Been Here One Month
Trip Start Mar 05, 2005
27Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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Hello Family and Friends.
I have been at my new site for almost a month and wanted to touch base with my new home. I was very sick on the train on the way here so I was very happy to get settled and be able to relax. It was hard to get adjusted to a new family, a new room, a new routine and my host family speaks Kazak at home and not Russian so that made it even more challenging. Everyday gets easier and I am learning to adjust to all the changes. My new host mom is 51 and she works as a nurse at a Kazak/Turkish boy's school, my dad is 53 and an ambulance driver and I have a 13-year-old sister. She is very shy but does all the work around the house, which is different then, my other host family when the boy sat around and the mother did everything. My host parents had their daughter late so I am more like the age of a normal Kazak family with parents in their 50's.
My job is challenging in the aspect that it is so different then the US. For example my counterpart and I were working on a project and she decided to paint her nails. I got up walked away and went to my own desk to work on something else. It is hard for people to have time management, multitask and plan. I made a calendar from the computer the second day that I was here and my counterpart made one also 2 days later. But she has trouble changing the plan from what is on the calendar. We are mostly working on the newsletter right now which is supposed to go out quarterly but has not gone out since December. They got a grant for the project so we had to start from square one by buying the supplies for the newsletter: paper, pens, a color printer etc. We are actually going on a business trip to a north Kazakhstan city called Pavlodar in 2 weeks. I was not approved to go by the grant company since I am only going to be here 2 years I was not sustainable and the ironic part of it is I could work at the organization longer then the current employees. I still wanted to go and see another part of the country and have the experience so I decided to buy my own train ticket and still go. I will visit 2 other volunteers from my group there so it should be fun. My other projects that I am going to work on so far will be a diabetic training, an HIV/AIDS training in December/a presentation about nursing in the US to a group of nurses at the Kazak Mys hospital (that is well funded due to Kazak Mys being a copper company with a lot of money) and a project about keeping children healthy. My winter project is going to get the extra room cleaned up and organized to become more of a resource center then a storage room. That way we can have training there and keep resources there for other Non Government Organizations to use. There are many opportunities at my job and I am excited about the opportunities.
I decided to get involved with the community as much as possible so I am going to run the English movie night in August since the other 2 volunteers will be gone this summer and I also am going to run English Club on Thursday nights all summer. I have met many people so far and even though some are only 19 they speak English and want to come to English Club and participate. I also am going to find the swimming pool. It is not used very often here since no one knows how to swim but I love to swim and if people were interested then I would be happy to teach them. I am trying to attend an exercise class but the teacher has not shown up so I will try again tomorrow. Even if I don't understand what he is saying I do know my Russian numbers. I try to take a new way every time I go somewhere to get to know the city. I have gotten a little lost but always find my way. My main concern when I am walking is not to trip since the roads are so uneven and never fixed. The first week I was here was really bad; I was tripping so often that I thought that I was going through puberty again. I am getting better at it now and when I can I wear my flip-flops which are a fashion no-no here. The other issue with walking is watching out for the BMW and Mercedes taxis. The cars have the right of way and although I have only seen one accident involving a truck and a motorcycle I know that there are more. It is almost better to cross the street in the middle of the street since you only have to look left and right and not worry about people turning the corners.
My social life has been pretty busy since I got here. Last weekend I went to Kazak wedding. I didn't understand anything that they were saying except for the words Zhezkazgan, Kazak, Jamal (brides mother), and Myra (bride). The wedding was the daughter of a woman who works in my office. The wedding was not the actual white dress wedding; it was the "girls party". The bride was dressed nice but this is the part of the wedding that the Bride's parents pay for and it is a long night of speeches, drinking, 3 main courses of meals and games/dancing in between. I learned a lot about the tradition and also taught them about American toasting. I was asked to give a toast so the second to last toast before the bride's parent I went up to give the toast. My counterpart translated it for me and I made them all lift their glasses while I gave my speech. After that they played a song in my honor. I also attended a going away dinner for Annalise. She has been here 3 years teaching in a little village outside my town. We all went to dinner at a real cafe that even had an English menu. I was leery about what to order but ended up getting chicken cordon blue. Come to find out that all restaurants carry it so I can get it everywhere. There is not much variety on the menu's here. My host family also made a big dinner for my counterpart Zhanara and me. It was a traditional Kazak dish called Monti. It is meat with veggies in dough that is steamed. It is handmaid and the whole family helped. I still need more practice to make them look right but I am getting better. WE had pickles one night and they called that salad. I am still trying to get more veggies in the house but it takes time. We normally have tea at 7pm and dinner at 10. I have tried to tell them that I don't want to eat that late and they tell me that it is OK for their health. The real reason is that the mother likes to rest before she cooks. I have not been able to cook yet, I think that will come with time too. But if I would drink tea with them I would drink it about 5 times a day. They drink more tea then the last family and drink several cups at one sitting. The traditions are very different here and they follow customs and traditions very strictly.
I think that my host family thinks I am a little weird. They can't understand why I drink so much water (they actually drink none), they think that every American went to The University of Kansas, has lots of luggage, uses spices on their foods, and shower daily. I don't know how to explain that I am not the weird one!!! hahaha
My host family had a toaster in their kitchen and the instructions were in English so they looked at it everyday for 4 months before I got there. I taught them how to use it and they are very excited about toast. They normally have me make it for them since they are scared of it but I am happy to do that. The daughter tried the other night and the toast got stuck and burned and she poured water on it. I helped her clean it all up and told her that if it worked the next day that I would teach her how to use it again. I am not sure that she will use it again but it does still work.
Before I left for the Peace Corps Karen Young's mom told me that wherever you go people are people. I am realizing that people are all the same. We just all live in different parts of the world with different traditions and cultures. Hopefully I will learn and understand the culture here and will teach and show the people here about my culture and traditions.
I hope all is well at home. Thanks to all who have sent packages and letters. They make bad Kazak days good and good Kazak days great!!!