Adaptation

The idea started in my feet. After devouring “Born to Run” I’ve been thinking about form when I run, and I’m currently experimenting with toe striking and shorter strides. An idea germinated in my feet while trying this out, I wondered whether and how long it would take for my foot to get accustomed to this new form, after literally thousands of miles using heal strike. I think it will adapt, and adapt fast. What scares me is that I think I will adapt even if this isn’t a biomechanicaly correct running method. That thought propelled me into thinking about how I am becoming accustomed to living in Sergeyevka. Granted that adapting is a relative state of being, the weeks seem to be ticking by faster and faster. It seems like I just arrived yesterday, and I’m already finishing up week five. As is often the case when running, this idea bounced along, and finally found itself in the realm of the current book I’m reading, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

 

Maybe because I’m not inundated with depressing sociology papers, or constantly being bombarded with global trauma by the mass media, this book is shocking the hell out of me. It’s difficult for me to grasp a scenario where people could treat one another so viciously and be so ignorantly convinced of their natural superiority over another human being. It’s equally hard imagine that enslaved people were able to live, breathe, and function at all in the face of the shit that was piled on them. Think for a minute that at the end of the day, both the master and the slave would fall asleep in their beds, both human,with the same DNA, same body structure, and same desire to avoid suffering. The thing is though, I wonder if the same thing that allowed the slave to keep going day in and day out, allowed the master to keep brutalizing the enslaved. Humans adapt, we adapt fast, and we adapt well, and we can become accustomed to just about anything. Our salvation and our curse. Even if one thinks that all people are intrinsically good, history clearly shows that we have the capacity to create massive suffering, as is seen in war, genocide, crusades, torture, and slavery. The common denominator seems to be that the people creating the suffering have become accustomed to thinking of their victims as less human than themselves.

 

So to wrap up this rant, I was running through the steppe thinking about my feet, but my mind wandered and got me wondering how we humans can possibly govern one another, but also knowing that leaving direct rule to the masses would be even more dangerous, especially in this age of fast and cheap mass dissemination of media. I couldn’t come up with any answers other than a vague idea of an even stronger form of constitutionalism, and some sort of vetting process of candidates for political office. Anyways, I’m curious to see how my feet will hold up, or whether I’ll just change back my form.

 

My friend told me the other day that she’d call once a week just to make sure that I stopped talking about “being one with the snow.” She may be on to something, but creating my own running trails through the steppe leaves me no choice but to love the snow or hate it. Yesterday’s warm (10 degree), sunny, and windless weather made me feel that I had just taken a happiness pill, and running through the snow felt like reuniting with a former lover in a  new context. I’ve learned to anticipate and adapt to how snow feels under my skis, but this is the first time I’ve done any serious running in it. I’m just beginning to learn its patterns and textures indicating depth and resistance, in theory allowing me to run more efficiently. Efficiency wasn’t the point though, and every once in a while I would get lost in wonder at the glittering diamonds reflected by the sun, lose focus, and trip and fall on my face. When the sun comes out here, life is stunningly beautiful. We are far enough north that when the sun is out, it appears as though the it is in a constant sunrise and sunset, which it more or less is.

 

My presence in this village has gotten a little bit stranger since the full-page spread in the local paper titled “Meet Mr. Collin.” Now everyone in Sergeyevka knows that Drayton was studying in New York, mom is a school “director,” and dad is a “businessman.” Some things were lost in translation, but from what I could figure using my limited Russian and google-translate, everything seemed favorable, which I appreciated. In order to maintain that favorable opinion at work, I’ve been forgoing my ride and walking the 30-40 minutes to school in the pitch black in order to arrive on-time. Although it is dark and windy, it’s nice to be moving early in the morning, and I’ve even been stopped a couple of times and offered rides. I’m also walking because I’m trying to wear myself out enough to fall asleep at night. It’s always hard to pinpoint why one is sleepless, but I think currently it’s a combination of lack of stimulation and cold. I expected the boredom, and am working on ways to deal with it, the cold though has been a little bit rough.

 

I wish that dad were here to assess the building schematics of our house, but with my layman’s eye, it seems that the problem is that there is no substantial (if any) insulation. Basically the house is just a cement foundation with concrete blocks built up from it. The cold itself isn’t the problem, (I was sleeping great at -35) it’s the wind. The winds here blow strong, and lately have been blowing around the Tibetan prayer flags that I have hanging up…in my room. I’ve been sleeping in long underwear, workout spandex, a hat, and wool socks, under three warm blankets, and I’m still cold. If this continues, I may end up bringing down my sleeping bag, which I’ve kept away because it sheds. I don’t want to though, because literally one night in that bag and it looks like I killed a flock of geese. My exhaustion strategy worked yesterday though, so I may not resort to a room full of goose down.

 

I don’t have to worry about keeping my feet warm though, because the most amazing and beautiful person that I’ve ever met sent me two gigantic Homer Simpson slippers. I owned a pair when I was younger, but I’m sure that I didn’t derive half of the satisfaction from them that I do now. Not only are they perfect for practicality sake, but the looks I get from my host family are priceless, they love them. All in all though, life is going well. I’m enjoying my classes, I have a good relationship with both my counterpart and host-family, and I’m starting to get used to being here. I do however miss the commercialized monster that is Christmas in America, and I’m not being sarcastic. I believe Christmas is the one positive externality of our culture shameless consumerism, so soak it up and enjoy it!

 

Collin

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6 Responses to Adaptation

  1. Carol Markham-Cousins says:

    As I sit here and the snow just keeps on falling and falling and falling, it is such a pleasure to read your thoughts about what is happening in your life. Your descriptions of running, society and your life in the Peace Corps is comforting to read and inspiring. I do not often slow down and just look or ponder, this morning the snow and your words have given me this opportunity. Why am I so fortunate and others suffer so deeply? On such a beautiful day, where the wind is howling and creating a blizzard I sit in this warm house looking out at the frozen creek preparing to cook. That’s what you do when there is a blizzard. Cook. I am not one to take time to “deep” clean, but cooking is another matter. Collin, think about what special food you want me to send in your next package. The humous or tabouli won’t last the 3 week trip, but smoked oysters or picked pigs feet would. Think about it and let me know.
    love you soo very much,
    Mom

  2. Beth Russell says:

    I also took time to read your blog on our snowy day and then respond today. I love reading your thoughts and experiences. Savor the time and experiences. Even when things get really hard, you will look back upon this time with wonderful memories. When you talked about your birthday celebration, I couldn’t help think about “It’s a Wonderful LIfe”. You have made an impact on the people in this town in a very short amount of time!! Think of what you can do in 24months!!! We are thinking of you and sending good wishes to you and all the people you touch. I’d love to see some photos! Take care and we’ll be in touch.
    Beth Russell

  3. Rick Cousins says:

    You seem to have really found a key, Collin, to not only make the best of your time, but to provide your readers with thought provoking insights to a life that we can live vicariously through you! To quote our favorite former president: “Bring it on.”

  4. Lora Koppel and the entire Stege family says:

    So I hear Jan and I are only “kinda funny”.

  5. jan Martland says:

    HA HA HA HA! Very funny Mr. Collin! I do LOVE reading your blogs, you are such an excellent writer! I am however a little curious about your comment where running in the snow is like “reuniting with a former lover…” WHAT?!?!??!?! (I guess you forgot to fill us in about that one, but I’ll look forward to reading about it in your next blog)! We miss you back here! We wish you a very Merry Christmas Collin!
    XOXO,
    Jan and the fellas

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