Sunday, October 28, 2007

All my fingers and toes

Alright, I am back in Almaty, where I don't have to wear a fur coat outside, and I've got the full skinny of what happened on my site visit.

Train ride: Long, first time fun, second time boring. Lots of cards, some reading, and some sleeping. On the way back, 3 Americans and a couple confused Kazakhstani's. That's about all you need to know about that.

Zhelezinka: It snowed, but not deep enough to completely cover the ground. Apparently this was one of the worst times to visit. No grass because it's too cold, but not tons of snow to beautify all the dirt and empty fields. Ah well, I will see it in a bit. I stayed with my Counterpart (the guy I will teach with) and his wife adn 15 month old daughter. It hink this was all mentioned before. Anyway, it was a good time, but I didn't get out much to see the town and meet people which I wanted. I did meet some of the other teachers in the school, and will be living with on eof them. Later. Now, Zhelezinka hass only a couple paved roads, one that goes to Pavlodar and the rest are in the center. My home and school are on the edge of town, the southern edge I think. The school is big, with labeled classrooms, a good computer center, an air rifle range in teh basement, and a pretty good sports program. There is also some sort of sports club in town I can go to play volleyball or anything like that. I may take up hockey, we'll see. There are a couple good shops and some cafes, though they don't see much action. There is another PC volunteer in town who teaches at the Kazakh school, Nora Williams. She was cool, she can speak fluent Russian and pretty good Kazakh, so I've got some catching up to do.

I have a Russian language tutor who is like a grandma too me, feeding me large meals, drinking wine with her husband and speaking very slowly so I can understand. They're sweet people and lessons should be fun, since she doesn't speak any English and there will likely be a lot of confusion.

My host family is going to be a Tatar Muslim family. There is a mother (either widowed or divorced, I'm not sure) who is cheerful an dhas a good laugh an dis very patient with my Russian. My host sister is a 23 year old chemisty teacher at my school. There is a younger brother who is studying in Pavlodar I think, and that's it. My toilet is outide, no running water and heating is through a wood and coal stove. It's closer to what I expected from the PC, and should be pretty interesting. Though, being Muslim, it's not likely they'll feed me a lot of bacon.

I managed to stay warm enough in my fur/leather coat and a big furry hat on my head. My school has a group of male teachers that all hang out in the metal shop and talk between classes, so I'm thinking I can get in on this mens club. The military teacher in school greeted me in a store by yelling "Hey, shtata Washington!" so I think he and I are tight. I am having all the unmarried women pointed out to me by my CP ( I may have said this already) and one student already offered to have me over and she would make me tea and cook for me. Interesting.

Other things to tell...nothing really. I'm looking forward to really getting into my community, Nora seems to be really well connected, but I'm not looking forward to leaving my current host family. I have gotten close with them and definitely missed them during my site visit. They have made me feel very at home. Anybody that comes to visit me, I will take you to meet them and you'll understand my attachment. That's all though, Alex I hope Hockey is good for you (I'm thinking of trying to start my own team up here, we'll see how that goes, I may have identified a potential player but haven't asked him if he knows the game yet). Write some letters or emails, I love hearing from you all, and I promise there will be pictures in two weeks or less. Fso(that's all), Baka.


Anonymous said...

Privet, Jeff!!!

Awesome blog. Sounds like you're really enjoying my home country.

Hopefully you are looking forward New Year's - it will be more drinking and eaitng (but alas, more cold weather).


Anastasia Bannikova (from Almaty, but currently form Philadelphia, PA_

Genice said...

Hi Jeff,

I couldn't figure out how to email you, so I'm posting to your blog. I live in Oakland, CA and my daughter Jiana was adopted from Kazakhstan (Ecik baby house near Almaty in 2004). She was 8 months old at the time and 3 1/2 now.

Before our adoption, I spent a lot of time online trying to glean insight into the culture of Kazakhstan. But, as you've probably discovered too, there isn't a whole lot available in English about day to day live of Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis. This is a huge missing gap for the tens of thousands of families with children from Kazakhstan in English speaking countries.

I've recently been ponding the possibilities of starting a blog or wiki as a means to collect stories/interviews of people thoughout Kazakhstan conducted by Peace Corp volunteers. My ultimate purpose is to help children adopted from Kazakhstan increase their awareness about their heritage, enable them to understand their past and feel pride and confidence in themselves. More immediately, I hope to give families and parents of children adopted from Kazakhstan more context for the lives their children came from and to raise awareness of culture and societal values.

I was wondering what you thought about this idea and if you would be willing to help me promote this project among the current class of Peace Corp volunteers in Kazakhstan.

Thanks for considering.

Genice Jacobs

For a bit about Jiana and my story, here's a link to my story/blog on Tango Diva.

alex said...

Jeff is going to come back to the US married! I can't wait!

Trav said...

Muslim? crazy. i think Buddhism has made its way up there in the past as well.
Speaking of which, have you by chance encountered any of the Native Siberians during your stay? I'm learning about their cultures in class, the Evens, Evenkhs, Yanagirs, I forget who else.
They're mostly nomadic reindeer herders so maybe you won't see them.
Although I think some of them come to town a few times a year to resupply.