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~~Here we meet once again, with this time to reminisce upon my latest happenings in this far off place. Not only this time has another month gone by in my journey, but another year has passed in my life. So pull up a patch of sand and sit back as we meet now under the Turkmen Sky.
 The beginning of the month saw me traveling to Ashgabat to as coach of a public speaking team, more about that later. I was fortunate that there happened to be a Peace Corps vehicle in town which was heading back the same day I needed to go, so I hitched a ride and finally traveled the long stretch of highway which once comprised part of the Silk Road. Being the beginning of spring it was a beautiful time to travel. As what is usually brown desert was covered in a soft sheet of green, founded by the recent rains. As we passed through one region I kept seeing people sanding on the side of the road holing out bags of something, proffering to motorist to buy. The bags appeared to contain something round and white, which I could only guess was either cookies or some other type of baked goods. Finally we made a rest stopped and upon closure inspection I saw they that bags were not filled with cookies or baked goods at all, but with fresh picked mushrooms. After the three hundred mile, seven hour journey, we finally reached the city.
 During the previous month I had began assisting in the coaching of a Public Speaking/ Debate team in preparation for an upcoming tournament at the local American Corner. The American Corner is a learning center sponsored by the USA where people can come in use the internet for free, learn about educational opportunities and learn English and other things through clubs that are organized there. At first when I had been asked to help coach a debate team, I very reluctant, since I know very little about debate, but when I learned that public speaking was also involved I agreed, since I know a little something about that. So for four weeks, I taught about public speaking and we practiced, drilling proper speaking techniques and ways to improve in delivery and content of ones speeches. Finally after much work the day of the tournament came, and competitors gathered from all five regions of the country. The tournament consisted of four competitions, oratory speech, impromptu speech, public forum debate, and parliamentary debate. In the impromptu speech portion competitors were given three quotations in English, and had only seven minutes to prepare and deliver a speech focused on one of the three quotations. Each team was allowed two competitors in this portion. I was so happy when both my competitors passed on to the second round. It was wonderful to see them compete. To see the progress they had made over so little time. While one of my competitors just barely missed placing, I was amazed to see someone who only weeks before could not deliver a speech without bursting into either nervous laughter or tears, stand there poised and collected and give a speech. My other competitor hands down took first place delivering the most well thought out and speech, and even used a quote from a song I had given during training. During the oratory speech the competitors had five to seven minutes to deliver a speech they had written themselves prior to competition. My competitor used a speech written during practice based on a quote I had given them from Franklin Delanore Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Once again my competitor hands down took first place. These victories along with the debate competitors taking second place in each debate event gave my team the overall tournament victory, and they took the trophy home. I felt so proud of them. It was an amazing feeling to coach that team. To all the time keep them motivated and help them improve. I felt just like Phil from the Disney Hercules cartoon, as they said, “Look there’s James’ kids.”
 I had my longest Birthday ever this month, which I guess makes sense since this is the oldest I have ever been. It began the Saturday prior to my Birthday when some of us volunteers got together and made hamburgers and visited. On the morning of my birthday I was awoken at 5 am by a lot of noise coming from the chicken coop. The last time that much noise came from there a cat had gotten inside. So I went out to look. When I looked in there wasn’t a cat at all, but three freshly hatched baby chicks, just in time to share my Birthday with me.  That day my host family threw I nice large lunch for me.  In the evening I went to the home of my students with the Grandmother who had been to the US. It was also their cousin’s birthday, so we celebrated together. The next day at school the teachers I worked with made a Birthday lunch for me. Three days of friends, food, and cake. I guess it was a day for each ten years.
 Well those are the highlights from the last month. Until the next time we meet this James saying, “Hey those cookies taste like mushrooms.” May the Lord bless and keep you.


Submitted: May 17, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Mist James. All rights reserved.


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