No matter where you are in the world, eventually your life takes on a feeling of routine and normality, if only to save your brain from the constant stress of having to think about every detail of your daily life. They told us that this was part of the reason that we were so tired during our first few months in Kazakhstan; our brains had to spend lots of energy thinking about actions that previously took almost no thought at all, like figuring out how to brush your teeth without running water or how to buy an apple from the store. But your brain adapts and you find a sense of normalcy and, eventually, even boredom in life abroad.
It is during this boredom, extenuated by isolation from friends and the outside world, that I have begun to latch onto the small things to add interest to my life. This can be as simple as getting excited about the fact that we have cabbage soup rather than potato soup for dinner (cabbage has more vitamins, right?) or being able to carry on a five minute conversation with my fellow teachers about how the bus was actually on time today. It also means that I am currently very excited about a blister I got while washing clothes. (Obviously inordinately excited, since I'm writing a blog about it for the whole world to read. But I see my blister as a type of battle scar, worth bragging about.) It's on the top of my palm on my left hand, right where I have to ring everything out after each of three rinses before hanging the clothes up to dry. This blister has prevented me from washing my black tights, therefore reducing me to wearing nylons instead, which leaves me in deathly fear of getting a run in them so I walk extra slowly across any patches of gravel and rocks, almost making me miss the bus this morning. But I don't mind, because I'm very excited about my blister!
I'm also overly excited about my new haircut. Most of the styles sported around my school are varying degrees of the fem-mullet, so I put off getting my hair cut for much too long because of my deathly fear of emerging from the barber's with my own mullet nightmare. Finally, I gathered up my courage, practiced the motions I would make to the hairdresser showing her how I didn't want a mullet countless times in front of the mirror, and then went to one of the most expensive beauty salons in the nearby city. (I'm nowhere near brave enough to face my village's barbers yet.) Considering the year's worth of buildup to this moment, it's no surprise that I emerged from the salon completely ecstatic about my new bob. Granted, it was a little lopsided, and I had trim it up myself, but I don't have a mullet, so I'm satisfied.
And you can just imagine the excitement I felt when I actually understood what they were saying on the news. Russian newscasters speak even faster than their American counterparts, and use all sorts of educated vocabulary, so I usually rely on the pictures to tell me what's going on in the world. These pictures are invariably of a giant flood somewhere in the world or a row of shiny John Deere combines cutting swaths of golden wheat. So, understandably, my knowledge of world events is slightly skewed. It's reached the point where I often don't even listen anymore, because, after straining to understand the rapidly spoken Russian, it turns out that they're just talking about the newest shipment of tractors from America. But recently, there's been a lot of news coverage about the education system in Kazakhstan. And since anything about schools deals directly with my life, I decided to listen closely. And, how exciting, I understood what they were talking about! In the report they interviewed the Minister of Education and Learning, and he was talking about how Kazakhstan has the best school system in the world. He also mentioned how they were going to increase the prestige of teachers by raising their salaries by 25%, although the government has been promising to do this since last year and it hasn't happened yet. I hope the funds come through this year.
So it's these little things that I've been turning to lately for entertainment and a sense of accomplishment. I wonder what it says about a person if they feel proud about a blister or a non-mullet hair cut?