Ok, so I haven't updated this in about four months. Sorry... please reference the title of this entry if further explanation is needed.
So what has happened in my life as of late: Let's go by months...
I spent New Year's Eve by preparing an immense amount of food and then staying up late and "partying" with the family. In addition to my host mom, her preggo daughter and preggo daughter's husband, the oldest daughter, her husband and three children came, along with a friend of the family who happened to speak English. This provided me with conversation for the night, althought the conversation wasn't particularily enjoyable... I ended up passing out at around 3 am or so. The next morning I got up early to catch a train to Karaganda to see some other volunteers. Now, train rides in Kazakhstan are journeys unto themselves. The train from Almaty to Karaganda was about 18 hours long and arrived at some ungodly hour in the am. Nothing too exciting happened on the train, other than the usual "You're American?! Let's talk" lines. Luckily I was traveling with another volunteer so I wasn't forced into too much awkward conversation. We ended up spending a total of three days in Karaganda. Most of the time we were out walking around the city trying not to freeze to death. We went iceskating, karaoking, careening down huge slides made of ice... the usual. It was nice to get away from my village and spend some time with native speakers of English. The trip back from Karaganda was ridiculous. The tickets for the train back to Almaty had been sold out, so I took a train to Taraz and then had to take an overnight bus from Taraz to Almaty. I think it took me almost 24 hours to get back to my site. Now Kazakhstan is a big country, but it's not THAT big. Transportation here is just so slow it's unbearable.
After getting back to site I wasn't feeling too hot, so I went in to the Medical Officer and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. Super fun! I got a few days off work and a whole lot of medication for my troubles. Unfortunately for me, my host family must have missed the memo that I was supposed to be resting and not doing anything, because they continued to exploit me as manual labor and as a private English tutor. This situation climaxed when I told my host mom/sister that I wasn't going to anyone's house to help them with English. My host sister proceeds to freak out on me and tell me that I don't pay them enough money, and should therefore compensate by being a slave (this is more or less a direct translation). It's at this point that I think to myself: time to find another host family! I ended up sticking it out with them for the month of January, but since then I have been living with a different family (remember the sheep rape story? that's them).
Nothing too exciting happened this month. I went to the wedding of a volunteer and a local Russian girl. That was interesting and enjoyable. There were probably 20 or so volunteers that went, and we all had a good time together. We spent most of the wedding day cutting out paper hearts to tape to a caravan of vehicles that would traverse the city honking obnoxiously. There is actually a word for this little tradition is Russian, but I have no recollection of what it is, sorry. The reception lasted from about 6 pm to 4 am the next morning. Definitely one of the longest parties I've ever been to.
What a month. I spent the first two weeks counting down to the last two. March 16th - March 18th I went to a volunteerism seminar in Almaty and was reunited with some other volunteers that I hadn't seen in four months. Following the seminar we took a sleeper bus to Shymkent (the most kazakhy of the kazakh cities) and spent five days there celebrating Nauryz (the Muslim New Year). This was amazing. About 50 or so volunteers reunited and having a good time. On Sunday we got to watch some National games: kokpar (polo with a sheep carcass), wrestling on horseback, horse races, etc. After Nauryz, we returned to Almaty for our In-Service Training and a Project Development and Management Seminar. I got back to my site on March 31st and classes started again on April 2nd.
Drama at the work place. For the past month of so my counterpart had been having issues with her daughter being sick. This was obviously affecting her ability to be a reliable co-worker. In addition, she also mentioned to me that she didn't know if she would be working at the school next year or not. Well... If she left the school, I wouldn't be able to work there either, so this had become a concern for me. My counterpart also failed to come to the Project Development and Management Seminar that she had been obligated to attend, again because of her daughter's health problems. This did not make Peace Corps happy. So, at the beginning of the month my Regional Manager came to discuss the situation with my school. An agreement was made that my school and counterpart would give me full support (that I haven't been getting) or I would be transfered to another site. Since this, things at my school have definitely gotten better. In addition, my counterpart and school director are looking for apartments and houses for me so that I can (finally!) move out onto my own on May 1st.
Currently I've been keeping busy at school and reading a lot of books in my free time. I now teach 20 hours of lessons a week, with 8 hours of English Club after school. I'm basically at school from 8-4, Monday-Saturday. I also have three hours of Russian tutoring a week, which has helped my language to improve. This is ok with me, as I like to stay busy. I would rather be over-worked than bored. Before the end of the school year (May 25th) I want to finish a grant for new books that I'll be writing with my counterpart. Hopefully that works out.
So that's my life for four months in a nutshell. Not too amusing or interesting as I've left out/forgotten/repressed a lot of details. Next time I'll write something better, promise.