I haven't been to America in two years. (I arrived in Kazakhstan 8/21/08). For the past 730 days, I have been in Kazakhstan for all about sixteen of them. Fifteen were spent in India and one was spent in Kyrgyzstan. It's been a long time. And it feels longer than I expected it would. Despite that, Kazakhstan is still full of surprises.
Example one: The other week I had some people from England visiting me. We were playing Frisbee with a local school and then the person who had organized the event invited all of us (four English guys, two PCVS, and Asela) back to her house for dinner. But the organizer was Kazakh, so big mass invites are not a big surprise. She calls home to find out that her family is actually at their grandmother's house. Slight change in plans, but we'll just go there for dinner. We hope they have enough to feed us.
After driving way outside of the center of the city, we find out that her family being at grandma's house meant ALL of her family. There were probably twenty to twenty-five guests already at the party. And there was plenty, plenty of beshbarmak for us. We sit down in the dining room and I'm just happy these English dudes are getting the gosting experience. They'd been in K-stan for two weeks already, but this is their first trip to someone's home. (Easy to get invites when you live here, but when traveling the big cities it can be difficult.)
This all is still pretty normal. Really, I mean there are seven people that a family barely knows eating at their house, but that's normal in Kazakhstan. These are hospitable people. Then one of the uncle starts talking about something. I don't understand and Asela is having trouble translating. Something about cutting. Oh, it's the circumcision talk again. It comes up sometimes, people talking about circumcision. Usually in the banya, but this still isn't out of the ordinay. Then the guy asks if we want to see what he's talking about. This isn't new either, but usually it's a joke.
He's not joking. All of a sudden, he lifts up a small boy, probably about two years old up on the table. The boy is only wearing a long t-shirt. The uncle lifts up the t-shirt and well there is an example of circumcision. From the telltale green antiseptic in the area, it seems like it is a fresh circumcision. The boy's smile is beaming as his uncle shows him off. Apparently this whole party was for him, some sort of Muslim version of a bris. I've been to many a gostings before, but that part was new. SURPRISE! (A friend later said that we should have given money to the kid as part of the tradition. If that ever happens again, I'll be ready.)
Example two: I was walking home the other day and I noticed a girl on the street had something in her hand that I hadn't seen before in Kazakhstan. It looked like a cup full of colored ice. It looked like a…. Then it hit me. The blini café. For the past two weeks, they'd had a sign out front with really blocky, pixilated pictures advertising a new "slosh". What's a slosh? (In my mind I associated it was cole slaw somehow, probably because it's written like "слаш" in Russian, which kinda looks like slaw if you read the c as a Russian s and the w as an English w instead of a "sh" sound.)
I went there to see for myself. Yes, there is was. Two nozzles attached to two spinning tanks. One purple. One yellow. Slushies! Slushies in Kazakhstan! SURPRISE. A country where most people are afraid of cold drink because it will give you a sore throat and ice is only seen in the winter usually on the ground. But here it was, in Taraz! Slushies! I immediately bought one.
Example three: Although, I'm getting tired of writing and want to eat dinner, so this will be short. We went to this café we though was Uzbek because it looked all fancy and stuff. Turns out its Moroccan, and they have couscous! Couscous in Kazakhstan. SURPRISE! It was so light and fluffy and awesome. Unfortunately, it was way too expensive, the rest of the food was awful, and the service was disappointing. But still, it's nice to know it's there if I ever really really want it.
Even after two years, this country is still full of things I'd never expect. And that's what makes me excited still heading into my third year. I may be experienced now, but the adventure is far from over.