Hey everyone! So I'm officially in Kazakhstan... and it would be an understatement to call this place one crazy country. The first night with my host family was absolutely overwhelming. First of all, Peace Corps screwed up and wrote on my housing assignment that I was a male (maybe because there are two other PCTs named Jamie/Jaime and they are both guys?) but needless to say my host family was expecting a female, so when I walked up and threw out my best "Mena Zavoot Jamie" she looked at me in absolute terror. Not going to lie, I almost starting crying on the spot :) I later learned the reason for the confusion, and my host mom agreed to host me anyways and gave me a huge hug. I moved in with my family two nights ago. My family consists of a father, a mother Farida, a 23 year old son Arman, a daughter with down syndrome Amira, and an occasional aunt Clara. As you can see I don't remember my host father's name... :) Don't judge me!
So, unlike some PCTs here, no one in my family speaks English AT ALL. Arman knows about 5 words, and uses them over and over again. It's a lot of gestures and throwing my arms up in confusion at this point. We had our first language lesson yesterday (Saturday) for only 2 hours. I rushed home and practiced all of my new sentences/phrases on my family. I am from American, the state California, the city San Francisco (yea right like I'd try and get them to learn San Carlos). They laugh at me a lot, which makes everything better.
Lots and lots of Chai (the russian word for tea). They are shoving food down my throat 24 hours a day, I just keep rubbing my stomach and saying "no". Or pointing at my stomach and then saying little with my fingers. I think they are catching on. We've managed to have some very interesting conversations with my little amount of communication skills. I'll have to share some of these stories later. I miss home and miss all of my friends and family terribly, but I can't lie... I wouldn't trade this experience for anything - even if it is the hardest thing I've ever done so far.
I am living in a small "village" outside of Almaty (about 20 km) called Almalybak (all mall ee bok). Today I am going into Almaty with a fellow PCT and her family (mine disappeared this morning and weren't able to tell me where they were going or when they were coming home because I can't understand them haha). I plan to buy a cell phone on this trip so then people (mom and dad etc) will be able to call me here whenever you want. Unfortunately it is 2x as expensive for me to call the US as it is for the US to call KZ. I've written a few letters, but haven't had my "Post Office Orientation" yet, so they are just piling up on my desk. If you read this post, email me your address (even if I already asked you for it, because I left all of my addresses at home - whoops!). I haven't taken many pictures yet but I will try to post some of those soon.
Sorry this post is all over the place, but internet time is limited and expensive so I'm just trying to get out as much information as possible. The "internet cafe" (not what you would expect) is a few blocks from my apartment so I might manage internet connection a couple of times a week or so. I am the only PCT living in an apartment in this village, but the benefit to that is that I actually have a shower. Yay! But I might banya at a fellow PCT's house on the weekends - basically an outdoor sauna/shower combo that is very very popular here and replaces showers in most homes. If you guys think you know anything about hospitality, you are sorely mistaken as this country is the most warm and inviting country ever (at least the families that are hosting us). So Mom and Dad, no worries, they are treating me fabulously.
That's all for now! I'll keep you posted.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
My first load of clothing to Goodwill amounted to three black garbage bags full of clothes and a shopping bag full of shoes. I guess maybe I had WAY too much stuff in my closet this year, because believe it or not there is still a ton of stuff hanging in my closet and hanging out in drawers - most of which I'm going to try and cram into my two suitcases heading to Kazakhstan.
So, this is my first load of stuff for Goodwill, can't wait to see how many bags/boxes I'll fill with books...
at 5:59 PM