Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I write this from my new living room. There is a vase in the middle of the table, holding five roses, reddish sunset and strawberry cream, all from my new counterpart's garden.

I am in a new living room, living with a new family, working with a new counterpart, in a new school, because I have moved to a new village. There's nothing to worry about, but the short end of the story is that a few of us were relocated into more cooperating situations. Maggie and I lived fairly close to each other last week. But on Thursday, we packed our bags – and all the miscellaneous stuff we managed to accumulate at site. And on Friday, we got on trains. She went south; I went north. I'm pretty sure she misses me already. :P

I probably should have been expecting it, but the news still came as a bit of a shock. Just the Saturday before, I'd celebrate Teachers' Day at my school. Saturday classes were canceled. We came to school late, and the first thing we did was participate in a "12th" class. Grades here typically only go to 11, so all the teachers were the 12th grade students and an 11th grader was our teacher. It would have been fun if I could follow it, but it's always hard when so many people get together. However, one of the teachers broke out vodka candies, which I thought would maybe just taste like vodka. No, they were chocolate shells filled with vodka.

It was 10:30 AM.

After class, we were treated to a concert by the students, which was full of the usual songs, skits, and speeches. The concert ended around 12:30, so we had a bit of free time before we were supposed to meet at the restaurant at 2 PM. The restaurant celebrations follow similar patterns, from what I can tell. Lots of toasts, speeches, activities, and food. Again, it's hard for me to follow when there are so many people and so many conversations. I had the unfortunate luck of 'winning' the last activity, but all they did was give me a sash, make me a 'pedagogical millionaire,' and make me hand out lollipops to everyone. I was proud of myself because I stayed until 7, when the party was breaking up, and I even danced! I don't have any pictures of it though, so you'll just have to believe me!

However, I barely did anything the next day because of an upset stomach. I think I just stuffed myself. Every time a toast was made, one of the Russian teachers would tell me, "Eat! Eat!" I guess it's better to have a stomachache than a hangover?

Anyways, my train ride was 15 hours, which meant I arrived bleary-eyed and not-so-fresh around 7 AM. My new CP was there to meet me, fortunately, with her brother, who helped with my bags. Although I'm fairly certain there are lots of vols who have more luggage than I do, this was their first experience with one and they were surprised. My new CP is very nice. She's wanted a volunteer for a while now, so she's enthusiastic about working together.

I spent the weekend settling in with my host family, which is just a babushka. She's nice, and seems to like me all right, but she feeds me a lot. We do a push and pull at every meal where she tries to get me to eat more even after I'm full, and I try to eat just enough to make her happy. It is preferable to being underfed, yes, but I would also like to not gain twenty pounds. She has a garden in the back. So far, I've helped shuck beans and harvest grapes. And rolled out dough for manti. But I've given up on trying to explain that I know what vereniki are, because my grandma makes the best, and the proper name is 'pierogi.'

Even with school, I have a lot of free time. Right now. The weather has been warm and sunny lately (though it's turned cold and rainy since I jotted this), so I have been trying to take a walk every day. I also read a lot. Right now, I have managed to confine myself to just three books. A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. It dragged a bit in parts, and the changing POVs started to annoy rather than intrigue, but I finally finished that. Naked Empire, the eighth book in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. I like these books because they are fun and usually quick reads, but so far the beginning of this has been dragging as well. I'm a quarter of the way in and not much has happened. I hope it picks up. And To the Last Man, a Jeff Shaara novel about WWI. It's long, but I'm really enjoying this one. So far it's focused on a few players – major and minor from both sides – such as a replacement on the western front, a pilot in the American Escadrille, the Red Baron, General Ludendorff. I like it because it's not as dry as a history book often can be, but it still gets the story across. I'm having fun and learning! Imagine that!

There's a PCV who lives a village over (which sounds close, but it's a pain to travel between our villages). On Wednesday, she took me into Kostanai for a little tour and to meet the other nearby volunteers. The city, which is more a town, since it has only 300,000 people, is pretty nice. I'll try to get some pictures up soon, but I'm very behind on that. As for the other volunteers, besides the other 23s I already know, there are at least three 22s, one 21, and a response PCV. There's an American Corner at the library, and the volunteers have English club there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'm not sure what my schedule will be like, but I'll probably try to join them every so often. I also got to go to the city over the weekend to meet up with everyone. It was another volunteer's birthday, so we basically hung out at cafes all day. Although our one productive task was to buy train tickets to Almaty for our training in November. We accomplished that. Go, us.

That's about it, I think. Except maybe a belated apology to Andrea, because I told her I'd keep my blog posts short, but now I understand why Evan writes books.

Song of the Blog Post: "Coffee and Cigarettes," Jimmy Eat World –
When I finally finished school
It was the first thing that I did
What every townie kid dreams of
I packed and started west

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