Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Gas For Me

written May 27, 2009

Kazakhstan can shut off your gas when they feel like it. And not just your gas, but your entire block's gas. I'm not sure exactly how they notify everyone that their gas is going to be shut off for the day - probably sky writing in Kazakh because I was certainly not informed. 

I had finally gotten my act together, now that school is over, and invited my counterpart and Saltanat (the young English teacher I work with) and their families over for Pizza Night tonight. I've been bragging about my pizza making skills for months now and by Kazakh standards I have waited way too long to invite my first guests over for an appreciative dinner at the new place. 

I did most of my shopping yesterday and then made one last run to the bazaar this afternoon to pick up the rest of the ingredients for my dinner party. I came home and began preparing the dough for pizza and apple pie (yup! That's right - I'm making my first apple pie in Kazakhstan) and decided to get some water boiled for the inevitable hourde of dishes I was going to have. When I went to light my stove, nothing lit up. I tried almost an entire box of matches in all different sorts of manners, but nothing worked. 

To display my initial American ignorance... the first thought that went to my head was that maybe I had forgotten to turn off the gas switch last night after making disastrous sugar cookies and that I had used up all of the gas. I recognized instantly how ridiculously idiotic that sounded. I remembered that I have an oven in my banya - don't ask, I still haven't figured out why the thing is there, just gotta have the chai even in the banya?. But, I decided to see if it would light - you know, establish the source of the problem. No luck there either. I was twisting all sorts of pipes all over the place and trying to see if something had fallen apart in my sleep (it's a very old house - totally possible), but no luck anywhere, I even followed the piping out to it's source on the side of my house (getting snagged on some bushes in the process, embarassing).

I finally walked over to my landlord's house next door and explained that my gas wasn't working and asked if his was working. He smiled and said that the city had turned off our gas and that it was supposed to start working again in the evening. When I asked him if he knew what time (I'm expecting my guests around 5-6pm) he clearly misunderstood me and just repeated the initial statement. On a side note, sometimes I think that it's really not me who is the idiot in some of these conversations. I smiled and thanked him. He made some joke about how it was really inconvenient (not all of which I understood) and I came back to make some disappointing phone calls. 

So, now I've got all of the ingredients for a delicious dinner and no way to actually cook any of it. It would be fine if I were having a Salad Party - which believe me would be a real eye-opener for this culture, but unfortunately everything I was planning on serving requires a flame. In America, I'd just head to a local restaurant with some friends, but here... well I guess I could always go to a cafe alone? That's sad. Maybe my counterpart will feed me dinner tonight...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It's official... I now have internet at my house. Still working out some minor kinks (currently borrowing neighbors' computer instead of my laptop) so Sykpe isn't quite set up yet...

Will keep you posted. Look forward to many more picture updates and other goodies!