Berline Exume, 130 TESS
I have to admit that I am not big on making friends. I have found ways in my life to be friendly, but not let that friendliness evolve into friendship. Most of my friends have been around since before I can remember; they have had the chance to see me grow and blossom into the woman that I am today. They accepted me long ago. I’ve played it safe for years, making sure to not let too many people get too close. Then, I joined the Peace Corps and was thrusted into a room of three, well-versed, unique men. I befriended them, especially the one who was the complete opposite of me, Andrey.
I am a Bible-reading, church-going Christian; Andrey, thinks God is a figment of our imaginations. Andrey will eat less than pleasing Thai food to make others happy; I would never. Andrey overthinks his job as a teacher; I just try to do my best and have fun along the way. Andrey doesn’t think people can change; I do. I am an extroverted introvert; Andrey is just an introvert. Andrey will judge you even if you are his friend; I reserve my judgements for celebrities. At this point, I think you get it; we are different.
If it were not for our similar paths crossing, I don’t know if we would be friends. Because we are different, I don’t know if we would have the same level of patience and tolerance that we do for one another at any other point in our lives. The thing is, that is what makes our friendship so alluring. We are two individuals who made a silent agreement to support one another despite our differences. Andrey has been one of the best things that happened to me in Thailand. In the past, when it was time to say something special about one another, I simply said, “there’s not enough words.” He assumed that I was just using it as a “cop out,” as though I didn’t actually have anything to say. I still stand by that notion, “there’s’ not enough words.”
What I can say, with the words that I do have is this, Andrey is an amazing friend. He is someone who always calls to check in at the right time. He has helped me to look inside of myself more than I’ve ever wanted to. He makes me uncomfortable as a way to push me out of my created comfort zones. He’s funny, in his own way *inserts lol*. More than anything, he cares. I have never had to second guess his care for me. The Peace Corps is the hardest job you will ever love, but it’s still hard. Having a good friend, or two will be the remedy to getting through those tough times. I am super fortunate that I get to this chapter of my life with such a special human being in my corner.
Andrey Shamshurin, 130 TESS
I don’t think I can write about how great Berline is and how happy I am that we are friends. All of these thing are true. But they don’t do a good job of showing you a person. We don’t connect to somebody because they are great and nice. We connect, really connect to people, because they have layers… because people are contradictory, hard and soft and real; it’s a chaotic mess of laughter, frustration and understanding, and in that instability, we may find a piece of connection.
Here are some of Berline’s phrases from conversations we have had. I’m sure she might dispute the wording, but these are fairly accurate with a margin of error for faulty memory and a few Changs too many.
“Why do you talk about philosophy? It’s boring.”
“I’m anemic. The doctors just haven’t found it yet.”
“One day, I’m going to die. So, who cares if my kids learn a-aaa-apple?”
“Andrey, your writing is weird and depressing. You don’t believe people can change, and it has no hope… but outside of that, it’s pretty good.”
“Ron maak maak is the most annoying phrase in the world. Maaaaaaaaaaaak maaaaaaaaaak.”
“Yesterday, my kids drew a vagina on the board to show me my skirt was too short.”
“I hate animals, so they put me on a goat island.”
“The dogs are conspiring against me.”
“This girl in my school provokes the monkeys and runs away from them. I just don’t get it.”
“I’m an anomaly living inside an anomaly.”
“Sometimes, I don’t want to hear how much difference I’m making or to evaluate my life… I just want to go home.”
“I don’t want to go home. I think I am at peace here.”
“I just want a platonic millionaire friend who pays for my lifestyle.”
“I walked into my room and half of it was gone. My host mom asked me why I’m crying.”
“My man has to be tall, dark, and handsome.”
“I’m not making excuses. I’m just stating facts about why I didn’t pick up the phone.”
“I was just telling somebody how dedicated you are, Andrey.”
“After visiting America, I realized people don’t wait for you. Life goes on. You had all these adventures and life, and they’re still going to the gym and it’s like, whatever. In Thailand people are happy to see you. They are just happy with what they have. I like that.”
“I don’t want anything. I just called to see how you are doing.”
Andrey and Berline’s story is part of a series about “Finding Love in the Peace Corps.” Along with Andrey and Berline‘s past contributions, check out previous articles in this collection.
Categories: Articles, Finding Love in the Peace Corps, Stories
Hi – if you are the Andrey Shamshurin who wrote “The Prophet of Taco Bell” which was published in The American River Review, and haven’t heard this – I’m pleased to inform you that the story was selected to be read as part of the Stories on Stage Sacramento special event highlighting the writing by Los Rios Community College Students. You were sent a couple of emails and didn’t respond, so I went on line and based on these posted stories I think you may be with the Peace Corps in Thailand. We’ve invited you to attend the reading and, before the actor reads the story, say a few words about it at the event, which is Friday, September 27. So. (1) Are you in Thailand? and (2) If you are, will you be back in the country and available to attend the event? or (3) are you in Sacramento and just haven’t answered yet? Please let me know at email@example.com, and also please copy the event producer, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also we’ll need a brief biography and photo to promote the event. Thanks so much. Sue Staats, Coordinator for Stories on Stage Sacramento