Saturday, October 25, 2008

A glimpse into my future...

Michael Jackson Fox
October 14-23

These past two weeks have been fun-filled to say the least. After returning from Hub Day on the 13th, the Shamalgan trainees had a few days time before the beginning of counterpart conference. To be honest, I can't remember what we did to fill this void, but it may or may not involved the Kazakh language and more than one movie night.

In other news, my host brother is getting married. He actually bride-napped his fiance, which is a fabulous Kazakh tradition, and brought her to our home in Shamalgan. Now, bride-napping isn't as terrifying as it sounds. The bride actually consents to being “napped” before she is taken to her future husband's home, where wedding festivities ensue. One of my favorite moments of the evening involved the tradition of throwing candy. Now, in America when people get married we throw rice, flowers, release doves, whatev. In Kazakhstan, when a girl gets engaged, it gives any older person permission to chuck hard candy at her. It's hilarious. Every time my brother's fiance got candy thrown at her, she looked like she wanted to cry. Their wedding is supposedly soon, so I'll be sure to report on what is sure to be a very interesting ceremony/celebration.

Now, onto counterpart conference. The morning started out about as badly as it possibly could. We were forced to be ready and waiting for our transportation at 7am. Now, that doesn't sound too bad, but it did mean that I had to wake up at 5:30 to be ready in time. It's also important to note that it was freezing cold because it had rained all night. And the bus was 2 hours late. And by the time it came there was no room for our luggage. So, we sat with our gigantic bags on an overcrowded bus (with no heat) for almost three hours. It was so much fun. On a side note, it's amazing how even two weeks after this incident I can write about it with so much bitterness. Hmm...

Moving on. I met my counter-part about 30 minutes after our arrival in Almaty. Her name is Sazhida and we had a lovely first chat over tea and biscuits. She has never been a counterpart before, so I know already that things are going to be a bit difficult. Mostly due to the fact that I'm coming in to a new site as an outsider and basically asking the English department of my school to change it's evil ways. Not that they have evil ways, I just felt like making an allusion to a famous song. The conference was basically a series of seminars taught by various individuals, mostly designed to help the counterparts. Overall, it went well, with the exception of the concussion incident (details to be given upon request).

Friday, I left with my counterpart for my future home, kind of. My counterpart actually lives in a bigger town nearby the village that we'll be teaching in. I ended up staying with her for the first few days of site visit. We hung out, I helped her kids with some English, it was good times. She has two daughters, one is twelve years old and the other is four. The older girl is awesome, I love her. And she is an amazing dancer. She did some sweet dances for me one of the days I was there. She reminds me of a young, Kazakh Andrea Costa.

On Monday I moved in with my future host mother. I'm really excited about my new living conditions, just me and Mama. This guarantees I'll get all the attention I need and deserve. Besides that, the house is really nice, brand new, and with many convenient amenities, such as a toilet. There is also a shower, but no hot water... so, I'm not quite sure I'll be using that... but, the house also comes with a washing machine (with a rinse and spin dry cycle :D) and a microwave. Basically, I'm set for life. My host mother also speaks Russian and Kazakh, so I get to practice both languages. My host mother in Shamalgan claimed to speak Russian, and I swear that the rest of my family knows Russian also, but they only ever spoke Kazakh to me. I think there was something shady going on there, not quite sure. Anyways, in my new village it seems like most people speak Russian. We'll see.

The week of site visit I basically hung out at the school and at home. Didn't do a whole lot. Tried to teach some classes. Tried being the key word. Remember when I mentioned that working at a new site would be difficult? Yah... communication is everything. Interpret that as you will. My new kids at the school seem like they are going to be a bit more challenging than my kids in Shamalgan. Every school is different, and I get the feeling that the kids here may be able to get away with more as far as bad behavior goes. It's hard to tell. I've been formulating some theories about Kazakh schools versus mixed schools. I'll be glad to share sometime. Ask me about it when you're bored. It's fascinating stuff, I assure you.

In other news, I got asked on a date by one of my eleventh grade students. Here, a date consists of gulating (walking) around the village. Although, one of my language trainers was quick to point out that if a boy just wants to gulat with you, he's only interested in one thing... and we all know what that is. And in case you're wondering, I said no to the date. I don't think my standards have fallen quite that low yet, but in time who knows. The winters are long here...

I'm kidding, of course...

Well, today is actually my last day of site visit. I'm heading back to good ol' Shamalgan tomorrow. Only two weeks left of training!


Michael Hotard said...

if you ever decide to visit the fabulous community of villages called baurzhan momyshily (sp?) then I will definitely cook.

Also, did the kids in your classroom stand up whenever they wanted and throw chalk at each other. My counterpart is a teacher and classroom management was something that was not clear during my weeklong site visit.

Katie said...

I'm sorry, what is this about a washing machine and microwave I hear? And you were getting jealous of my cold shower. Now you have one of your own! But at least you can microwave some water before bathing. :)