Christina and I had decided that we would leave Shymkent on Sunday in order to spend Monday in Issyk where we had done PST. It would be the first time I’ve ever returned to a host family. I have had a lot of them before from traveling, and of course there is always the promise of returning, but the goal had never been realized. I was nervous and anxious. What would it be like? First, we had to get there though.
Christina and I met up on Sunday morning to go to the bus station. She informed me then that the other Christina also wanted to come with us. So our goal was to get three tickets. We got dropped off and I approached the first bus I saw. Christina was hesitant, wanting to buy our tickets from a window. I told her that this is Kazakhstan and this is how you do it. You buy your ticket from the bus. She said she buys her tickets from a window. In all my bus experiences, I had never seen a ticket window. She conceded to letting me handle it. We ended up getting spaces on a sleeper bus. We bought all five of the spaces in the very back for the three of us. I asked when the bus would be leaving, and they said 6:00. I said 6:30 was better for us, and they said 6:30. That also made Christina nervous.
We actually arrived at 6:00 and spread out on the back of the bus. It’s hard to really describe our situation, but it was pretty much like a VIP pad. We had tons of space for the three of us. We played cards for a long time, and we had the pleasure of teaching EDU Christina how to play Durak (which I’ve blogged about before.) We also had dinner at like 12:00am when the bus stopped at a restaurant somewhere between Taraz and Almaty. The manti wasn’t that good though. Finally, we arrived in Almaty, somewhat rested and ready for gosting.
After hanging out for a few hours at the PC Office, OCAP Christina and I started the familiar trip to Issyk. It brought back a lot of memories of PST, as we took the hour long bus ride back into our lovely town. The first thing Christina said as we got off the bus was that it smelled like Issyk. I agreed, the scent of burning trash was definitely lingering in the air.
When I got to my host family, I found out that my host brother was at work. This bummed me out as he was the person I was closest to in the family. My host sister also said I looked tired and said I could take a nap. It seemed like the food wasn’t done yet, so I took her up on that. Two hours later, I awoke and had some delicious ploaf. My host sister had to leave, so it was mainly just my old host mom and I talking. It felt completely normal. It wasn’t awkward at all. It was like I ran into an old friend from America and we spent two hours talking about what I’ve been doing in Kazakhstan. Except it was all in Russian.
After gosting at my house, I went to gosti at Christina’s where I would also be spending the night. Her host family is incredibly accommodating and entertaining. We played more Durak, where I lost big on the final game (mainly due to confusion on the rules when you have four people playing.) The next day it was back to Almaty for the start of IST.