Here's a glimpse into another PCV's assignment. My city-mouse lifestyle is an exception rather than the rule for Kaz PCVs. Susan sent me this shortly after she moved to Uralsk, and I meant to post it then, but I just now got around to it. She has since moved to a new town because of the phone situation herein described. It's good reading; enjoy.
The phone situation is worse than I'd thought. Today, I had to call my warden and had to wander around the village with my host mother, trying to find someone with a phone. The public phone was closed, as it has been since I arrived. And in the end, I was not able to call my warden; I called Amber instead. We're meeting at 9 by the hideous green hotel in Ural, although I hadn't wanted to go until the afternoon. However, taxis leave at 7 am and return in the evening. There's no other way to go, unless you have a private car, ha ha. But the situation is not safe - I can't on my own reach anyone outside, and no one can reach me. Amber had been trying for a few days. All the other volunteers have been seeing each other this whole time, and I've had no contact at all. I'll look into getting a cell phone, but I seriously doubt that's an option out here. I don't really know what to do. Today, when I was imagining how nice it would be to be put in the mountains, my neighbor, a student, came in and we talked for almost an hour. And there's a great group of volunteers over here. Those aren't advantages that every volunteer has.
So, yes, I'm a pretty solid case of Failure to Thrive.
Central Asia airlines
Serve omelettes at noon. That sound good?
I said yes. Regrets.
Nope, I can't marry
A Host Country National yet -
Peace Corps sayasat.
My counterpart and I get along okay - well. Sometimes, she drives me nuts. But she is usually helpful, if less tenacious than I'd like. She tried calling Jackie once for me, there was a busy signal, and she said oh well. It's busy and began to walk away. I tried to impress upon her that it was necessary to try again. But really she just wanted a nap. She's not very good at thinking what it would be like to be me. She insists on writing Kazakh words and names in my notebook in Latin letters. (Please, let me write it myself in Kazakh. Just tell me and I'll write it. Silence as she takes my book and writes in English, using way too many y's for vowels.) I believe she thinks I can't read or understand Kazakh at all. But her English is quite good. It's not the language that gets her - sometimes I say something that blows her mind, and then she squints and is quiet (Let's try to call my parents in an hour - right now, it's 5AM in Chicago. Silence. )
I have a lot of work to do in order to teach these students. Today I observed Kumbat's (my counterpart) lesson. In an entire 45-minute class of 11th graders who've had English since 2nd grade, the only words in English they spoke were Good Morning. In fact, that was all they spoke in an academic capacity at all. The teachers speak, and the students listen, or don't. But it was obvious that the students didn't know any English at all. Which seems like a waste, since their teachers speak it well. The teachers here are fantastically nice to me.
My host mother is funny about me. When she thinks she's waking me up, she calls me Susie. In the kitchen just now, she got on to me for always wearing - you know how I dress. Don't you have shorts? She asked, and demonstrated with her hands hitting at daisy duke height. Every day, she evaluates what I wear, and she's not checking for modesty. She's checking for style. If there's a wrinkle or an oil stain, no matter how subtle, it will be pointed out. She whaps dirt off my butt. When I went to the concert, she made it obvious that my shirt and skirt combination wasn't sexy enough. It's funny. So, while I was under the impression (as was Kumbat) that she was going to Ural to buy herself a new suit, she was going to oversee my purchase. She chose the store and the suit, shot down my request for a dress, and even hunted through the bazaar afterward for new shoes. But by that point in time, I was poor. (I feel like a big jerk for buying an expensive suit) No new shoes. I seriously hope to make some of my own clothes this winter, if I need them.
Of all the things that could bother me here, it gets my goat that everyone believes 1) Americans use machines to do absolutely everything. I've been asked if I cooked on a stove, cut tomatoes with a knife, and ironed by hand in the United States. (You don't use a machine to cut tomatoes? You don't use a machine to iron?) My counterpart simply doesn't believe my answers. 2) That there are no fresh fruits or vegetables in America. Sitting at a table with what really wasn't far off from a Midwestern Sunday dinner (not that fresh, mind), everyone was trying to force me to say we have nothing this good in America. In America, we don't have this type of berry. Oh, but this is not grown in a garden. It's grown in a forest. You've only seen blackberries from gardens. I remember the huge wild blackberry patch in the middle of Meredith Beem's field, where we hid from a coyote. And the blackberries growing along Forest Hill Irene that Mom and Katherine picked on the way back from school. Not in a garden. Not in a forest. Stains red. Not the same berry. But the jam was nice. Small, edible seeds that don't wedge between one's molars. I was really annoyed for some reason.
A couple days ago, I did the family laundry (and mine) in the rain. It hasn't rained for weeks - it's steppe, for crying out loud- and the day I do laundry . . . actually, it was nice. Weird birds here. The amazingly tangled copse of gray trees is the favorite perch of what seem to be some kind of buzzard. When they fly, no matter how high, I can hear the wind in their feathers, which leads me to believe they're not aerodynamic. I mean, it's not a whooshing, but a whizzing noise. And then today there was something that looked vaguely like a cockatiel with a non-big-huge-nut-cracking beak. Long white tail, white pointy feathers on its head.
At lunch, I burned my mouth on pilmeni, as I always do, so tonight at dinner, the poor little rags of skin on the top of my mouth were flapping as I drank my tea.
More on animals - the gentlest dog in the world lives here. She's a German Shepard-type who leans comfortably against anything human. The other dog seems to always be gnawing on her hind legs, but VanDamme doesn't mind, she just licks him occasionally. Maybe having one's hind legs gnawed isn't so bad after all.
The cats, though, are another story. There are three: Mama cat and two kittens. They're as cute as any of those kittens on the calendars (yes, I once had the calendars. Went through a pink/cat stage, believe it or not. Soon enough repented and switched over to orange and goats.) but good grief, they're violent! To each other. It's like a blood feud. The blue-eyed one seems to be ahead. She hides behind things and rips into the green-eyed kitten whenever he comes by. They were fighting in the house today, and I thought my host mama (not a wispy woman) was running. Really, I did. I withhold affection from them, and I don't think they care, the little brutes. They'll probably kill me in my sleep.
But the kittens are starting to warm up to me. One of them lives under the sink When I'm brushing my teeth, he'll suddenly flash out a little arm and bat at my toes. Boy, did it ever scare me the first time.
I'm thinking about getting my hair cut short. I was looking at a photo of Katherine with chin-length hair that looked really good, and I hope that would also work for someone who's closely related to her. On the other hand, I don't know whether short dirty hair or long dirty hair looks dirtier. It's chancy.