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~~Every journey must come to an end. For me that end began in September and will finish on December 10th. So pull out a suitcase, some paperwork and some final lessons here Under the Turkmen Sky.
During the first week of September we had our Close of Service (COS) conference, which was held in Krasnovost, a city on the shore of the Caspian Sea. It was a time to reflect on the last two years and look at the road ahead. It was nice being near the sea. It was interesting to think that there are volunteers there and how different it would have been to have spent the last two years in this more scenic surrounding. At the end of the conference we went out on a boat and were able to swim in the sea. It was a lot of fun. I dove once off the boat. The sea is known for having a lot of snakes in it, but I did no see any, just lovely surroundings, cool water, and good food.
The rest of September was a bit difficult as it took forever for my school to finalize a class schedule and without a schedule I could not teach. Finally by the end of the month I was able to start teaching classes regularly. Along with the schedule I was able to free up one morning each week so I could continue teaching my Kindergarten class. Most of the kids are new, but there are a few of the kids from summer. We have a great time learning numbers, colors and songs. I also began taking a little Nerf football which was sent to me forever ago. The kids love tossing it around, and it teaches them the words throw and catch, although they are much better at throwing than catching.
Wrapping up September also wrapped up Baseball season. We were able to arrange for players from a neighboring region to come and we arranged for the use of the local stadium. The kids were able to finally play on a nice grass field. Of course it doesn’t really matter who wins or loses, but my kids won by a lot. The best part of it was that they were not sore winners but maintained their discipline and strengthened their friendships with the players from the other team. And the best part of it all. No blood was spilt.

 October found me embarking upon my greatest in country journey. A journey that was six months in the making as I decided to try to travel to the southern part of my region and see the Kugitang Nature Reserve, which besides having mountains and nature to see is also home of a large inclined plateau with dinosaur footprints. So three of us obtained the special permits and through the help of a local teacher we traveled six hours to the south crossed the Amul River and made it to the nature reserve. The whole time I felt like I was in a completely different country. The scenery was so drastically different. Mesa’s and mountains dotted the landscape. It was the perfect back drop to film a western. The first day we went to the Cave of the Forty Girls. Legend had it that long ago a group of bandits were on their way to the area. The local girls not wanting to be carried off by them prayed for deliverance and the nearby mountain opened up giving them a place to hide. Now if you look hard enough and have a good enough imagination you can see them on the side of the mountain outside the cave. After the cave we went to the main attraction, the dinosaur tracks. It was quite a hike to get to the tracks, but it was well worth it. Not only was there a spectacular view from the plateau but then to be able to walk in the footprints of dinosaurs, it was truly amazing. From there we went to a waterfall. Well it wasn’t a waterfall at the moment, but they say during the spring there is a nice flow of water pouring down it. Still it was a great hike though the canyon. At night I saw the stars shine brightly for the first time in a very long time. The next day we went to a canyon and had a picnic and did some more hiking. Then we had a six hour ride back home. The trip was great fun. We just had one little problem. Our host was very kind and gracious while we were there and the whole time, even before we left we were under the impression that we wouldn’t have to pay for anything. So after returned I got a call from the teacher saying that our host called her asking for an outrageous sum of money. It was really ridiculous. We ended up determining what a fair amount was and with the help of a very kind local official everything was resolved. It was just so strange to be treated like a guest and then asked for an outrageous amount. It has been a great joke ever since.
Now my journey quickly comes to an end. In only nineteen days from the time I am writing this I will be boarding an airplane, perhaps never to return again. Now it does seem like the past two years have just flown by. For Under the Turkmen Sky this is James saying, “By the way, you all owe me two hundred dollars for having read this.” May the Lord bless you and keep you, always.

 


Submitted: May 17, 2015

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