Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V-in Kazakhstan Day

I must be blending in well here. Wednesday night I was mistaken for a five foot Kazakh man as I was leaving volleyball. I man followed me out the door and along the street for a few seconds before he spoke and I turned around. He seemed surprised to see me, excused himself and walked back in the building to find his friend! I had a good laugh.
Speaking of volleyball, just to throw this in, I rocked it Wednesday night. I had a number of good blocks and even a couple spikes that actually went downward. And best of all, none of my hits went wildly out of bounds like at least a few do every time. I did manage to hurt my back though last week stretching to far for a ball, and I’m still working that off. I tried taking some days off, but I’ve gotten more and more bored every night I stay home, so I went, and was glad I did.
I just finished my fourth book in three weeks. I read a book by an English bloke, Jasper Fforde, in a series called Nursery Crimes. They are murder mysteries based on nursery crime characters but set in a real world where the characters live alongside real people. Fforde has a great sense of humor, and you can see some of the goofiest and most outrageous lines being delivered with a perfectly straight face. I recommend the two I’ve already read, The Big Over Easy, and The Fourth Bear. Both are exceptional.
I think I’ve been given a magic pair of skis. I went an entire 2.5 km loop through the forest without falling on Saturday. It blew my mind. There were some near misses and some wobbling, but I made the whole way! I finally got a long term loan pair of skis to keep at home with me. Nora trailed me on this first loop so she wouldn’t leave me in her dust (or snow). During the trip, she told me a little story about a married man asking her out on a date (she didn’t find out until the next day that he was married). After my 2.5 loop and a rest, I went for a shorter loop. It wasn’t long before somebody came up behind me and when I looked back, my skis slid apart and I hit the ground. As I was falling, Konstantine (one of my students) skied past and hollered “Fsyo Narmalna! (Everything’s fine/good!). It wasn’t. I had one other fall when I hit the hardest substance on the planet with a ski…a mound of horse poop. That was all though, and Konstantine later fell in front of me, which I took great, but private, pleasure in.
My kids in English Club love doing the Hokey Pokey, though I think it’s mostly to watch me dance around waving my arms. We’ve been doing some body part vocabulary, and they keep wanting to do it. I admit, I love it too. Who doesn’t love a good Hokey Poke? I think English Club is my favorite time with my kids, cause I’m doing whatever I want and being goofy and all of that. I’ve got only good kids in there that are all interested in learning.
I tried starting an “advanced” English Club. It only on its second week now, but the goal was to focus more on grammar and discussion. I wanted to do a grammar lesson one week, than a discussion or something the next, using whatever grammar we had just covered. It’s not really going to work, at least not for awhile I think. It’s for older kids, my 10th graders pretty much, and English is just too low to be able to do any discussing. I think it’ll take a couple months of practice and build up before we can get some discussions going, but I’ve got some good topics when we finally do. I’ll let you know about them as they come along, and you can contribute some thoughts.
The dogs have been extra aggressive lately. I think I’m on the verge of a kick or be bitten moment. Some have gotten dangerously close and my leg has been tensed and ready, but the dogs sense it and back off at the last second. Others require some threatening foot stomping or waving ski poles to get them to back off. One little bastard (or is bitch more appropriate?...sorry mom) came running a couple hundred feet along a street just to get in a few barks. He kept running at me until I waved my ski pole at him, then he’d run along next to the street. It was getting really irritating because it slows me down so much to keep having to stop, but then the dog made it all worth it. He was leaping through the snow when he suddenly disappeared in a big snow bank. I second later he jumped out, looked embarrassed, and I thought he’d have to bite me just to save face in case any other dogs were watching, but he ran off instead and I had a good chuckle.
Flu season seems to be in full force, and people have been dropping out and coming back a few weeks later at school. The latest victim has been Slava, my counterpart. He’s been gone all this week so far, not sure how long it’ll last. It doesn’t seem to be especially bad, no epidemics, but I’ve gotten an extra bit of advice on how to keep from getting the flu. Apparently, if I take a spoonful of something really spicey, I’ll be protected for a week. I couldn’t find the logic in this, but other things make sense, like drinking tea with lemon, eating fruits and all that. I haven’t suggested that getting a flu shot can also help quite a bit.
I gave my speech on patriotism, and it was well liked by everybody, as far as I can tell. Nora’s assistant principle told her she really liked it. I kept it light, tried to be a little humorous and not get into too much political debate about patriotism in all its forms. I mentioned how we all recite the pledge of allegiance at school, about ASB and Teen Councils, and about sports being some of the most patriotic events in countries. It was only a few minutes long and I got a round of applause at the end.
I was glad I did it, and it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I thought it might be, since I was speaking in English and Slava was translating, I couldn’t really make a mistake. The sad part for me was there weren’t many questions. Maybe it wasn’t quite so thought provoking, but usually I’m battered with questions, no matter what topic I’m talking about.
That’s all the updates for this time around. Things are generally still looking pretty good. I’m tired of the snow and ready for some green, but other than that I really enjoy it here. I’m almost at the six month mark, which blows my mind. This has been the fastest six months of my life, and though a day can seem to drag on, when I look back I can’t believe I’m at the end of a week or month. For me, that’s the surest sign that things are going well. I look forward to everything at home, but I’m still happy being here.
Actually, to expand on that; for awhile, in my first few months here, and still occasionally, I think about all that I’m missing out on back home. Things that I really enjoyed that I can’t have here. An idle conversation on any topic I choose, sitting around doing nothing with my friends, staying up late and drinking beers, Sunday dinners with my family and all of that.
Then I also think, what’s the point of all that? It may feel at times that all of that is leaving me behind, and all my friends will have outgrown that by the time I get back, but then I think about my brothers. There’s still plenty of time to party and be a big kid for awhile. I would probably have some boring, job working in some shop somewhere, agonizing about having to get up and go to work every day, where as here, I still don’t like waking up in the morning, but once I’ve gotten going, I never really have a low point in my day.
And with that said, I’m going to leave you all with your day to day living and return to my wild and unpredictable life here in Siberia. Sorry.


alex said...

Jeff, will you be my secret double Valentine?

I guess the dogs are hungry and figure the guy on skis is easy prey. I would probadly do the same thing.

Yeah, 6 months - time flies. You've barely gotten started and you're just about a quarter done. You'll be back here in the US in no time. There will always be time to drink beers so don't worry about that and just enjoy yourself in Kazakhstan.

Wendy said...

I thought kryptonite was the hardest substance known to man.

And I think you might be dissapointed (or pleased?) at how little things change at home! The exception being your niece, of course.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

Happy V-Day in KZ!

Sounds like it's still cold in Pavlodar... and in KZ in general - oh, well.. US' got some cold weather too.... (the gRoudnhog saw the shadow, by the way).

By the way, I found a blog of another Jeff-PCV who is in Pavlodar right now (and who write about similar experiences - cold weather etc.): maybe he is your alter ego? (nah, probably, just another Jeff :) - maybe you even know each other???).

Cheers again,

Anastasia B.

Trav said...

Sorry about missing the green. If you stay that far north you're going to have to wait a month or two more at least before it starts melting and things start smelling like crap.