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 café. 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,

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