Okay, here’s another sweet blog. It’s been about a month I guess since I’ve gotten on the internet and sent any real, meaningful messages, so I’m going to pack them all into this one mega message. It’s gonna take some work figuring out what all happened in the last few weeks, but I’ll piece it together.
Every group in Kazakhstan has to organize a community project. The goal is to involve the people of your community and do something meaningful and maybe even helpful for them. Our group of 11 volunteers in Kaskelen decided to put on a cultural celebration at our school. With much help from the directors and other staff of the school we had a big festival one Sunday morning. There was only a turnout of maybe 100 or so spectators, but we had dancing, singing, some sweet juggling (that was me), and an amazing skit about the Peace Corps. Everybody seemed very entertained and we were told by our supervisors that it was one of the better they’ve seen.
The highlight of the festival, at least for me, was our rendition of Kazakhstan living. The song was written and performed by us volunteers. Set to the tune of Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones with a guitar accompaniment by Casey Meyering (also a UW graduate, 07 by the way) and some harmonica solo by Drew Stinson. I’ll put out the words here, you can try and sing along if you’d like. We will be performing it probably twice more, so hopefully I can get some video and set it up for you guys. I will be the guy standing as far away from the microphone as possible.
Walkin down the street, road beneath my feet in Kaskelen
Lookin for shashlik (really tasty kabob) and tryin hard to speak pa-ruskie (in Russian)
Ya ochetil b shkoloo Kierembekov E Belinski (I teach in Kierembekov and Belinksy school)
If you see me in the halls, just say "Hello!"
Cause it’s Kaaaaaaazakhstan Livin!
Gimme, gimme, gimme the Kazakhstan life
Sitting at the table smia simya (my family)
Kooshit kooshit I can’t eat no more
Eatin lots of meat I’m getting tons of gristle
And this bisbarmak is starin up at me
Goin to the banya cmia papa
Sweat is drippin out of every pore
Takin quite a beating from this oak branch
Zharka Zharka (hot) get me out of here!
It’s much better set to music and with actual singing, not reading. Trust me. You’ll see.
Anyway, after the song and dance business, the director of our school invited us to a feast of traditional Kazakh foods. Guess what that included. Sheeps head. My first experience with it, I was given some meat from around the lip. Honestly, it didn’t taste so bad, but the head was sitting on the table and looking right at me, and I was having a little trouble, but I got it all down without a problem. Not something I want to repeat, but I think I can manage. The rest of the food was pretty good, but we also tried Camels Milk (drinkable but not too good) and Mares Milk (I had two sips and it was so sour I thought my head was going to turn inside out). It was all pretty interesting though, we made rounds of toasts and drank some vodka and cognac.
At this point the director left, and we were getting ready to leave as well, when a group of teachers from the school came in with a bottle of vodka. They told us there is a tradition that if you get up from the table and you aren’t wobbling, then you need to stay and drink some more. So they filled a bowl with the fifth of vodka and told us we had to pass it around the table and say one wish for ourselves and one wish for everybody else. This woman also decided that I would be the last one in line, and the last person is supposed to drain whatever is left in the bowl. Well anyway, it went around the table, it got to me and there was still a sizeable amount left, so I drank my fair share, but decided to include these teachers. When I handed the bowl off though, the produced another bottle and filled it up again and went at it, but threw Casey and I in there again. I had to take two more huge mouthfuls, as did two other of my volunteers. All in all, not my favorite game, but you guys should give it a shot at home. It really brings you together.
Okay, and the last note from the Kazebration. At the end of the singing and dancing, we held a soccer game between us 12 volunteers and 12 students from the two schools. Two 15 minutes halves. It was pretty pathetic, we were losing 3-0 in about five minutes, but I’m pretty sure the referee who is also the JROTC type guy at the school told them not to beat us, because we miraculously scored 3 goals and tied it. It helped that about 20 small children joined our team and all the older kids were mobbed by a swarm of them every time they got the ball. Myself, I scored two goals and was given the game ball. The game ended in a 5-5 tie. I only fell once when I tried to start running after the ball and my feet stayed put and my body went forward. It was a lot of fun, and I’m excited for more chances to play.
Okay, new subject
Pavlodar is very far north. It is actually part of Siberia. I won’t be in Pavlodar. I will be 2.5 hours north of Pavlodar, about 60 miles from the Russian border in a small village of 5000 called Zhelezinka. There are three schools, two Russian and a Kazakh. Two of the schools have already had a volunteer teacher (there is actually one currently there). I will be the first volunteer in my school, which I’m excited about. The word from this other volunteer is that I will be teaching the 5th, 10th and 11th grades, but that is subject to change. My counterpart is the assistant director at the school, and he was recently promoted.
Other things of note about the village: it is on a large river, it is surrounded by steppe mostly, with some forest, it gets to -40 degrees in the winter, there is a fitness center where I can do wrestling, judo, weightlifting, soccer, volleyball, tennis etc. My school has an air rifle range in the basement. There is internet in town. That’s about it. I’m going to visit it in a week and a half, so I’ll have more news after that.
Funny story. Last night I was walking some friends home from my house (other volunteers) after playing cards. I went one way to drop off one girl and another guy went another way to drop off the other girl so we could save some time. Anyway, after I dropped off this girl, I was walking to meet the guy when I heard some yelling and whistling behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there was a huge Kazakhstani guy running after me, about 20 feet back. I took off running, bolted around the corner and looked back after another 50 feet but he was gone. A little freaked out I called my buddy and told him to hurry the f--- up and we headed home.
Other news, I was sick with a fever up to 102 for a couple days, some sort of bacteria infection., I'm better now. I have little time as I'm supposed to be meeting people at our bazaar to buy some things pretty soon. I will not be staying in a giant hotel I was just told, so no special intenet contact like I was hoping. I have my mailing address up on facebook for thеры ща нyouthat can check that,and want to send me letters or packages. In about a month it will be changing since I will be living up North for 2 years, and if you want that address you can email me about it, but Peace Corps will continue to forward letters that are sent to the old address. That's all for now, adios.