Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What is the Steppe?

So a few weeks back I finally watched Nomad: The Warrior. This is a movie set in Kazakhstan telling the story of how the Kazakh tribes united against the evil guy from somewhere else. Overall, it was not the best movie. It is billed as an action flick, but the battle and fight scenes are all pretty mundane. It was entertaining to watch in Kazakh though. And I may watch it again in order to learn some useful dialogue (e.g. "Surround them.")

One thing I did notice from the movie was the complete lack of trees in the Kazakh landscape. Honestly, there was one tree in the whole movie, and it was of course a sacred tree. This lone arbol was the place where our hero gathered to collect his thoughts and such. This began to worry me. Because I love trees. Love them. I love to look at them, walk under them, rest against them, etc. I'm surprised my favorite book as a child wasn't The Giving Tree. But in order to cope with this new fear that my future home would only have one tree, I began joking with people about the fact that there were no trees in Kazakhstan. But of course, I knew there would be. There had to be.

And then I finally googled "steppe." The steppe is what the climate/vegetation zone is for most of the country. In my mind, it was this grassy plain area with vast expanse and rolling hills. Sort of like the Midwest or something. The first result was Wikipedia and so I followed that link ( The first sentence says, "In physical geography, a steppe is a grassland plain without trees (apart from those near rivers and lakes)." Without trees. It's in the definition.

Now, I have also learned that there are wild apple trees in Kazakhstan and the country is literally huge. So, yes, there will be trees there. But over the next two months, I'm going to be appreciating all of the trees around here so much more.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Coursework Complete

I officially turned in my Capstone paper and presented it last Friday. That is everything I had to do as a student here in Illinois. Now, I just have reports to send home during my service, but tests and academic papers and the like have come to an end. Because I'm going to be here for a month, then home for a month, I'm going to forego getting a job and try to coast on my savings. That also means that I am pretty much free for the next two months before leaving for the Peace Corps in mid-August. Luckily I have a foreign language to try to learn and a triathlon to train for. I don't imagine I'll have trouble keeping myself busy.

In Peace Corps news, some former volunteers have set up a Yahoo group where we can ask them questions and introduce ourselves. It's exciting to read the introductions of my fellow PCVs. I know that I probably won't be stationed near them during service, but these are the people who will be great support and friends during training and then onward for life most likely. Some of the current volunteers are also the ones whose blogs I have been following for a few months now, so it's interesting to have some form on interaction with them.

Finally, my blog was posted on the peacecorpsjournals site. I set up a counter (because I'm a big web geek) and I noticed a lot of traffic from there. So thanks for stopping by. Feel free to comment. Sorry I am not actually on any adventures yet, but I hope my reflections on some aspects of the PCMI program are helpful.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Меня зовут Michael.

I will officially be learning Russian as my language in Kazakhstan. All OCAP (which stands for Organizational and Community Assistance Program) volunteers learn Russian. And about 1/3 to 1/2 of English-teaching volunteers learn Kazakh. I am excited to know that I will be learning the more useful of the two languages in terms of possible career advancement, but sad in the sense that it would be a lot cooler to be able to speak Kazakh. Меня зовут Michael.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I just found this after typing ultimate frisbee kazakhstan into google:

Ultimate frisbeeTime: Sunday at 3:00 PM. Place: Agricultural Institute field. The field is off Furmanova between Abay and Satpaeva, across from the Fransooski Dom and the Line Brew Pub. The field cannot be seen from the street. You must walk between two apartment buildings and up a cement block stairway. Please contact James Martin, 91-32-43, or Karina, 91-65-37 for more information.