Saturday, September 6, 2008

Another Week

School Begins! 9/1-9/2

Yesterday was the first day of school in Kazakhstan and thus opening ceremonies were held across the country. First days of school here are nothing like they are in America. I felt like I was at a concert rather than a school. Several different groups of students sang and danced. There were also government officials there and a camera man who I assume was filming for the local news. All the students were in “uniform”, white shirts with black or navy pants or skirts. Some of the boys were even in suits and tuxedos. The girls all wore what could not be described as anything other than “poofs” in their hair. All the children were gathered by class in the courtyard of the school to watch the ceremonies. Part of these happenings of course focused on the new American teachers, and we were instructed to introduce ourselves to the entire student body in Kazakh. It was momentous. After our introduction hordes of students carrying flowers ran towards us to deliver their gifts. And I'm not exaggerating by saying hordes, we each received five or more bouquets of flowers.

The ceremony lasted about an hour or so, after which we had classroom observation. The point of this was simply to observe the differences between American and Kazakh education systems and practices. As I expected, Kazakh students are much more behaved and classroom etiquette is much more formal than in America. Of course, it is hard to tell exactly what is going on because of the obvious language barrier.

After we finished with observation we continued with our language lessons. Our lessons went longer than usual because of the morning ceremonies and observations. So, I didn't get home until around 7 pm. At this point I had some tea and potatoes and went to sleep. I find that I'm always exhausted by the end of the day. I sleep better here than I ever did in America.

Today we had language lessons and another health seminar with Viktor. These are always interesting, and today we talked about specific health issues that may arise during our service, including worms (today dubbed “ass cobras”), scabies and third degree burns on our butts. Keep in mind these are scenarios that have already taken place and are thus likely to happen again.

Since the opening ceremonies on the first day of school, all the volunteers are now a source of fascination for the students. They never cease to say “Hello!” to us, and so we must hear this about a hundred times a day. It's the only thing they know how to say, and after uttering it they do one of two things. Either they laugh hysterically when we say “Hello” back to them, or they run away as fast as possible. I'm curious as to when this will cease to amuse them. They also flock to us whenever we are in the courtyard of the school. They literally form a ring around us, staring and whispering to each other. It's rather like being on the set of Hitchcock's “The Birds”, but instead of birds, its Kazakh children in black and white uniforms. Hopefully, this fades with time.

English Clubs, Community Projects, and Lessons. Oh my... 9/3-5

Wednesday was devoted entirely to technical training and seminars on community projects and clubs. Basically, this means that we are going to be ridiculously busy for the next nine weeks. In addition to having language lessons 3-6 hours a day, we are going to be teaching English classes, devoting after school time to clubs and then any remaining time to our community project. All this will be starting in the next week or so.

We had a few ideas for our community project, but the one we finally decided on was traffic safety. This may seem a little silly, but there is absolutely no semblance of traffic safety in Shamalgan. We have no traffic lights, no stop signs, nothing. On the main road there is a memorial to three students who died two years ago crossing the street. This is what gave us our idea for the community project. We figure, best case scenario, we have speed bumps and crosswalks put in; worst case scenario, we teach kids to look both ways before running into oncoming traffic. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this.

Thursday we were back to language lessons, accompanied by a brief health seminar with the infamous Viktor. I seriously love this guy. This seminar was dedicated solely to sex education... use your imagination. During our lunch break we went to the local Beeline store and got cellphones. I officially have a Kazakhstani cellphone number! (See Facebook) As my cell phone isn't good for much calling or texting yet (I see the only people I know everyday, why would I call them?), its main purpose has been to take me back to the good old days with Snake. Yes, my cellphone has Snake. You're jealous, I know. My current high score is 1230. I'm pretty impressed with myself. After lessons I had tutoring with Roman, my LCF. Looking back on my previous blog entry(ies) I can't believe I haven't mentioned Roman. Sweet dude. And he has a golden grill to prove it.

Today we had our usual language lessons and then some more lesson observation. This time we sat in on a physical science and then a chemistry class. Of course we had no idea what was going on, thus my time was spent doodling. Very productive. After class we went to the local cafe as we had a birthday in the group. Not too much going on, to be honest. We are getting into a routine: lessons, seminars, home, food, outhouse, etc. Tomorrow is Almaty entry, the first major landmark of PST! We are officially 25% done with training!

So yet again, the internet does not permit the posting of pictures. Soon hopefully :) Also, for those of you who have posted on my facebook wall or on here, thank you so much! And I'm sorry if I haven't been able to respond, again the internet sucks and posting on facebook walls takes a lifetime :( More to come soon!