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)

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Winter officially began here on December 1st rather than around the 21st as in the States, but it was still almost ten days past the day of the first snow. On November 21st I went outside in the morning on my way to school and was surprised by seeing some flakes. The snow continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon, but at a calm, we won’t hit you too hard the first time pace. When it stopped in the afternoon, there was a good dusting everywhere, scenic to make you forget about the cold.

The first snow was in the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week the temperature had plunged and was down to -15 or -20 Celsius, around 0 Fahrenheit, on the Saturday I was to travel to Taraz for Thanksgiving. That morning, my counterpart, Nadezhda, and I walked over to the train station where the buses also queue up for trips to places like Taraz, Almaty, and Biskek. She helped negotiate a price for me, 700 Tenge, about $5 for a four hour trip. Then I climbed into the minivan/airport shuttle looking marshrutka and got a window seat on the left in the middle row. Gradually over the next 45 minutes, more people piled in until we had a full van of about fifteen.

Everyone was appropriately dressed for the weather in hats, long coats boots, scarves, and gloves, with fur in abundance on every part of winter clothing, inside and out. The driver probably could have squeezed in a couple extra people on a sunny and warm day if it weren’t for all the extra clothes. Nevertheless, we were all doing our best to stay warm and motivated for a cramped and cold trek across the steppe down to Taraz.

Though it hadn’t snowed since earlier in the week, there had been a recent dusting of marose, frost, that morning. Morose falls like snow but comes out of low-lying clouds. It resembles long white shards of shaved-ice. From afar, the trees may look like they are covered in snow, but instead it is usually morose. When the marshrutka crossed the overpass over the railroad, I got a great winter view of Shu. Everything covered in fresh marose sparkled in the sunlight, particularly the trees. The marshrutka and the people in it seemed to be the only things not frozen and able to move. After the bridge, the van banked to the right onto the road to Taraz.

While it has warmed a bit from that first stretch of weather, it is still cold and there is fresh marose about every other day and snow maybe once a week. The marose and snow quickly turns to sheets of ice after everyone walks over it. The uneven sidewalks and streets are now slick, contoured obstacles that are easily mastered by the locals but test my balance. Women like to wear high leather boots with needle-thin heels in the winter and I prefer to wear my flat hiking boots, but they would win a race unchallenged and uninjured.

Outside it is fur for warmth, but inside it is coal. I know some buildings here are still on the central heating lines run by the city, but all of the buildings I’ve been in are heated with coal. Houses have coal stoves in the kitchen that heat the house as well as kettles of water for chai.

All in all, I am staying warm and busy. I plan on making a second journey down to Taraz soon to meet up with the other Volunteers there to celebrate Christmas. We will be celebrating on the 23rd and 24th because we all have work on the 25th. The Russian Orthodox who celebrate Christmas here won’t be celebrating until January 7th. However, everyone here will be celebrating Novee Gode (New Years). Students and teachers have been talking about it for over a month so I am preparing for a big celebration.

Since I won’t likely be writing until the new year, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anson.

Enjoyed reading your update! I bet it is really getting cold there now! It is still relatively mild here in North Andover. 40s and 50s almost everyday - no measurable snow in sight.

Hope you had a great Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

Patriots clinched AFC East 4th year in a row this past Sunday. WOOHOO.


3:49 AM  

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