I had began a couple other blog posts while I was at site, but unfortunately I left my flash drive with my director. So rather than try to re-write them, I’ll just post some entries about what happened a couple weeks ago, a couple weeks from now. I usually try to make ever entry a story. I like writing them, and hope you enjoy reading them, but I have a lot to cover, so I’ll do more updates than narrative this time.
Life is back to normal, but slightly different. I don’t know if it is because we are back from our sites or we are just adjusting to life here, but we all have more confidence. There have been more nights out at cafes and just hanging out with the other volunteers. I’m enjoying that time together, and the fact that we only have ten more days or so before we are scattered across one of the world’s largest countries is on my mind. I’m also enjoying my time with my host family. I even bought a DVD at the bazaar to share with them, which my host brother and I are enjoying together this week. I also finished Stephen King’s IT, and I have moved onto some non-fiction in The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Up after that is some Amartya Sen and maybe Henry Miller. I imagine this winter I’ll get a lot of books read. Maybe I’ll ever tackle War and Peace.
Not in Russian though. I mean my Russian is coming along, but I’m not reading Tolstoy or Dostoevsky quite yet. It’s strange because it was such a progression, I don’t feel like I was all that much better than yesterday, and yesterday I didn’t feel like I was all that much better than the day before, and so on. But I can speak Russian now. Not a lot, but I can stop someone on the street and ask for directions, navigate stores, describe myself, my friends, and my family. I can ever retell funny stories that happened to me (yeah, my host fam laughed at my being locked in an outhouse too). And to really impress people, I just whip out a little Kazakh.
Once I get to site, I am really not sure what will happen with my language though. Everyone at my site speaks Kazakh. Peace Corps assures me that Russian will be fine, but I’m not so sure. I know that I can work in Russian, but I have to live in Kazakh. I can’t imagine living somewhere for two years and not understanding the conversations that are going on around me. So once again, I plan to take advantage of the winter and learn two languages. I imagine the result will be me speaking neither one particularly well, but if all else fails I’ll just fall back on the universal language of dancing.
Which I haven’t gotten to do much of here in Kazakhstan. But Saturday night I did. This past weekend my ideal night would have been to go to a café, meet some locals, and just talk to them in Russian. I had begun to notice that I have been here for two months and I have almost no host country friends. I’m not worried about meeting them at site, but I think that just illustrates how different PST is from the rest of service. Anyway, Saturday a few of us went to a café I’ve been wanting to check out. It’s in a small, dirty, white building next to this really nice building. It looked as close to a dive bar as I’ve seen here, and my hopes were high. It did not disappoint. We hit the dance floor and boogied with some local Kazakhstanis. It was just the dose of dancing that I needed to re-energize and get excited about parties here again. We got to practice our Russian, got to dance, and had an awesome time. I got to bed late (11:30!) and had to wake up early the next day
To go to the canyon. I wished I remembered the name of it. But I do not. They claim it’s an important canyon, but it’s not listed on the wikipedia canyon page at all. My hopes were not high for a hole in the ground, but it was actually really impressive. I plan on posting pictures soon in order to give a completely false representation of Kazakhstani geography. But to get to this canyon you drive along the highway away from Almaty for a while and then there is a billboard and you take a left. It’s on a road, kinda. Mainly dirt, mostly rocks, and you bump along there for a few miles until you come to a guard stand and a gate. You then bump along some more until you reach the canyon. There are no tourist shops. No restaurant stands. There are some ironic signs indicating parking (but really you can park anywhere; it’s a huge open plain.) There is an outhouse and a yurt with a ranger living in it once you hike a ways into the canyon. (And yet despite this seeming solitude, there is still trash.)
Two weeks until I leave for site. We still have a couple trips to Almaty, Halloween, swearing in(!), a presentation on leadership, a report to write for Stevenson Center, and a lot of other things. I’m trying to enjoy it while I can. Part of me thought all the goodbyes ended when you left the States, but I guess I knew that was never really true.