Monday, September 12, 2011

Six Months

Six months ago yesterday, 55 slightly delusional Americans stepped off a flight from Frankfurt and onto Kazakhstani soil. It was one in the morning, we'd been traveling for over a day (not to mention the 11-hour time difference and the resulting jet lag), we had to be up at 8 AM for breakfast, and we could barely make sense of the sanatorium grounds that were lit up like Heartwood Acres at Christmas time. In honor of six months here, I could go and buy a celebratory beer. But if I did so, my entire village would know within ten minutes. (You think I jest, but I do not.) Instead, I'm going to give you some month-by-month highlights!

Month 1 – March
- We celebrate Nauryz, complete with eating horse meat, and take our first steps inside yurts.
- Host sister teaches me a crochet stitch. My unofficial introduction to babushka-hood.
- First big purchase in-country – a dombra.

Month 2 – April
- We watch Serenity for movie night and Nail teaches us the word for 'shiny' in Russian (sounds like, 'blisteshi') and I convince everyone in the Russian class to try to make this a trend here. So far it has not caught on.
- We take a trip to the Golden Man museum, where the elderly yet energetic archaeologist tries to make one of us females his fifth wife.
- Dombra lessons begin, but my teacher is more interested in flirting with Tommy than really teaching me.
- Emily and I realize that we were probably separated at birth.
- We see Romeo and Juliet at the ballet in Almaty.

Month 3 – May
- Elizabeth falls in an outhouse, to the amusement of all.
- We climb 780 steps at Medeo. Kat falls into the river, to the amusement of all. Everyone gets sunburned.
- We meet other, non-PC Americans in town. They feed us pizza and give us free wi-fi. Their 8-year-old is not impressed by me and my Star Wars knowledge.
- We take 22+ hour train rides to move to our sites. We pass the time with euchre.
- I go to the disco in town only to find out that only the high schoolers go.

Month 4 – June
- My cousins send me Legos and a Star Wars coloring book for my birthday. No one in my village quite gets it.
- Emily sends me a Tamasha Tunes mix for me to dance to on my down days.
- I pocket-dial my country director.

Month 5 – July
- A TV news crew shows up at summer camp and catches me on camera red-faced and playing soccer with the kids.
- Arthur, Maggie, Cody, and I go to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in Russian. "Maladyetz, Draco" becomes a catch phrase.
- I play on the village basketball team for a tournament and manage to not embarrass myself too much.
- A friend from college sends me peanut butter.
- We celebrate the Fourth of July in Borovoe, with multiple games of Salad Bowl to make up for the lack of fireworks.

Month 6 – August
- Emily, Brian, Justin, and I meet a bull while hiking. No one gets gored.
- We spend our time in Almaty hitting up Pizza Hut, Hardees, American Bar & Grill – all the restaurants that serve American food.
- I pocket-dial my country director again, and finally learn to lock my keypad.
- Autumn begins – a whole month and a half early, but without the apple cider and pumpkins and multicolored leaves unfortunately.

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