…includes a beach, a birthday, & some big decisions. I’m within my last few days of being 23 & pretty excited for the shift I feel coming up. I’m bummed that I’ll no longer be able to sing along with Coolio during the “I’m 23 now but will I live to see 24” part with as much gusto as I have this year (& yes, I realize that I reference him a disproportionate amount on here for some odd reason), but overall I’m looking forward to the big 2-4 & all of the exciting changes that it will bring about. I’m hoping that starting the year out on an all-inclusive beach resort in Turkey will set a precedence for how I expect the rest of the 364 days to go. OK, mostly just kidding, but I am really pumped for the vacation starting tomorrow night & imagine I’ll hardly have to use my standard “It’s my birfday!” excuse because what on earth will I have to object to? I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I might even be able to wear flip flops sans socks without being scolded unless my friends/travel companions Ashley & Katelin have really assimilated . Exciting indeed.
The end of the vacay also happens to coincide with the 6 month mark on my remaining time here. 6 months is pretty much within the typical study-abroad duration range & I just so happen to know quite a few people who’ve studied abroad without wimping out or breaking down regularly. I think I’ve got this after all. 6 months was also my magic number for when the job hunt would begin in earnest, but I jumped the gun & started a little early this week with two big steps.
First & foremost I think I can safely burn my full length, puffy parka when I leave here because thanks to encouragement from my wonderful friends & support from my family I’ve decided to move to Austin 🙂 I would give the monstrosity of a coat to one of my friends here like I plan on doing with the rest of my clothes, but I’m pretty confident that they hate it just as much as me & would probably dance around the bonfire of the shapeless, style-less, sleeping-bag-of-a-coat with glee. Even more than unwarranted angst towards a jacket that really has kept me toasty warm here, I feel like I’m overflowing with hope, optimism, & the desire to spend all of my time on marshrutkas envisioning the life that I get to create in beautiful Texas. Now more than ever I’m extremely grateful for the chance to deliberately & thoughtfully choose my next step as it will likely be the one that starts the rest of my “adult life”. Yuck. Perhaps that knee-jerk & not exaggerated response implies that the “adult” thing is a long-shot, but at the very least I think a more responsible, stable, & social existence is in the works & certainly worth getting pumped about. The convenience of American transport is also greatly aiding my anticipation because if I’ve learned anything these past 20 months it’s that I need to hug my family on a more than annual basis. Luckily after some extensive Expedia searching I don’t think that will be an issue, especially if I manage to land a big girl job. I’ve been looking up plenty of those this week too & got the weirdest results from that search term. Who knew? Really though, despite the still shaky economy I was able to find quite a few promising opportunities. Ideally I’m hoping for a corporate communications position at a non-profit or at least a socially responsible company, but given the slightly unorthodox interviewing process that I’ll require (Skyping while sitting on a yoga ball with my apartment’s giant pastoral mural & glittery wallpaper in the background?) I think I may try for any marketing &/or PR positions that sound reasonable.
Eager to get the process started I opened up some old files from college & proceeded with the aforementioned second step- updating my resume. Surprisingly that turned out to be the harder task of the two. Tailoring everything from college was easy enough, but when it came time to add on there was a sudden & daunting twist. I got as far as typing & formatting my work place, title & dates (Peace Corps, TEFL Volunteer, September 2009-November 2011) & then spent a good ten minutes staring at the blinking cursor. I have absolutely no idea how to sum up the past two years in four bullet points. Everything sounds trite (taught English 20 hours per week, wrote & raised funds for two grants, ect.) & no amount of sprucing the vocabulary up will fully convey the real benefits that I feel like I’ll take from this. I’m pretty sure I could sell it in an interview, but on paper it’s falling a bit flat & I’m sounding a tad like a substitute teacher/camp counselor combo. Probably not on any HR wishlist. I suppose that’s why I started early though & will hopefully find a way to spin it as at least a creative alternative &/or conversation piece. Here’s hoping.
In other, happier news my trip to Odessa last weekend was delightful. I’m not sure why but I’d pictured the city (a famous seaport in the south) as trashy & wasn’t dying to visit until some friends who are leaving in a few weeks asked me to go. As has happened a time or two (or 3, or 114) before however, I was way off & surprised to find it was as pretty as Lviv but with a beautiful coast. I never realized how much I love being by water until I got here, but I think the years of boating have made me appreciate & need its calming presence & Odessa certainly delivered in that regard. The weather didn’t cooperate completely, but a warm blanket & an ipod full of Guster made for a perfect Sunday afternoon watching the waves as well as the teenage Ukrainian photoshoots that were happening all around. I’m not sure where they learn their moves but these people definitely know how to work it for the camera. I on the other hand stuck to photographing pigeons.
The streets were lined with cute outdoor cafes but I didn’t stop in a single one because they also had a stand that sold the best falafel I think I’ve ever had. I realize that my assessment could have a lot to do with the whole countless days of cabbage thing, but really it was so good that I think I ordered three over the course of the weekend & I know for sure that I ate it for breakfast twice. Just in time for my bathing suit debut too. Whoops, but well worth it. At only 4 hours by train & 7 hours door-to-door the trip was actually a lot shorter than I expected as well so hopefully I’ll be able to head back this summer.
Speaking of the train, on the way there I got to experience something that made me think I might be getting the hang of experiencing each day fully. I got on at 9am to find that my assigned seat was occupied by a snoring older woman who refused to move even after the conductor asked her. Eventually she relented & I made my bed & tried to sleep since I’d had 4am wakeup call to start the fun. At one point I woke up to her tucking the blanket in over my chin & then sitting at my feet & screaming loudly to her friends for the next hour. Eventually I had to get up & use the ever-unsanitary bathroom & when I returned her & her five equally tipsy & aged friends were sitting barefoot on my bed & pillow. Napping was obviously out of the picture so instead I spent the next three hours talking with them, listening to them berate me on not being married, looking through pictures of distant relatives of theirs that I could possibly marry, looking through pictures of their recently deceased husbands, consoling them through their tears, laughing with them until tears were provoked yet again, trying to convince them that I can in fact survive without eating meat, having a tupperware full of raw & fatty meat shoved forcefully in my face, being scolded for trying to put on makeup, having my hand grabbed & physically directed to program my number into their cellphones, taking pictures with them as their ‘American daughter’, & finally hugging & cheek kissing when we got to the station before going on our own ways. All before 1pm. It wasn’t until I retold the tale to my friend that I realized how horrible it all could sound, when in reality it was a kind of a fun trip. It could have easily been stressful on many a level, but I think after having a slightly better grip on cultural expressions plus increasing tolerance for non-existent space bubbles I was able to value their company & concern even if they expressed it in a particularly rambunctious fashion. But it’s a fairly fond memory nonetheless & at this point I’ll take all of those I can get. And on that note, I’m off to Turkey to make a few more. Hopefully some that involve a suntan 🙂