Thursday, June 16, 2011

the weekly highlights

i don’t really feel like stringing sentences together at the moment. partially because i am so tired of writing with this textbook and partially because i have become uncharacteristically lazy with this summer heat. & i’m actually pretty lazy normally so you can only imagine the nothingness i have managed to accomplish lately. despite this fact, lots of interesting and amusing (in my opinion) things have happened here in zhez lately, but because i don’t feel like really writing at the moment i am going to do a bit of a quick run down of the highlights. i may come back to it at a later date and fill in the blanks if i am feeling less lazy, but don’t hold your breath.

the interrupted run:

a couple weeks ago i went for my first run here in zhez. carrie & i have decided to make running a half-marathon (or maybe a 10k… i can’t remember what i committed to) our goal by the end of our service. so naturally we have both started running. she is actually way more committed than i am at the moment which is awesome for her because she is also sick right now. it makes me feel even worse about my slacker tendencies. but then again maybe i can blame some of my lack of running on this story.

so i went for my first run. i wasn’t exactly sure where i was going because i don’t really know my way around yet, but i started down a paved path that is partially covered by long rows of trees. my house is on a super busy street, and people in Kazakhstan do not really run for exercise. seeing a girl outside running (in shorts, heaven forbid) is not a normal sight. so you can imagine that i get many strange looks. this is why i ducked for the trees. at the end of the path i found a park. i thought this was perfect so i headed right in and started weaving my way through a maze of paved paths and ended up at the very back. while i was jogging i was approached by a young russian woman. she started speaking to me hurriedly in russian. i thought at first she was probably a student from one of the colleges in zhez because she asked if i spoke English. (i don’t know what gave it away, me running, my ipod, the neon green tennis shoes, or the shirt that said Virginia Wesleyan in English) i assumed that she wanted to practice english, but i was anxious to get back on my way so i told her i was sorry i didn’t understand russian. she then recruited her other russian girlfriend over to try and get me to understand them. when i apologized and started moving further along the path they called over three more russian girls. the girls surrounded me and started speaking to me from all sides in Russian. i tried again to explain i only speak Kazakh. apparently they were getting frustrated with me so they started yelling. it wasn’t until this point that i noticed that the girls were dressed rather scandalously. then the policemen appeared from no where and were heading straight for us. the first police man pulled one of the girls with bright red lipstick and matching bright red boyshorts away by her arm and the other police man continued towards the rest of us. i panicked because, of course, i had decided not to bring my documents with me on my little run. (lesson learned). so i said excuse me, nodded at the police man, and ran away. ( i think that is how any perfectly innocent citizen would behave, ha).

the missing chicken:

last week i came home from school a bit early. i saw that my host dad’s car was in the driveway so i knew i had caught him at home on his lunch break. i walked up the stairs to the house and heard my host dad speaking to me from the kitchen window that overlooks the stairs. i missed the first part of what he said, but i could’ve sworn the last word was Kazakh for blood. i assumed i had made a mistake in understanding per usual and continued up the stairs. i opened the door to find a puddle of blood sitting on the floor in the doorway. i stepped over it hurriedly, slipped my shoes off in the entryway (this is required when entering any house) and turned the corner into the kitchen. my host dad was standing in the middle of the room wiping the blade of a large knife with a rag, and he had the creepiest grin ever. he then said in English “chicken” and in Kazakh “finished”. with that he set the knife on the cabinet, walked into the entryway and slipped on his shoes, and stepped over the blood and out the door. i searched the house high and low for any sign of a recently murdered chicken, but i never found one and we still haven’t eaten any since. the blood was all cleaned up by the time i got back from my evening run.

my true calling is to be a chef:

so as i said in my last post, my host family pretty much dug my pizza. so my host mom asked me if i would make it again last week. i found out later that the reason i was actually asked to make pizza was because my host parents were going out for the evening and someone needed to make dinner for me and my two host brothers, but c’est la vie. so my host brothers bought the ingredients and left me to work in the kitchen. right before leaving my host mom instructed me to make two fried eggs and fried bologna for both of the boys also. while i was making the dough my youngest host brother, bakchan, came in and asked if i would make two pizzas. since he bought enough for two i reluctantly agreed. after getting both pizzas ready to cook bakchan came in a told me to put both pizzas in the oven at once. (now mind you, i am using one of those little toaster ovens, not a real oven). i told him that it was too small, but he insisted. so instead of disagreeing with a kazakh male, i put both pizzas in the oven.

i then turned to the task of frying bologna and eggs. i finished the bologna without any trouble, but bakchan came in while i was making the eggs and made me turn the skillet up on high. consequently the eggs starting bubbling and bursting in the oil and i was getting burns all over my chest and arms. this happened simultaneously as i noticed the smell of smoke in the air. i called bakchan to come help, but he didn’t hear. so after i got the egg situation under control (which tasted totally fine), i hurriedly got the pizzas out of the oven. like i had thought, they were both too close to the heat so the pizza on top got slight burned on the top and the pizza on the bottom got a lil black underneath. my host brothers and i ate the top pizza and it tasted totally fine. my older brother, yeerzhan, was still hungry and asked if he could eat the other pizza that we were saving for my host parents. in my broken Kazakh i tried to explain that it was black so it probably wouldn’t taste great, but he didn’t understand so i smiled and said sure. he grabbed a piece and i went to the stove to get some more tea when i turned around yeerzhan had eaten the pizza and was now holding his tooth in his hand. his tooth! (now in case you think like my mother, my oldest host brother is 23. his tooth was not “ready to come out”) my younger host brother pulled me aside later and said “Miss Emily, your pizza hard. Maybe better as dog food.” i like to interpret that as, “my compliments to the chef!” but that still doesn’t explain why i haven’t been asked to cook again…

so those are the highlights. hope you enjoyed,

Saturday, June 4, 2011

kazkhstan is turning me back into a child. i like it.

note: i can’t remember what i wrote last time, so if i repeat info here excuse me. =)

so it has been about two and a half weeks now here in zhez. mostly right now i am just exhausted. i started teaching my 6th day here. i was teaching six 80 minutes lessons a week. my last lessons were today. phew. it is now summer for all of the kiddos at my college. i will continue to go into the school until the end of july though. my counterpart expressed the need for some sort of textbook to work from for her students. right now there is no english textbook available for the teachers to use at all. so that is how i came to be writing an english textbook and teacher’s book to accompany.

it sounds loftier than it is. it is actually more like a course-pack. i am essentially planning the lessons for the upcoming year all at once and putting all the materials and activities needed to complete them in one place. i am also attempting to turn the “theme lessons” into some sort of curriculum with a lesson plan, unit plan, and yearly plan. that is where most of my free time is going at the moment. writing a textbook is not an easy task without internet. so i have been spending quite a bit of time (and money) at the local internet cafĂ©. it will be interesting to see how that works out.

last weekend i went with all of the volunteers and some students to an orphanage in a nearby town. the students led games and gave away prizes. it was part of a project the volunteers had been working on to expose volunteerism to the students. volunteering and community service are essentially unheard of for the students here.. they all participate in community clean-up, but developing and carrying a volunteer project is a great accomplishment for these girls. the students loved it. they got a chance to realize how great volunteering makes the volunteer feel also. it was definitely a great experience. it went so well that i think we are going to try and do a similar project again here in the zhez orphanage.

i have also been attending english clubs and getting the opportunity to meet and chat with local teachers and students. english clubs are great because it is always a room filled with people that really want to learn. it is unlike the classroom setting in that there are no unmotivated students in a club since it is their free time. it is also a chance for volunteers to facilitate discussions and activities in a more informal setting. it gives us a chance to get to know the teachers and students on a more personal level. i can definitely tell that club will probably be the highlight of my service.

at one of these english clubs i got the opportunity to make friends with the cutest little girl ever. her name is gulden. she is a friend of robin, another vol here in zhez. the three of us walked to english club together yesterday. within seconds of meeting me she started talking hurriedly to me in russian. robin speaks russian so it is easy to see why she would think that i spoke russian also. when i told her that i spoke kazakh she got super excited. we walked all the way to english club holding hands. she sat next to me and chatted with me during the entire english club. her english is great for being so young! she attends the english club that is filled with university and college students and she can certainly keep up. she called me today while i was cooking lunch just to chit chat. so adorable.

highlight of the week: i cooked my family an american dinner! i was super nervous about this. my host mom asked if i would cook them american food for dinner on tuesday night. i said yes of course. i realized later that i had english club on tuesday so i had to postpone until wednesday. then on wednesday the family told me that were going to a party. so finally thursday night it was american food night! my host brother asked me to make a list of ingredients i needed so he could get them during the day. i decided to make the package of kraft mac ‘n cheese i had and try to make pizza from scratch. for dessert- banana splits! (i didn’t put this on the list though, it was my surprise)

when i got home from school i came into the kitchen to see the ingredients lying in a bag on the table. instead of milk i had powdered milk. instead of tomato paste i had tomatoes. and the cheese was like the packed American cheese slices. obviously i should have been more specific. i made a quick run to the local store to get the right things. since i can’t speak kazakh very well i ended up with the 6% milk instead of the 1.5% i had been aiming for. oh well. creamier mac ‘n cheese it is. i also had to just pick a random jar that looked like tomato sauce and had a picture of tomatoes on it.

i went home and waited around for a bit. the family wasn’t home still and i wasn’t 100% sure i was actually supposed to be cooking that night. (another failure of mine language wise) i finally decided that the bag of ingredients was a clear indication i should start cooking. i managed to make the dough from scratch! (the best part of the pizza, actually) mom didn’t come home for dinner. i don’t know why, but my little bro and host dad were there. my host borther loved the mac ‘n cheese. my host dad seemed a little confused about milk and cheese being on macaroni. macaroni here is eaten in broth with veggies. he added chopped up tomato to it and that seemed to appease him. the pizza turned out decent. it was totally edible, but the sauce tasted a bit too much like barbq sauce and the cheese kind of melted into a rubber coating. next time i will invest in the more expensive cheese. all in all i think the fam loved it. they were super impressed with the dough i made (i was too!) and they want me to make more food for them again soon. particularly cakes since they saw the pictures of some of the cakes i made in the states. since this turned out ok i am feeling more confident in my ability to cook here with completely different ingredients. maybe cakes won’t be as hard as i thought. still a bit skeptical of the frosting though. (no mixers!)

also today i got a package from one of my volunteer friends up north, carrie. it had a russian aladdin coloring book, a letter, and a cd mix in it. so excited. i started coloring & listening to my cd immediately, i took a break to eat an entire box of spongebob kraft mac ‘n cheese and went back to coloring. successful day i think!

back to coloring,