Kazakhstan to a Nittany Lion

My thoughts and perspective on Kazakhstani culture. (These are my thoughts and opinions alone and do not reflect the policies or opinions of the Peace Corps or the United States Government)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

First Glimpse

Zdrastvootyeh from Kazakhstan!

I have now been in Kazakhstan for over two weeks, but have only been into Almaty twice. I have been very busy with Russian lessons six days a week, observing classes at our schools, and adapting to living with my hostfamily.

For my living accomodations, I am living with a Kazakh family of eight, mother, father, four sons/grandsons, and two daughers, in a village of about 50,000 people outside of Almaty. The picture to the right is of the mountains near my house and a typical road in my village. I have my own room with a bed, desk, chair, and clothesrack. For the first week or so, my family was still cooking and eating all of their meals outside. We have a large patio area with a gas stove, refrigerator, and pantry. We eat a lot of soups and stews which usually include a lot of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden, as well as a piece of meat like chicken or beef. Along with the soups, every meal also includes many cups of chai.

Attached to the patio is also the banya where I bathe as well as wash hands, brush teeth, etc. And behind the eating area is a small pen for my family's four chickens and one rooster and our toalyet (outhouse). The outhouse is an eight by eight cell with an oblong hole in the cement floor. Yes, I've used it every day since the first day I arrived.

My typical day includes waking up at 6:30, breakfast at 7, walking to school at 7:30, observing classes in the mornings or having technical sessions related to teaching, lunch from 12-2, then Russian lessons from 2-6. After all of those Peace Corps activities, I walk home, eat dinner around 7 or 8, and study Russian until bed around 10 or 10:30. It is an exhausting schedule, but I am very glad to be here and I am overwhelmed with the excellent quality of the training we are receiving, both with our Russian lessons and with the technical training related to teaching in Kazakhstani schools.

I have only had a few chances to play soccer, once at the school with some of my fellow trainees and a few other times at my house with my younger hostbrothers. Aside from soccer, we trainees occasionally go to the cafe in our village for lunch and a beer or go for a walk around our village.

I have yet to buy a cellphone yet, but today I went to the Barayholka Bazaar and bought some dress shoes for 2600 Tenge (~130 Tenge to the Dollar) with the help of a friend, Darkhan. The man selling the shoes listened to Darkhan and I speak and found out I was American so he asked 4500 Tenge for the shoes. He was speaking in Russian, but I was able to make out "American" and "4500 Tenge" and knew that this was way too high, so Darkhan and I left his stall. Then he cut his price by almost 2000 Tenge, so I went back inside and was able to finally settle on the final price. I thought this was a success considering a Volunteer who has been here for three years already said he paid around 2500 for his shoes.

More exciting than buying the shoes was the bazaar itself which stretched for acres. It was all housed under many large metal roofs that were probably 20 feet tall. Each stall was actually two large metal shipping containers stacked on top of each other. Today, Sunday, is the very busy day for the bazaar so there were thousands of people there, buying clothes, shoes, food, electronics, basically whatever you were in the market for. Though I've been to large markets in Brazil, this definitely took the cake in terms of size and number of people.

In conclusion, it has been an exhausting few weeks here thusfar, but I am upbeat and enjoying life. Feel free to comment on this posting, but I have no idea when I will next be online to read it. Thanks for reading. -peace


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you Anson! Interesting accounting of your experiences to date. (Once a day is plenty for that hole in the floor; we experienced that in France 45 years ago, by the way.)
Would you believe that the METS have the best record in BB as of today, 88-53! The Sox, of course, are finished. Keep up the good work. Neil

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Glad to hear that you are doing well and enjoying yourself over there. Post pictures when you get a chance.

Patriots won their first game 19-17 over Buffalo. Sorry to tell you that PSU got whipped by Notre Dame 41-17, but it was 41-3 at one point.

Stay warm over there. I imagine it will be getting cold soon.


6:52 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Griffith said...

Dobrie dehn, Anson,

E kak vi pozhivayesh? I wish this thing could post in Cyrillic; then I could give your newly acquired pa-Russkie a workout.

Glad to hear that you're safe and sound in Kaz. Very much enjoyed the bit about the bazaar. I've heard that it's the center of life in Kaz communities. Of course, I heard that from people who were there for all of 36 hours, so you'd be far more expert than they at this point.

By the way, last weekend, Ohio State (#1) rolled over Texas (#2), handily preserving its rating and raising the likelihood of an Ohio-USC matchup in the Rose Bowl come New Years.

It sounds like you're adjusting to your rustic environment very well. The detail with which you described it was great.

Does the Peace Corps keep you apprised of the political situation over there, just in case "interesting times" should be coming your way? If not, it might be a good idea to keep your ear to the ground for changes in the polity.

We'll be looking forward to your next installment. Until then, have fun, stay safe and don't forget to duck!

Das vidanye,


9:43 AM  
Anonymous Jeffrey Griffith said...

Come to think of it,the first sentence in phoneticized Russian should have read, "Ee kak ti pozhivayesh?" Guess I really need that Cyrillic font. All the same, good luck out there and keep us posted.


8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Anson: It's Wednesday Sept 13th and I just saw your 9/10/06 e-mail in my "junk e-mail" folder...please don't take that personally...it's the "system". But that's the excuse for the delay in responding.

Regardless, it's great to hear you are safe and sound in Kaz, adapting to the new culture and new friends.

Robin delivered her baby on August 16th, 8 lb 2 oz daughter....Lily Grace and she is a cutie. Both Robin and Lily are doing great. I will e-mail some pictures of her asap.

We all look forward to further news from you.

All our best, Aunt Sue and Uncle Rob

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anson, glad to hear you're still alive, I still think you're crazy, but keep it up and best of luck. We'll drink to ya here in the states, take care!

- Mayberry

5:23 PM  

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