Friday, September 25, 2009

9.24.09--Nuttier than Squirrel Shit…

9.24.09--Nuttier than Squirrel Shit…

Today was a good example of the peculiar situations that come free with Peace Corps servitude. I arrived at my office today ready for some thorough Russian studying—день как день—a typical day for you novice Rusky students. Everything was normal except for an inordinate amount of farming brochures lying on the main table. Soon after my partner came in with a hurried look on his face carrying a projector and a large screen for it. He mentioned that today we have a seminar in a nearby village and asks if I want to come because we will be leaving shortly. After standing awkwardly for a few minutes I realized that meant it was still going to be awhile and I took a seat.

We packed up the car (I believe a Volkswagen Golf) and headed to the seminar. I sat in my normal seat in the front where a combination of my “big boy” status and the seatbelt being semi-broken makes the closest thing I have to a seatbelt is the oh-shit handle located above the window.

After driving for awhile we came to a standard intersection where a police officer happened to be standing. We pulled off to the side of the road quickly, coming to a stop behind a car that had done the same thing. I figured this must have something to do with the cop, I assumed he would be coming to talk to us shortly. After about 5 minutes of waiting my partner gestured for me to put my seatbelt on quickly or at least act like it. I did and we pulled back on to the road and slowly passed by the officer who had been essentially kicking rocks this entire time. We turned left and parked on the opposite side of the intersection and waited for an additional 5 minutes, for what, at this point I don’t know. The car started to get hot so I decided to get out of the car and mimic the police officer by kicking rocks me in my own way, with a cell phone Sudoku fashion. A few more minutes went by and my partner broke the Sudoku silence by telling me to close the door, which I did, only to watch him drive off in a hurry, leaving me standing next to an older gentleman that couldn’t help but stare at the American. Ditched—I didn’t know just yet.

At this point I realized this was humorous and I should be telling someone about it. I called a friend and talked about the ensuing awkwardness. After another few minutes I realizes my partner had actually just parked a few blocks down the road and has not left his car. This you have to understand is both relieving and disappointing at the same time. On the hand it is great to have a ride, but on the other it would be a better story if that was the last time I saw him for the day. Another minute or two go by and he is pulling up to the same spot he initially left from and telling me to get in the car. I get in and we drive—maybe 20-30 feet forward—coming to another stop just off the road where a semi truck was getting weighed previously. Maybe, I think, we were waiting to get weighed on the scale. I have no idea why, but maybe. Just then, the original rock kicker, as if suddenly woken from his daydream, saw us and immediately approached the car and told us to move. My partner turned the car around and proceeded to turn left again parking on the broad shoulder of the road, now directly across from the direction we first came from.

As we approached the 20-minute mark of twiddling the thumbs, I was busy formulating my strategic walk through the grammatical minefield that is Russian. When out of nowhere a bus pulled up and the keynote speaker for the seminar stepped off. At some point in that 20 minutes of waiting I had realized that we were probably waiting for someone to arrive, although as to why the parking spot of the car required changing 5 times all within a block radius. I have no idea…

And it is more interesting that way.


  1. You are in a strange land, my friend :) ??

  2. Aaron:

    I am COO of Water Charity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does water, sanitation, and public health projects worldwide. We have recently started a new initiative, Appropriate Projects, to fund small water and sanitation projects very quickly.

    I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Bolivia ’66-’68), and am well aware of the difficulties Volunteers face in the field. Water Charity has successfully completed projects of various sizes in cooperation with the Peace Corps. However, it occurred to me that we needed to further simplify the process for volunteers to get things accomplished. This prompted me to develop the Appropriate Projects initiative.

    Often there is that little project that must be done now (before the rains start, before school starts, or whatever), but there are no funds available. Traditional funding sources are cumbersome, and there are long forms, detailed requirements, limited resources, and long delays.

    Appropriate Projects has a very specific and immediate goal: We want to help you do your favorite project now.

    If you are working in water and sanitation, I know you have a bunch of projects lined up. If you are working in other project areas, there are usually water components to your projects, or facilities needed where you work or teach.

    Sample projects may be: a rainwater catchment, handwashing stations for a school, water for a clinic, piping, pumps, sinks, latrines, etc.

    We also like to “finish” projects that have been started, and “fix” things that have ceased to function.

    We encourage follow-up projects that expand upon the successful completion of the first small project.

    So, check out the Appropriate Projects website at If you have a project in mind, please fill out the application form. We want this to be easy for you, so we have developed a simple form that you can fill out in one sitting.

    If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your project, or you need some time to get it together, just let me know.

    If you do not have a project that qualifies, please pass this message on to your fellow Volunteers who may have an interest. Finally, if this initiative resonates with you, please let others know what we are doing through your social networks, websites, and blogs.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Averill Strasser

    Appropriate Projects

    Water Charity