijan

David, David, David.  I have to admit that I didn’t much like David when I first met him.  I actually remember the moment that I met him.  It was in Philadelphia for Peace Corps Staging.  He came up and introduced himself and I said, “I’m Carolyn.”  He said, “Nice to meet you, Cərolyn.”  Then I said, “No, it’s Carolyn.”  He said, “Well I will call you Cərolyn.”  You see, David’s from New Jersey so he said my name like Rudy’s friend Caroline on the Cosby Show.  I thought he was rude.

It took me quite a while to turn my opinion around.  It was the TEFL conference in Baku.  I met up with him and another volunteer to take the night train to Baku.  Somehow that weekend we connected and became great friends.  He even came back to Ming with me on the electric train and stayed the night with Jesse and me before heading back to his site.  I remember talking with him the entire 6 hour train ride.  It was nice because we could speak English fast enough that no one could understand us, not even Gulnaz.

One thing I love about David is his endless romanticism and faith.  He approaches everything in his life with unfaltering passion and courage.  He loves everything Russian and I know that love will take him far in his life.  His faith is inspirational and powerful.  David is a wonderful friend and I’m so glad we had the chance to become friends.

Oh my!!  David just reminded me of one of my favorite memories from Azerbaijan.  We spent a night watching a season of The Amazing Race.  The entire season on our laptop, all huddled together in our bed.  This might sound odd to non-RPCVs, but it’s perfectly natural and normal for groups of PCVs to huddle together watching TV on DVD bought at the local Hong Kong Harry’s shop in the capital.  On this particular night, we had to be somewhere in the morning so we watched it on 1.3 time so we could fit in the entire season.  I remember going crazy with nervous energy when the dramatic music came on… oh man.  Craziness.  I think I just gave away a big secret about Peace Corps – it’s not all community development.  (shhhhhhh)

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Number 70 – The Mahabharata

I first read the Mahabharata when I was a sophomore in high school.  We read it in our Values and Beliefs class with Ms. Youngblood.  I loved this class.  We got to learn about all different religions and philosophical ideas.  It was awesome.  The Mahabharata was my favorite.  It is such an incredible epic – it was confusing and inspiring and frustrating and amazing.  It tells of the Kauravas and the Pandavas.  At this point in my life I couldn’t really tell you much about it (except some odd birthing and battle scenes and a vague sense of what happens when our lives end).  Nevertheless, it remains etched in my memory as a beautiful and inspirational history.

My favorite part is definitely the Lessons of the Lake.  Yudhisthira is at the lake and he has to answer questions from the lake.

Voice: What is quicker than the wind?
Yudhisthira:  Thought.
Voice:  What can cover the earth?
Yudhisthira:  Darkness.
Voice: Who are more numerous the living or the dead?
Yudhisthira:  The living, because the dead are no longer.
Voice:  Give me an example of space.
Yudhisthira:  My two hands as one.
Voice:  An example of grief.
Yudhisthira:  Ignorance.
Voice:  Of poison?
Yudhisthira:  Desire.
Voice:  An example of defeat?
Yudhisthira:  Victory.
Voice:  Which came first day or night?
Yudhisthira:  Day, but it was only a day ahead.
Voice:  What is the cause of the world?
Yudhisthira:  Love.
Voice:  What is your opposite?
Yudhisthira:  Myself.
Voice:  What is madness?
Yudhisthira:  The forgotten way.
Voice:  And revolt, why do men revolt?
Yudhisthira:  To find beauty either in life or in death.
Voice:  And what for each of us is inevitable?
Yudhisthira: Happiness.
Voice:  And what is the greatest wonder?
Yudhisthira:  Each day death strikes and we live as though we were immortal.  This is the greatest wonder.

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Number 69 – David Biespiel

David Biespiel taught my advanced poetry writing class at OSU (check out his very own wordpress blog).  This was one of my very favorite classes.  He was one of my very favorite professors.  It was another small writing workshop class.  I’d never really thought of myself as an especially gifted poet, but during David’s class I feel like that’s what I became.  I wrote so much poetry that term that I couldn’t have considered myself anything other than a poet.  I think the greatest thing he did for me and for my class was encourage (or was it require) us to have a public poetry reading.  He rented out the Corvallis Arts Center and we gave a real-life poetry reading.  Looking back I realize how beautifully important that really was.

David is an extremely gifted poet and a wonderfully inspiring teacher.  I was lucky to have be taught by someone like him.

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Number 68 – A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door & A Swiftly Tilting Planet (and When You Reach Me)

Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet (although I’ve only ever read 3…) is one of my favorite series ever written.  I think I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time a dozen or so times, A Wind in the Door 3 or 4 times and A Swiftly Tilting Planet 8 or 9 times.  I love them.  I love Meg, she’s a very strong female character.  I love the themes of love, family and fantasy.

The idea of time travel is so cool – I remember being amazed the first time I read it.  The way that Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which explain the physics of time travel was so creative.  I loved it.

The new Newberry Award winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead has some lovely ties to A Wrinkle in TimeWhen You Reach Me is a beautifully crafted story that deserves a spot on the shelf right next to L’Engle’s classics.  It is really a lovely book.

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Number 67 – Sumqayıt Station

For the first 9 or 10 weeks of Peace Corps training we lived in a little village called Sumqayıt Station.  It was a 10 or 15 minute marshrutka ride from Sumqayıt.  From what I could tell it was the old train station for the city and people just sort of built houses around the station.  I remember very clearly being dropped off at Sumqayıt Station.  We were on a bus with a few other ‘clusters’ – groups of PC Trainees who lived together in these small villages around Sumqayıt.  We dropped the first group off in a little village near the Caspian, the next group in a green village full of trees with a breeze coming off the Sea, the next group had a similar sea-side hamlet.  Finally it was just us, The Station Girls, and another cluster going to a town called Tuq Zavod (which translates to ‘The 30th Factory’ or something with equal squalor).  We were huddled in the back of the sweltering bus watching the landscape get drearier and more dreadful. We turned onto a dirt highway and passed broken down factory after broken down factory.  We went over a perilous overpass and down into Tuq Zavod.  I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the Tuq Zavod trainees.  Their faces said, “Well… I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again…”  Then we drove on to The Station.  I can’t say it was any better than Tuq Zavod.  No trees, one street, one market, lots of concrete and lots of dirt.

As it turned out, I loved my cluster of fellow PCTs.  We were all girls (except Jesse, obviously, but he walked over the Tuq Zavod every morning for his Azerbaijani lessons).  All my cluster-mates were perfectly positive and lots of fun.  We would eat watermelon at each others’ houses while we sat in front of the fan.  They all liked to keep up with the drama at our house (until we had to be swept away in the middle of the night… that story will come in a later post…) and were always excited to see what “Drunk Uncle” and “Pregnant Uncle” would be doing next.  They all had wonderfully sweet host families who were generous enough to let us cook and eat in their homes.  We had some lovely meals together.  That’s what I remember most from The Station.

Me, Jen and Greta staying cool

It turned out that Sumqayıt was the petro-chemical capital of the Soviet Union.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russians left all their factories and plants overnight.  No one was ever able (or willing, perhaps) to clean them up, so they are just sitting there oozing poison into the ground.  Every now and then we would drive by a factory that had caught fire.  It would eventually burn itself out, but there was a constant smell of burning tires in The Station.  It’s a terrible situation that has no end in sight.  People live in those conditions their entire lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sumqayıt Station this past week because it’s been so hot here.  The Station was impossibly hot.  It was often over 100 degrees before 9am.  We felt deliciously cool when the temperature would drop to 90 at night.

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