Volunteerism and Exodus

As I use my incisors to tear into old dry horseflesh, not of the smoked kind, I wonder at my life. Just wonder. I also wonder when my host-sister demands to braid my hair as I work on a Cinco De Mayo presentation for my class. I wonder when I’m thinking by myself, I wonder when I look at a calendar, I wonder when I listen to hiphop. I do not wonder when I run through herds of sheep and cows as I run on the steppe, or hold my two year-old sister as we talk to my mom on skype, or when I play barefoot soccer with my host brother. But those moments when I’m sitting by myself on old abandoned buildings in order to smoke and think in peace, I wonder.

Wondering though, that’s a luxury. Life is easy, I have hard-boiled eggs in front of me, a cat on my lap, and a Selena Gomez poster that came with my new room. And now I want to do work here; I didn’t before. I came to Kazakhstan because I wanted to leave the United States, see something new, learn a new language, and have an adventure. I did not come to do good. Not saying I came to do bad, but I came for me. The idea of doing good, representing country and all that shit is developing as I go. I came for the same reason I did my solo South America trip in college, I wanted a quest. I got normalcy, which I should have expected. There are still quest aspects, and maybe it will become more quest-like as I continue, for now I’m just living the good life on the farm. New appreciation though for looking different though. In Minnesota, nobody cared if I went running, bought milk, smiled, or walked down the street. Here everything I do is hilarious, strange, significant. Doing pullups on our meat dressing bar got me on the headlines, walking barefoot gets me in the news, and I can’t imagine what people say about my short-shorts. The other day I was hiking across our dam with a backpack full of books, two eggs, three pieces of bread, and my water bottle. This police was giving me such a stink eye that just as I was about to enter the free zone I hopped the concrete barrier that separates the public from Sergeyevka’s heavily guarded…grass. He flipped and started screaming at me. I grinned and bellowed back at him, slowly stepping over the fallen barbed-wire fence into the legal grass. He looked as though he was going to wet his little blue suit.

Back to what I was saying though, I want to work now. A little bit. What I’m trying to say is that now I actually know people here, have relationships with people, and although who knows what will happen tomorrow, that means that I actually want to work with them. Volunteering/development is still as self-promoting as anything, but now I can benefit more. There are a few people, that you come across every once in a while who are much much better than the rest of us, they seem to operate on a different level. They wouldn’t be caught dead blogging about their life, or whoring themselves on websites or tv. I see development tv spots, and development websites and I want to scream Admit it, it’s all about you!!! Here, I’m screaming, I admit it, it’s all about me, I really am just a selfish piece of shit!!! I may be too harsh, but at the very least I’m not excluding myself. The more I think about it and work myself into an absurd frenzy, I almost have more respect for Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian who are at least honest about their meager intentions. Respect for their latter however may come from a slightly different place altogether. There are some people though, who are better than this, and it seems you have to come on them by accident. I’ve met a few, but one that I’ll never forget was a man in Haiti. Brilliant, born in money, full of compassion. He just did. Didn’t waste his time raising money, didn’t plaster his name or face anywhere, just worked, thought, and lived life without giving a damn. I take that back, he gave a damn, but he didn’t give a damn about us, the rest of the world. Best money I ever spent when I ran through the streets of Port-au-Prince late at night to buy him a beer and listen to him talk.

Weird world. The two year-old is stuck on her kiddy toilet watching videos of herself on a cell-phone. There is though an element of realism that gets to kids here in a good way though. We got a bunch of baby geese today, and when we were washing their legs with vodka I asked my host-brother what they were for. Stupid question I read on his fifth grade face, and as he picked up another gosling he said The meat tastes good. We can probably eat them in five months or so. I just imagined some little kid in America (me in fifth grade), having a little kid fit at the thought of killing the adorable puff balls, and then being consoled with a chicken dinner. Hell, that kinda happened today as I choked back a tear, and handed him another baby to wash. Then I went to the john for a good dose of Henry Miller, which is one of the two massive and extraordinarily sexual books I’m reading right now. Well, the Rosy Crucifixion is very sexual, but the Bible just has a lot of sex, and weirder sex too, and way way more violence. Henry Miller was banned for a while in the United States for being obscene. The Bible though is a treasure trove of interesting tidbits that makes me want to read more and more, I’m only in the Old Testament, but so far there’s been incest, lots of slaves and sex with slaves, tons of pretending your wife is your sister just to save your own skin, slaughter, a very obstinate Pharaoh, and the following from Exodus 21: When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

This is right above the oft-quoted eye for eye, tooth for tooth… I’ll remember that one.

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3 Responses to Volunteerism and Exodus

  1. Joe Ockwig says:

    I enjoy reading your posts. If you could down load
    Don’t be nice, Be real. by Kelly Bryson. I think it
    would resonate with you.
    Joe.

  2. Rick Cousins says:

    Collin,
    Wonder. 1a) One that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise or admiration; a marvel. 2) An event inexplicable of the laws of nature; a miracle. 3) A feeling of puzzlement or doubt.
    It appears that your Peace Corps experience is beginning to gel into a kind of result that we could all wish for. Clearly, you understand the value of spending a significant amount of time in a different place by yourself. You have now spent more time in the PC than we spent in Ecuador. I appreciate how you express yourself in this latest post, and you have inspired me, and perhaps others, to wonder a bit also.
    In about a month you will be squiring your mother and brother around that awe inspiring place. Please know how much that I would like to be there too. With love from your dad

  3. Mary McCrossan says:

    Hi Collin!
    It’s wonderful that you wonder so much. It’s something all of us should do more often, if only we would slow down and take the time to do it! I often wonder what it would be like to have the courage to go on a journey such as yours!
    Mary

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