Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things that Haven't Been In my Nose

It would seem important to talk about the new family I have moved in with, but in my excitement to talk about frozen boogers, I forgot to mention it, and a few other things that have happened since I’ve gotten here. Now that I’ve gotten boogers off the brain, I’m free to talk.
I am living with a Tatar family. A mother, daughter and son. The mother, Galiya, is divorced and stays at home most of the day, cooking etc. The daughter, Ramzea, is a young teacher at my school. She teaches chemistry, and this is apparently her second year. She is four days older than me (Sept. 12th). The brother, whose name I have yet to learn, is studying at the Pedigogical College in Pavlodar, to be a geography teacher. He is home rarely I understand, but we just celebrated his birthday, so he has been home all weekend.
The birthday celebration was the typical Kazakhstani event. There was plenty of food, family and vodka. I ate my share of food and drank my toasts of vodka, which is getting easier every time (maybe that’s not a good thing). Anyway, my host moms brother and sister were there with their families, three young daughters. They were entertaining, saying they would take charge of teaching me Kazakh, which they study in school, and their parents speak some too. They are around the ages of 8-10, and a 13 year old daughter who is in one of my 8th grade classes apparently. It turns out that my other option for a family had been my current host-moms brother and sister-in-law, along with the two of the girls. I guess I’ll still be seeing plenty of them.
I always enjoy when families get together because the conversation is usually interesting, even when I don’t understand much. I try to absorb. The women are all very talkative while the men are quiet, especially my host brother. After all the toasts went around he stood to say his thanks, which amounted to a few words of his own, then his aunt feeding him the things he should say. It was pretty entertaining and I think this family will also be a lot of fun.
I also have an “adopted” host sister, Julie, who is Ramzea’s (remember my sister) best friend. She is over fairly often and is a lot of fun. We’ve played cards some and she likes to chat, so she’s been helping me to speak a bit more and practice my Russian. Apparently I don’t speak enough for them, which I think is just how I am usually. They think I should do a lot more speaking in order to practice what I’ve learned (which makes a bit of sense I suppose). I’m working on it, but I need to do some better independent study to expand my vocabulary. I can listen in to conversations, but without any context I have a hard time learning what they are talking about, then using some of it myself later.
My home is pretty small. There is a narrow kitchen, a central hallway/room, my bedroom across from the kitchen, a living room with a couch, two chairs and a massive cabinet, an entryway where the shoes, coats etc go, a heating room where water is heated, the sink (no running water) and the oven used to heat the coal that warms the house is. Finally, there is some sort of long closet which I think is also used for laundry. It’s behind a curtain and I’m not entirely what’s there, I haven’t looked too closely. We have a yard that in the spring and summer looks like it’ll be quite the garden, then behind another fence is the woodpile, the geese and the outhouse. There are some outer buildings, one of which has stacks of firewood, another has a large amount of coal and I’m not sure what’s in the other two. I live a very short walk from the school, which I can see from my front gate. I’m kitty corner across town from Nora (Hi Nora’s parents), and that walk only takes about 15 minutes. Not a big place really.
(Writing this a few days later after the rest of the stuff). I did my walking tour of the town because Peace Corps wants a map of the village in case they have to come find me. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to get to the main places in town now. It was pretty interesting. I walked around for the better part of two hours. I apparently missed the hospital, but I can get out there again if I need to. I found all three schools, the main shopping stuff, a coal factory thing, etc etc. It’s pretty interesting, the town isn’t all that huge. I live in the corner of it though, so I’m pretty far from everything.
I’ve been pretty busy the last couple days, which has been great. For a few days I was spending a lot of time playing games on my computer and I felt like I was hiding in my room. The last few days though I’ve gone and visited family, played volleyball, taught late classes, and today I had adult English Club and then visited my counterparts family. Slava’s wife, Tanya, is a lot of fun. She’s a mom now and all, but she’s definitely still young at heart, and she loves to play cards. We played for awhile, and I finished 5-7-2. Not too bad, but I was up 4-2 at one point. She wants to make sure I come again for more cards, and I assured her I will.
Adult English Club was fun, there were only three people. Two teachers from my school and a man who Slava was giving private lessons too that I had met earlier. He’s the dentist in town and has a very nice house. If you remember in a past installment I mentioned a two story house in town. It’s his, and the bottom floor is his clinic. Anyway, they all knew a little bit. We went through greetings and introductions, started some alphabet, then asked and answered questions after that. They want to read some comics, since they are pretty simple English. Parents, it’d be cool if you could send one or two of my Calvin and Hobbes or Garfield comics. They’re in a box somewhere. (I’m a fan of Scientific Process Goes Boink! And Two-headed Deranged Mutant Snowman). I’m excited for more adult English clubs, they’re pretty easy to teach and I have more freedom. There’re no tests, so I don’t have to follow a curriculum.
More volleyball, by the way. Last night there was a record turnout I think. Over 20 players, and maybe half as many watchers. When I showed up I was afraid it was a tournament or something. Anyway, I got on a team with only one guy I knew from before. Most were friendly, except for the one intense guy that was freaking out if there were some mistakes late in the game. We won three in a row though, until we finally lost. One of our games was really epic, with a late comeback by my team then a fierce battle, ending something like 28-26 us. (25 to win). I’m enjoying it, and definitely getting better. The guys are friendly and it’s a lot of fun when the games get intense like that.
Other events so far: ice fishing! This guy has gone ice fishing. It’s not the most exciting event. I went with Sasha, the military instructor at my school, and two of his friends, Sergei and other guy. We walked out onto the frozen river (frozen in November mind you) drilled four or five holes, put some sort of fish food in them, plopped down stools and sat there. Sasha showed me how to put the worms on the hook, how to watch for the cork to bob, and how to yank out the line. It’s not too complicated. About 20 seconds into the fishing I saw a bob, yanked the line and had a fish about 6-8 inches long. I thought, “at this rate I will clean out the entire river of fish in no time!”
I apparently didn’t have the process entirely figured out however. With Sasha’s help I had five or six fish pretty quickly. Then it slowed down, since I was putting the worms on wrong, wasn’t setting the hook when I yanked the line up right, and I was getting frustrated. It didn’t help that every time I had to pull the line up to add a worm or grab a fish, my gloves had to come off. It was cold. Soon I was dreading the bobbing of the line when a fish was hooked. My fingers and toes were getting very cold and I bitterly wanted to head back inside.
3 hours went by like this, and though I was enjoying the idea of what I was doing, the reality was cold and I was about ready to be done. Sasha came over, handed me a bag, and I knew it was done. I scooped up the pitiful dozen fish I had caught, looked at Sasha bag that had to have over 30 fish in it, and headed for the car. I did enjoy it though, I just needed an extra pair of socks for my toes, and to be faster at getting the worm on the hook. I told them I would go again. I was also told by Slava, my counterpart, that the reason I was so cold was because they weren’t drinking. An interesting idea, but I wasn’t looking to get buzzed at 9 am in the morning.
I’m getting comfortable in my home now, not sure if I mentioned that already. My room is getting all set up. I have my cup full of pens now, pictures lining my bookcase of all you guys, everything in its place. It’s feeling more homely now, which is something my room in Kaskelen didn’t have. I felt since I was there only temporarily I shouldn’t put up tons of stuff. It’s a helpful thing to feel really comfortable here. I can retreat when I’m getting frustrated or homesick or just plain grumpy, and since this is where I’ll be making lesson material and studying and playing on my computer, I’ll have you guys around me the whole time. There’s some pretty good pictures. Superbowl 40 (it’s not all bad memories from there), camping with the guys, Alex’s birthday, Huckleberry Picking, Safeco, Kayaking and plenty of the Family. I think I’ll start a collection of Addison pictures as she gets older. When I was at my CP (counterparts) house tonight, I kept thinking of what a little terror Addison will probably be in about 6 months when she’s running around tearing up Randy and Ellie’s condo. Good Luck you two, I’m sure you’re going to love it.
Another, shorter, story involving the cold. School has been cancelled two days in a row now, likely it will be a third by the time I post this, because the heating in our school hasn’t been working and it’s too cold to teach lessons. This is still in November!!! It’s going to get colder, much colder. When it was 0 degrees Celsius out, I was told it was a warm day. It’s gonna take some getting used to I think. Anyway, that’s it for this post. Oh, no its not.
Nora tells me that if you want to send me mail and you don’t want to bother writing in Russian or anything like that, it’s possible to just write:

Jeff Whitehill
Zhelezinka Village
Pavlodar Oblast
Kazakhstan, 140400

It got to Nora, so it will probably get to me too. Otherwise, email me and I will give you the full address.


joeguy said...

Jeff- Remember that Nora has a wide and deep team of folks out here - well beyond her parents : ).
"Better to have more things out of your nose than in your nose" Old Kazakh saying....
Wishing you both well.

Trav said...

yeah. 30 F isn't really that bad.
it's below thirty when you really start needing a jacket.

luckily though, once it gets past about -20 F you don't notice any difference.

alex said...

How cold has it gotten thus far? It has gotten to -20C here (-5F) but it isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting! I hope you're staying warm... something I appreciate is at night it is still plenty hot inside however I expect you live somewhere less insulated and draftier. You should address that next time.

After several sessions of hockey I have decided that you are a better coach. I don't like how this coach so openly meta-games and almost encourages us to. The game is still fun though and I have quite the character (Sorceror/Favored Soul who so far pretty much only melee attacks and sings songs).

I don't know if you have heard the bad news, but we have another year of Tyrone Willingham destroying Husky football.

Which of the following best describes Ramzea: fox or naked mole rat?

The second Calvin and Hobbes book you want I believe is called Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Snow Goons (although I may be off since I didn't look it up... your description was probably sufficient anyways ;P)

I am glad to hear that you have pictures of my birthday... although I fear for what they might be... the only birthday of consequence I think I had was when I turned 21.. how ironic that the only birthday I can remember is one where I can't remember anything...

For extra credit in the ocean's class I TA, I allowed students to get extra credit by writing papers about Don James. I have like four or five so far.

There is a Geo department Christmas potluck today. I am bringing a concoction so I hope people like it. I think they will. I was also selected to be one of the two elves so I have a costume to dress up in and help Santa hand out presents to little chilluns.

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