Wracked with survivor’s guilt after a tragic car accident, a young woman finds herself looking for meaning in Uzbekistan:
One of the few Peace Corps pamphlets I ever read came to my home in Arizona about three weeks before my departure to Uzbekistan. I don’t think I read all the way through, but it told me that I should only bring what I could carry, so I arrived in Philadelphia for a three-day staging event before I would leave the country for two years with relatively few belongings. “What You Should Know About Uzbekistan” said that Uzbekistan got very cold in the winter, it being one of two doubly landlocked countries, the other being Liechtenstein, causing the seasons to be very extreme, with winters often below freezing and summers exceeding 100 degrees. But the hot Arizona summer of 2003 made me regard the prospect of cold weather as a down-right lie: I didn’t bring boots, nor a hat nor a scarf. I didn’t even bring a pair of jeans because the pamphlet said that Uzbek women wore skirts for daily attire, and I wanted to be just like the Uzbeks. I did, however, bring a laptop computer to document bits and pieces of my life (which I didn’t use until I got over my fear of electrical surges about four months into my service). Besides that, I had one traveling backpack and one suitcase, half of which contained books, mostly poetry books: Dunn’s Between Angels, Alice Notley’s Waltzing Matilda, and the 5 pound, 2000 page Norton Anthology of Poetry, 4th Edition.