Thursday, January 31, 2013

Living the Dream

What a PCV Does in Her Spare Time
Yesterday after school, I settled in for a quick nap. I had about an hour before my fourth grade friends would start taking over my stoop for our weekly English LES. Before snoozing, I took some time to enjoy my inner sanctum - behind a closed bedroom door, shades drawn, and positioned in front of my fan on full blast. I indulged in three pre-packaged Mrs. Fields cookies* as I watched the final five minutes of a British mini-series, North and South, for the 17th time.

I’ve been doing this for the past week or so.

North and South (not to be confused with the Civil War mini-series starring Patrick Swayze) is a period piece about industrial England in the 19th century. It also stars the actor who plays the loveable character Bates** from Downton Abbey, which, incidentally, is another British show I've spent a lot of my second Peace Corps year catching up on.
Aside: Ironically, living in a country with a loose attachment to copyright laws, I am a full season ahead of my American brethren in Downton. While I've had a couple of months to deal with the trauma of episode 5 (a real doozy, eh?), my family and friends at home are freshly coping.
It's only recently occurred to me that I’ve spent a considerable amount of my Peace Corps laptop viewing time watching these shows, as well as a plethora of other period pieces (thanks, ALV and Brianna).

After some reflection, I think the reason I prefer these shows to, say, reruns of 30 Rock, is because I try to steer clear of any visual reminders of familiar places that I won't be able to get to for another five months or so. I also try to steer clear of any reminder of the existence of bagels. Sometimes, it's just too upsetting.

These period pieces, however -  they make me feel all comfy inside and happy to go on with my day because sometimes the similarities between these movies and my life are striking. 

  • Everyone is fully covered.
  • There are horse and buggies.
  • There is no hugging.
  • Everyone is pretty much the same color. 
  • Everyone calls each other by Mr., Mrs. , or Miss.
  • Even casual conversation seems so formal sometimes. And I usually can't catch when there has been an insult. 
  • Washing clothes and ironing takes forever, and, unfortunately, everything has to be ironed.
  • There is a lot of fainting.
  • Parties lack the rage-like qualities I'd prefer, but even in these formal worlds, life still finds a way to dance - whether it be via strictly choreographed ballroom moves or in aerobic routines performed to theme song from Titanic. 
Sadly, I don't have footage of the Titanic aerobics, but here is one of our standard senams to enjoy. 

  • If you have a few conversations with someone of the opposite gender, you could very well find the whole town planning your wedding.
  • And there are no bagels.
A rare mixing of the Downton cast I turn to for solace
and a visual of the city I try so hard to avoid.

Living the Dream
When I was 9 or so and home sick from school, my mom rented a couple of movies for me. They have since become my go-to viewing comfort in times of sickness. The couple of times I've been really under the weather here, I kept to this life-long ritual and invested the full eight hours watching the saga that is: Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea.***

A scrappy, loveable, book-loving orphan who finds family, love, and her way in life, set against the backdrop of a Canadian countryside. Sans all the dresses and the glass ceiling you can't help but keep knocking your head on - I always sort of felt this is the life I was meant to live.

I longed to be that young woman, living in a boarding house, always wearing her hair up, getting into amusing scrapes, riding her teach English...

Oh my.

There it is.

Short of smashing a slate over some boy's head or winning the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder story competition, turns out I'm living the life of that scrappy, loveable orphan!

Let's take a further look.  
We wear roughly the same clothes. 
Bicycles are how we get around.

We can often be found talking to ourselves. Flat Michael Cera, as well. 

Reading is considered weird.

There is a lot of same gender touching, whether you want it or not. 

Seasonal illness hits hard. In Canada, it's the croup. Here, it's the typhus and dengue. It wasn't until Flat Michael Cera coughed up the phlegm that he really began to improve.

We can partake in the joy of the seaside.

And, there you have it. I’m doing it! 

 Another dream achieved. 

Special Thanks
When times get dark here, there is really only one sure-fire cure: Flat Michael Cera photo shoot.

You did it again, FMC.**** Thanks to you and the kids of Gang Dua for helping me to keep living the dream.


*Thanks to Ma & Pa Fitz, Stamford Fitz's, Tesa, and Eva for making January 2013 the month of the Mrs. Field's cookie. This comes second only to November 2012 which will hence be known as the month that I ate my weight in Halloween candy. Special shout out to fellow NYC PCV, Bart, for mengantaring some of these baked goods from my brother's SoHo office all the way to Indonesia. 

**Ah, Bates. Although, there is that one unfortunate image I can't shake of his "naked, fleshy arm peeking over the blankets in his and Anna’s 'intimate' scene." Thanks to Lorene for capturing this jarring image in words. I had posted here, but I removed because it was scaring the children. 

***For those willing to sit through all eight hours of viewing (I made my poor brother, Michael, do this during one bout of illness), here are some treat guest appearances: 
  • A grown up Scutt Farkus from A Christmas Story. Learning, after all these years, that his character name is Scutt, and not Scott, was some of the most interesting news I'd heard since discovering Mark-Paul Gossalaar's mother is from Bali (thanks for that one, JT).
  • And some of the guys from Kids in the Hall - Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch  
****As FMC was originally created and delivered by Trish, she does deserve some credit here.