Monday, September 27, 2010

Things I've been doing

Moving out of my old apartment and into my new place. No oven, but does have a washing machine. And a freezer that doesn't seem to turn into an actual block of ice. (I should have taken pictures of my last one.) Thanks to Mark, Courtney, and Asela for doing a lot of the heavy lifting for me.


Visits from new trainees. The new volunteers are coming on field trips to see what volunteer life is like. The first group was a lot of fun, but they got lost a couple times. This week, I have decided to give maps to the new group that comes.


Work. I have a to-do list of about thirty things every week. I have a lot of things to do from English planning to volunteer planning to conference planning to meetings. It's busy here, but I can't imagine life not being busy.


COS conference. All of the Kaz 20s who are left gathered in Almaty for one last conference. It was awesome. Thanks to everyone who was there and made it special. We even had a talent show that featured Madonna, butt-shaking Glee dancing, juggling, Lady Gaga, and impersonations. That talent show was at a cookout that was awesome, but could be improved for next year. (Improvements include: pickles, sliced onions, yellow mustard, and bbq sauce.) But Paul also brought over his N64, which enabled me to get my butt kicked in Golden Eye.


Other stuff. Frisbee starting back up. And playing one last game with Jason in Almaty. It was a great day with tons of hucks and running and games to 3 or 8 depending on how you look at it. Frisbee here was good on Sunday. Hoping to get it going regularly before the winter sets in.


Next blog will focus on my first trip to the theater to see a Spektackle! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Weekend – Normal and not


The last two days have been normal, strange, and normal for being strange. Life in the Peace Corps is definitely interesting in that it is very active and varied.


Friday started out with a strange amount of success. I showed up at work early to copy some audio files onto a student's flash card to find they had forgotten their memory stick. After that hiccup though, I went by a local university and picked up some forms they were supposed to fill out. In addition to the forms being ready, I had tea to celebrate Ait (end of Ramadan). Next I went by another university and met with a professor there, and she also filled out forms that I needed. Then I went to work and my 1:00 appointment was on time. I gave her a volunteer book for her college and she gave me the name of an acquaintance who can hang wall paper. Then my 3:00 appointment was on time. I spent about an hour assisting someone with their resume and teaching them that past work experience should include descriptions. (I will soon do a post her about resumes in Kazakhstan.) Finally, the girl came back to get the audio files with her flash drive. Rarely has a day ever gone that smoothly.


In the evening, Asela and I went on a double date with one of her friends and her new boyfriend. We ate at Bavarius which is a strangely American café. There you can find pitchers of beer, onion rings, garlic toast, and fried mozzarella sticks. It was a fun night.


Today I made a speech about Frisbee to about 1000 people at the stadium during a health festival. I then was able to briefly play on a grass field for about one minute to demonstrate the game. During this minute I successfully made a gratuitous layout catch and got grass stains on the UNICEF t-shirt my friend had just given me. Within five minutes ten locals immediately pointed out how I had gotten dirty. I thought that was the point.


The rest of the day was filled with me packing up my apartment, settling issues with a neighbor, and my landlady coming over unannounced to show off the apartment. That's right. I'm moving apartments. I decided to find a landlady who is nicer and will actually do repairs when things break. (Apparently, it's somehow my fault that the sink leaks water and the toilet now rocks when you sit on it. I have no idea why these things occurred, but my guess is the sink she got was cheap and the toilet is clearly installed on uneven tile.)


Finally, I went to a wedding of an old friend. It'd been a while (about a year) since my last wedding, so it was nice to go to one again.


Now I'm back at my apartment waiting to go to the train station so I can head to COS conference where it'll be awesome and sad. It'll probably be the last time I see a lot of my close friends who are going back to America. But that's not until Monday.


Now I'm just thinking about tomorrow when I'll get to play Frisbee in Almaty. It's been about a year since I played a competitive game with more than four people on a team. Here's hoping for sevens. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

An epiphany

A couple weeks ago, my organization went on a picnic to celebrate Constitution Day. It was a great day of relaxing, swimming, and delicious food. (Mark and I cooked with the help of a local guy Danyar. And although the stew I made wasn't supposed to be a stew, it was still pretty good.)

One thing that stands out is an exchange I had with a bus driver and consequently everyone at the picnic. We were all sitting down to eat a snack about 30 minutes after we first got there. The bus driver was napping in the bus, so one of my friends told me to invite him to eat with us.

I walked up to the bus and leaned inside. Then I said something to the equivalent of "Здрастуй! Мы перекусаем. Вы хотите кушать с нами?" Which translates, in my mind, to Hello! We are having a snack. Do you want to eat with us."

Immediately, I mean immediately everyone at the picnic made a groan of horror. Michael, how could you be so rude? How could you say such a thing? What, I asked. I just asked if he wanted to eat with us. Exactly, they said. You should never ask if someone wants to eat. They'll be shy and say no. Just invite him to eat with us.

So I tried again. "Мы приглашаем Вас кушать с нами." (We invite you to eat with us.) Again, the cries rang out. No, no, no. Confused and getting frustrated, I asked, then how am I supposed to tell him to eat with us. Just tell him, "Пойдем. кушайте! " (Let's go. Eat!)

Suddenly, two years in Kazakhstan made sense. Every gosti experience. Every host family experience. Every meal I've ever eaten with locals. By now, I've come to accept that being told to eat wasn't rude here. It's just what people do. Eat! Eat! We hear it from day one. But I never really that asking someone if they wanted to eat was rude. What in my mind equates to respecting someone's own desires and giving them the opportunity to choose and come eat was horribly offensive. I thought back on my two years and wondered how many times I may have offended someone by offering them that choice.