Sunday, March 11, 2012

sunday the 11th

I am terribly sorry. I have had either no motivation to sit down and type an update or the internet has not been cooperating. So here we go.

The 8th of March, International Women's Day, is a big deal in Kazakhstan. It's the equivalent of Mother's Day in the states except every woman and girl is celebrated. I love that. Everyone gets the day off for the holiday and women and girls receive flowers and presents. NICE. Mike and I borrowed the Pajero to drive into the city for lunch at a restaurant called The Noodles that we heard was pretty good and not too expensive. While we were on that side of the city, we walked around Panfilov Park and the Green Market. We have been learning how to find our way around the city more and more which is incredibly nice because we don't feel so foreign as we did at first. There really isn't much to do in Almaty, but we both really like the Asian culture with its Soviet influences-- there's something so compelling about it, we haven't figured it out.

This is the Orthodox Church in Panfilov Park built without a single nail:

And here is the massive WWII memorial:
It's a beautiful park and on any given weekend, you'll typically see 2 or 3 gaudy wedding parties taking pictures around the monuments.

We are able to do quite a bit with the other teachers Mike works with. They are all mostly from the states or Canada and form a really fun and unique community of people. We're often asked to come over for dinner or to a birthday party. Last weekend we joined some of the ladies to a Central Asian craft fair at the National Museum. We may have splurged a bit, but rest assured, they're mostly gifts. Most of the teachers from the states are from down south, so of course we always have a good time with them. Last week, we went to a birthday party just next door. Everyone was invited and I can't count how many hick jokes there were, but gosh they were FUNNY.

On Friday, Mike and I went to the ski resort, Shimbulak. Michigan's ski resorts are a joke compared to this place. It takes more than just 2 minutes to get down the slopes here. I haven't skied since 7th grade so I'm sure you can imagine the many face plants that may have occurred. One fall happened because I was a little too confident in my stopping abilities. I decided that it would be fun to go really fast and straight down a not-so-steep slope. Well I got going a little too fast for comfort and panicked and fell. I fell hard. By the end of the day I got the hang of it though. Just gotta move those hips! We had so much fun! And we actually got some color because we actually saw the sun through clear, blue skies and not a smoggy, gray one! The simple joys. My body is screaming though, even today I'm just so sore. We hope to go again if there's another good snow, which there probably will be because spring doesn't exist here, I'm sure of it.

Mike's spring break is from the 21st of March through the 1st of April. Almost 2 whole weeks! We're chaperoning a trip of 6 students to Astana, KZ's capitol, from the 21st to the 24th of March. Should be a fun trip although Astana is considerably colder than Almaty. That's not so much of a surprise anymore, you can always expect being cold. Later in March I'll be house-sitting for the neighbors next door while they're in Turkey. They teach at Tien Shan and their kids attend as well. Should be a grand time-- March seems to be flying by already. Crazy!

Does anyone have a good recipe that includes potatoes, carrots or cabbage? And please, please, please don't give me a soup recipe-- I've had enough vegetable soup to last me until next winter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday the 20th

Lately, the weather has been absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It's been WARM. I mean, I'm talkin 30's and 40's the past couple of days!! I've had to turn down the radiators in my room! Spring has never been more welcome.

There is this family of dogs that live just down the street. The owner of the mother dog lets her roam free in the neighborhood and therefore, she has many umm... friends. With many friends come many puppies. Mean puppies. I don't know why they're mean. They're vicious, really. I'll turn the corner on my way to Michael's house praying that one isn't in the street. If one is there, it'll start barking and then they all appear. I'm not just talking about three or four dogs, I'm talking about seven or eight. They come sprinting straight at you and follow you for a while, barking at your heels. The last time it happened to me, I almost maced em. I've never been more terrified of dogs! I hate those dogs, I hate them.

Yesterday, M took Mike and I to this famous park in Almaty called Panfilov Park. There's a huge statue in memory of the soldiers in WWII as well as this huge Orthodox Church. It's yellow! I guess it was made without a single nail, only wooden pegs. When a huge earthquake hit Almaty, it was one of the only structures to remain unharmed because the pegs gave enough flex so that the church absorbed the shock. Amazing, no? We were able to go inside as well and it was absolutely stunning, I've never been inside a church so beautiful. M also took us to the Green Market. The Green Market is one of the largest markets in Almaty and you can find ANYTHING there. I wish it weren't so far away from our neighborhood, I would go there all the time. (Mike and I live in a neighborhood called Kamenka, fyi).

I started teaching at the Youth Home tonight and will be teaching Monday-Thursday from here on out. Mike is also starting to teach more and we're finding that we are exhausted by the end of the week! It's crazy to think it's almost March!

Is it too soon to say that I really want some strawberry shortcake?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tuesday the 14th


In honor of the day, my English class will be having a celebration later this evening! I'm making Michael tag along :)

We chaperoned the school dance on Saturday! It was a barn theme and so they brought in 40 bales of hay. 40. My respiratory system wasn't doing so great by the end of the night, the dust was incredible.
The kids at Tien Shan wouldn't know what to do if they saw a typical high school dance in the States! The night was filled with square dancing, Scottish dancing and games. It was actually quite sweet, all of the kids are friends and so everyone danced with everyone.

Mike and I went out for lunch on Saturday all by ourselves! I am so proud of us. We weren't quite sure what we ordered because we just pointed at a few things and said, "Adin, spasiba (One, thank you)." The food was delicious!

We have both been keeping busy. I'll start teaching English at the Youth Home next week I think so I'll be teaching four nights out of the week. Hopefully that will go well, we'll see! Mike has started to teach the 10th and 11th grade English/History classes, so he has a lot of work ahead of him too. We love the weekends!

Enjoy your Valentine's day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thursday the 9th

I washed my coat yesterday because it was starting to look like I work in a coal mine and it came out of the dryer a shade lighter, I'm quite sure of it. I feel like a brand new woman wearing that coat! It's just so clean now.

During the week I typically wake up at 7 or 7:30. If the sky is overcast I tend to fall back asleep. If when I wake up the sky is clear, there is so much more incentive to get out of bed, shower and get ready. Only because you can watch the sun rise over the mountains. It's absolutely beautiful. As of late, the sun comes over the tip of the mountains around 9am. I like to grab breakfast and coffee and sit in front of the window in my bedroom, where you'll have the best view of the mountains, and take the early morning slow. It is such a good start to the day.

Bread is an important food for Kazakh people. Bread is served at every meal and like tea, a meal isn't a meal without bread. It's also looked down upon if you waste or throw bread away so many people feed their stale bread to their dogs. Or if you're walking along a street and are finished with your bread, rather than throwing it away you must put it on a ledge or a branch of a tree so that birds or animals can eat it. I saw a window ledge and a dumpster in the city that were both just piled with bits of bread. It's a strange sight.... but I guess it makes a little more sense after you learn the importance of bread in this culture.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday the 5th

All week I have been trying to post a new blog and the Internet wouldn't let me. Gads.

If you can't see out your car window due to frost, always remember the possibility that the ice may be on the inside of your window rather than the outside. The things you learn here, I tell ya!

Update: I began teaching English this week and Mike began teaching his 7th grade history class. On Friday, Mike and I joined some teachers and their families for shashlik (kebabs) which are DELICIOUS. Best meat I've had and no, it wasn't dog or horse.... they said it was chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. Then today we went out for breakfast at the 'American Bar & Grill' where the walls were decked out with old western decorations. There were however things like fake fish wall mounts where it sings when you push the red button or a little shelf that held bottles of Tabasco and Soy sauce... it's the little things that remind you of American, right?
Afterwards, we went to a bazaar called Tsum to browse the souvenirs. Mike got this whistle thing shaped like an owl and it sounds like one too. I got these little painted babushka ornaments and I love them.

We'll definitely be going back to purchase gifts and what not.
We have been here for 4, count 'em, FOUR weeks! Time has just flown.

One thing that Mike and I both love about Kazakhstan is that there is always time for tea. A meal isn't a meal without tea afterwards. It's just great. In Russian, the word for tea is 'chai' and M held up a bag of chai spice tea and asked me what kind it was because she hadn't tried it and I replied, 'Oh, it's chai.' She didn't understand.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

oh no no no.

You can't flush toilet paper here. Instead, you throw it away in a trash can next to the toilet. We keep that door closed.

I think my toes may have frozen together yesterday. Mike and I accompanied M to 'the largest market in Central Asia' to find some fabric for the sewing projects. What we thought would be an adventuresome time where we could wander about ended up being what seemed like hours of standing in front of literally every stall in the fabric section. One would think that thick wool socks and big winter boots would protect ones toes from the cold, even repel the cold away with it's wondrous materials and fibers. On the contrary, my friends, they trap the cold in! My feet were sweaty when we were in the car because they were so toasty and then the sweat froze in that icebox of a market. I pulled my feet out of my boots on the way home and I really do think that I pulled at least four toes apart. Becoming queasy at the sight of a child's loose tooth, I didn't dare pull off my sock and look. It must be the worst thing that has happened to me since being here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm legit.

Zdrastvuytye! Kak dyela?
We are doing great here, but I just thought the other night how I would really love to sit back with a Founders Centennial.... things are a bit dry here. 

In other news, I now have my own business card!
It says "Madelyn Van Eck- English Teacher"
The green color of the wall? It's in every single room of the house and at night with florescent lights on, my eyes want to fall out of my head. It's nice when natural light is shining in, no?

We now have a girl staying with us, a bunch of prisoners were recently released on Tuesday and for a night we had 14 women and 3 children staying with us before their train left the next day. There are babies in the prison as well because the women's husbands are able to come and stay with their wives in the prison for a few days every year. The women want to get pregnant because it means more food, better care, etc. The train station is cold and it's an easy place for women to be trafficked, so it was awesome that they were able to stay here.
It went well. A knife was stolen from the kitchen..
But anyways, one of the ex-prisoners decided that she wanted to stay and change her lifestyle. So we'll see how it goes! I think I'll start teaching her English next week.

In a couple weeks Mike and I will be CHAPERONING a Sadie Hawkins dance at the school. LOOK AT US!

The days just seem to pass us by and I hope to be teaching English for Reach soon, but everything is a process here. You have to take life slow and plan enough time for problems throughout the day because there will always be something that pops up. It was like that in Ghana as well and I forget how much I enjoy taking life a little slower than usual. You have time to appreciate the small things.

Paka, see you!