Sunday, March 27, 2011

happy nauryz!

this week has been super long, though not necessarily in a bad way. it has certainly been full of ups and downs per usual. i honestly can’t even remember monday…so maybe nothing happened that day. tuesday was nauryz! nauryz is a huge holiday in Kazakhstan celebrating the coming of spring & a new year. we went to college in the morning for classes and walked across the street to the city center. there were yurts set up all throughout the streets. yurts are basically like teepees for the nomads in Kazakhstan. they are dome shaped and covered in wool. on the inside they are covered in ornate fabric. for nauryz they are filled with banquet style tables and benches. in the middle of all the yurts is a stage for speeches, dances, and concerts. along the sides of the roads there are street vendors selling toys, drinks, food (including candy apples!) and much more. it is pretty much like an intense street festival. a couple peeps from the college training group got asked to do an interview for the local news. the director from the college invited us into his yurt to dine. the tables in the yurt were filled with food. there were bowl and plates filled with crazy dishes. imagine the paintings of feast in the olden days and this is what you get. i was lucky enough to be placed in front of the plate filled with dried fruits and nuts. mmm. we were then each given a bowl of nauryz koshe. it is a special soup made for nauryz. it is made with noodles, millet, meat, salt, and sour milk. mmm. (i have actually now had four bowls of this soup & today i even managed to eat ¾ of my bowl). i was sitting across the table from a kazakhstani man that if known for running marathons. he recently ran and medaled in the asian Olympic games for Kazakhstan. he has also run in the boston marathon. he was intent on picking out foods from the table and making me eat them. one such item was horse sausage. not gonna lie, i was only able to get it down by shoving four dried apricots into my mouth. they also passed around a sheep’s head for everyone in our group to pull a piece off and eat. they somehow managed to skip right over me. fine by me, but tommy was sitting next to me and noticed and tried to grab them and get their attention to tell them i didn’t get any. i practically took him out with my elbow. not really. but almost. that is still a part of kaz that i am not ready to encounter.

on thursday we host our first English club for the college. it was a long and hard day to get through. by thursday we are usually just beat. we decided to host a film club. our plan was to show a clip from avatar when jake first meets the tribe & then have a discussion about strangers coming to a new place. our film club had a turn out of over 100 students! we had it in the auditorium, but we were still tight on space. & murphy’s law, the power in ecik was out. we didn’t really have a plan B so we introduced ourselves and then asked the kids what their favorite movies were. i was totally surprised: titanic, son of the mask, avatar, step up, and honey? we then split into groups. since there are 6 trainees in the college group we had about 20 kids each. i was completely at a loss for what to do with them. we were all crammed in an aisle of the auditorium. i tried the name game where you say your name, something you like, and show your favorite dance move. it evolved into everyone saying their name, that they like break dancing and mimicking my original dance move. whatever works right? i then taught them down by the banks of the hanky panky… which was fun, but the words were way to tough for them to get. they just yelled kurPLOP! with me at the end. then they showed me that they knew if you’re happy and you know it. josh’s group started singing the Kazakh national anthem and eventually every group turned and joined in & that concluded our English club. our technical trainer observed our club and said she thought it went fine. she called me out on teaching a game without butcher paper to teach them the words (she clearly didn’t have sympathy for the fact that our plans were completely disrupted), but whatevs. we also learned that we overestimated the level of English our college kids have. will def. have to turn down the expectations for next week.

side note: college in kaz is not like college in the states. i will be teaching at a Kazakh college when i leave training. i will find out where in my eighth week here. i found out recently that i will most likely not be near anyone from my training group of 13. bummer. anywho, college here is like a trade school. they have medical colleges, economic colleges, and many more. my college is like a humanities college. i will be working with future English teachers and interpreters by teaching English through the communicative approach. i will not be teaching methodology unless i decide to host teacher trainings on the side. the college students are as young as 9th grade. colleges cost money and some of the kids stay and dorms and eat in the canteen just like in the states. our college her in ecik is very nice. it is definitely a model school. there are even smart boards in the classrooms! it will be interesting to see how my college at my permanent site compares.

side side note: our trainers during pst are host country nationals. my lcf (language teacher), roman, is very nice. he is 47 and lives in aktobe. he is a science teacher there and recently won and award for being a great teacher. he was able to go to north Dakota university to observe and take some courses as a result. he is very patient, even when we get the 3:00 giggles. he doesn’t always understand what we are trying to say in English. if something goes wrong while in training, roman is supposed to be my go-to guy. we also have a technical trainer. her name is natalya and she is from way up north. she is giving us sessions on techniques for being a better teacher while we are here. natalya is also the one that has to approve our lessons plans and English clubs while we are in training. she is very nice, but very to the point. she does not hold back at all and is very opinionated. having host country nationals as our instructors certainly gives us more of an inside look into the culture, but it does present challenges also.

friday was hub day and all the kaz 23 trainees came to ecik for the day. they were very jealous of our village. & i’m not surprised because it is awesome. we did safety and security trainings and health trainings. dr. victor handles all things health related in kaz. he is awesome. he is a former soviet military doctor from moldova. his first lang. is Russian, but he is very good in English as well. he is everything you would imagine a Russian-speaking, former soviet military doctor to be. but he is also so entertaining. in every powerpoint presentation he sneaks in art, or classical music or songs. he had us sing a diarrhea song as a group. it was entertaining. in order to start his presentation of stds he showed us a painting of raphael’s muse & told us this lovely love story. the then said that there are some people, though, who believe that this muse slept around. he then flashes to the slide saying std prevention. the point is that dr. victor is very cool and i def. trust him with my life. i’m sure i’ll be include some dr. victor references in the future.

saturday we had our almaty entry. my training group took the public bus into almaty. we then spent the day walking around and taking busses to see some major sights. we saw the famous wooden church in alamaty, the city center mosque (which is beautiful), the big wwII monument, the ramstore, a museum, the green bazaar, and we stopped and had lunch in a café. it was very fun and i took lots of pics. i will post more about it when i put the pics up. && sunday i went back into alamaty with my host mom. he brother lives in an apt in almaty. i sent the day at the apt. with my mom, her sister-in-law, her sisters, and all of their kiddies. it was kind of a nice ladies day. they made me eat. a lot. for lunch we had fried fish? i’m not really sure what is was but it looked like sardines on crack. you eat them, skin, fins, and all by holding the tail and pulling everything on the backbone. all that is left at the end is a head and a tail connected to a bone. those of you that know me well know what it took for me to eat that. i ate the two on my plate and they were immediately replaced with two more. dun dun dun. my host mom finally stepped in and told them that i didn’t eat a lot. the women all seemed shocked and told me i needed to eat more to get strong… along with the fish i also had fried bread and a salad with corn, peas, meat?, eggs, and mayonnaise? and it was all finished up with two slices of cake and chai. phew. after lunch they told me i could take a shower. completely random, but at the rate i am getting showers here (2-3 a week) i never pass one up. & it was awesome. they then had my blow-dry my hair and take a nap. (i felt slightly like a baby, but i didn’t protest. i was actually pretty tired. but when they wheeled the 1 year old in to take a nap with me i had to giggle) when i woke up they made me come back and eat dinner, nauryz koshe. i then had more chai and some chocolates. they gave me a present (hairspray & mousse, and a whole cake!) and then mom and i left.

i am now sitting in my room at home. my mom just called me back into the kitchen for another piece of cake and some chai. i can now see why female volunteers usually gain ten pounds in peace corps. i have language tomorrow at 8:00 am. this week we teach in front of the class for the first time. i am excited and anxious about this. we also have our hub day at the peace corps office in almaty this week. as usual i am excited to see what adventures that week ahead will hold.

homesick, but hopeful


  1. I am astounded by your adaptability. Being able to go with the flow and adjust will serve you well over the next couple of years (and for the rest of your life). Love and miss you but very proud.