Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just another Tuesday...

With all the volunteers having finally left after my summer camp, I faced a quiet evening alone in the city. Instead of just relaxing, I decided to head over to Asa to help Jessica with "evening baseball," a new take on baseball camp since the temperature has been in the 40s for quite a few days now. Things that happened on this trip:

- I brought a giant bag full of plastic bottles onto the Asa bus with no problem, since I just put it on other giant bags full of things other people had brought.
- When the bus made a sudden stop, a woman near Mark almost fell out of the window. Half her body fell out including her arm holding her purse. Okay, she wasn't really in danger since the window ledge was too high, but I don't know how she held onto the purse.
- We helped hand a guy a 25 kilo bag of sugar when he got off the bus (not that crazy, but really when was the last time you did that in America)
- We arrived without calling Jessica (very local of us) to find out that baseball would be at 7 and not 6, and that they were running late (very local of them) and wouldn't be there until about 7:20
- Tried playing baseball with the kids only to realize that yeah, after two years, I still don't speak Kazakh. Luckily one of the kids helped translate
- When a local dad showed up wondering what was going on (parent interest! awesome?!), I had to ask him to put the bat down because even though he wasn't really swinging it, he did seem to not notice the kids walking around him. Maybe I'm too overly cautious, but I don't want anyone getting hit with the bat. He then said, eh, they're my kids. This put us at an awkward situation, as he did not want to let go of said bat and I was trying to politely take it from him. I then realized that I may soon have an angry man holding a bat to deal with. Luckily the situation was defused when Mark walked over and said Hello, culturally forcing the man to shake Mark's hand and relinquish the bat. (Would walking up to a man in a hostage situation saying Salom maleiikom accomplish the same thing?)
- On the way back, the tire of a van blew out while we were walking down the road. Not that unusual, but it was loud and scared me.
-We take a taxi back to town. Usually they let you off not that far into town, but sometimes they take you further. The guys asks where we are going, I say the center, and he doesn't say anything. Once we get into the city we go a little further than normal before he stops to drop off the two women passengers who were with us. One has a 2000 tenge bill for the 150 tenge ride. He pulls into a gas station to get change. He can't find any. He asks us where we are going. I again say center. He again says nothing. He runs across the street to get change and then comes back. He gives her the change. He then tells us that we have to get out because he isn't going to the center. I am confused as to why he didn't tell us this when we were sitting in his car for five minutes while he attempted to find change. Perhaps, he was as equally confused about why we thought he would take us to the center.
-While walking back, we decide to peak in a new cafe that has opened up. It is called Mr. Kumpir and it has an interesting logo. http://www.mrkumpir.com/eng/menulerimiz.html We go inside to find a surprisingly nice looking restaurant. The waiter seats us and brings us menus. It turns out there are menus on every table! Some restaurants here only have one or two menus for the whole place. Further, what we find on the menu is ridiculous. It is full of kumpirs. What is a kumpir? A baked potato! I have never seen these at a cafe in Kazakhstan. Even when they are homemade here, they are typically just baked and not decorated with any toppings. But these were gourmet ones that included toppings like red cabbage, broccoli, and beans. Further exploration revealed a value menu where you could order a hamburger, fries, and a drink for one price. Yeah, or course these exist in Almaty, but for Taraz, this is mindblowing (and was a stark contrast to Asa which we had been in only 30 minutes before). Wait, what's that on the menu? A waffle? Like a real, thick waffle? No way. Yes! They had a real waffle iron. However, waffles are only gourmet waffles, so they come with fruit, chocolate, and other toppings. In addition to these items, they also had grilled cheese sandwiches, regular sandwiches, and chicken shnitzel (which turned out to be like fried chicken breasts). All of this is made more ridiculous by the fact that in the past 36 hours, in an attempt to be super American, I had made waffles, baked potatoes, and chicken fingers and had relished in the fact that I was culinaryily unique. Nope. Just had to go down the street. We tried to order kumpirs (the speciality at Mr. Kumpir), but they were out. That's the pinch to say yes, we still are in Kazakhstan. To add to ridiculousness, at one point, the waiter even came back to see how we were doing. And when we got the check, there was no service charge and the bread we had gotten (but not asked for) was truly complimentary. The place was overpriced, but I hope it manages to stick around.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer camps

I haven't written on this thing in forever. Surprisingly, it is working without proxy servers and I am actually on blogger. Awesome.

This week I have a ten day summer camp with kids from our Access program. I was basically in charge of putting most of it together, so I had to run all around town and find things to do. The hardest thing in Kazakhstan is getting documents from places that sell you things. So we had to nix t-shirts because they were too expensive with the right documents. So far we have had a picnic, a scavenger hunt, tours of the city, visit to the museum, icebreakers, and day at the park. Today is bowling, then American sports day, then a trip to the movie theater. We have a great group of volunteers from the South helping at the camp.

Next week, there is a break. Then Astana, then Kyrgyzstan?, then camp, then break, then Ust, then Georgia, then three more months as I hunker down and finish strong. I'll try to update soon with some pictures from camp, since I can now post them with blogger.

Oh and Happy Astana Day!