Today was a really beautiful day. Anna, Denise and I left at about 9 this morning to go to church in Almaty. If I haven’t mentioned before it takes about 20 minutes by bus to go to Almaty from Panfilova, then it takes about another 20 minutes once you’re in the city. We were pretty impressed with ourselves for being able to make our way to and around the city with no local people - or experienced expats lol! There was a very charismatic guest speaker there this morning, who had an interesting story about God really giving him a vision in college - reminded me of my giiirl! Sarah V!! Then, a lady last Sunday, I guess, invited us to have lunch after church this week...! So we went to her and her husband’s flat... and she cooked us the most amazing food I’ve had in a long time!
We had a delicious salad of leafy greens! :) Which I haven’t seen since the states... and super tasty beef stew (I know... I never thought I'd ever be so excited to have seconds of beef - let alone thirds! lol) then apple cobbler with ice cream... sigh! I could have died. lol. How nice of them to invite us! It was a couple who work at an “International School” in Almaty who hosted us. Two other guys from the church were over too. Both with interesting stories. One’s name is Able - he’s a refugee from Darfur in Sudan. His entire family has been killed by the crisis going on there. What a tragic story! I can’t explain how stupid I felt after he told us this about saying something about missing my family and talking to them yesterday and blah blah blah... I’m so grateful I even have a family to miss! I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to have had my entire family killed - not just dead, but killed! It just blows my mind. How was I given this life? 1 Cor: 7, Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? It’s just beyond me... So Able is here looking for a job and looking to be granted residency in Kaz. Then Peter, who is from England, is a science/P.E. teacher at the same “International School” as the couple. He was really sweet and hilariously spoke Russian with a british accent lol. Students here learn British English, as opposed to American English. It was funny to ask him if Brits really say the things that our students are learning - like beastly weather, to row warmer... It was a really nice time. Good food and good conversation.
Today was the first of the three day celebration of the end of Ramadan. My host mom, host sister and I were up all night last night cooking. We cooked - well mostly fried lol until after midnight! I didn’t know what was going on... We fried every type of bread in every shape you can think of lol. (each being a different dish with a different name of course) So, I knew today was some sort of special day (even though no one fasted through Ramadan) and told my family I would be back sometime in the afternoon - when we actually didn’t leave Almaty until around 6... eek. Once back home, there, clearly, had been a huge feast and my host mom, of course, wanted me to eat eat eat “Nina! ish tamak!” lol that means Nina, eat your food. Every time she says that (and its pretty much every two seconds when we are at the table for a meal) All I can think about is Napoleon Dynamite... only I’m Tina! LOL. I just laugh to myself. ha. Thankfully my host mom wasn’t mad about me not calling and not coming home when I said I was... (I had to get a new phone number after an incident in the mountains the other day and hadn’t had a chance to re add her number in my phone) I made up by singing. I’m sort of like a one man circus. They tell me to do/say/sing things they can laugh at... then the laugh and talk about me lol. In a loving way (I tell myself at least) ha. I’m ok with that. The food was sooo good again (even after eating three bowls of beef stew!) I didn’t eat a super lot but I did eat a little more once back home.
Generally, Sundays are banya days. I don’t think I’ve really talked about banyas yet... People here don’t shower. Instead, they have this sauna like way of bathing. It’s actually really enjoyable! I want to have a banya in my house, should I ever have a house. You basically, using different buckets of water - hot and cold, mix the water to make whatever temperature you want and wash yourself off, scrubbing yourself down over and over. You just keep splashing yourself with hot water, then cold water. Then put cold water in the banya pit to make it steam up and just sit and sweat. It’s shockingly hot. I mean hard-to-breathe hot. If you breathe on yourself it hurts lol. Dad, you would like banya-ing. So you sit there for a couple of minutes - I’ve heard stories about beating yourself with some sort of branch or stick lol, but we don’t do that at my host family’s house - I think it may be a Russian thing... Then you scrub yourself down again, and wash off again, wash your hair - all of the above. Then, back in the steam - you do this cycle at least twice... more if you want. It’s quite a time consuming process, but, I mean, I’ve never felt cleaner in my life - maybe when I was born, lol. My skin is soo much softer from banya-ing than it is when I shower. I love the banya! It’s like a spa :) (though i've actually never been to a spa... Mom don't forget about those gift certificates! They expire in December..!) I’m curious to see what it will be like in the winter! The only thing is - is that it’s only once a week, any additional bathing is by buckets. So today is Sunday... but since it’s some kind of holiday - for some reason, there is no washing... :( And, not to be nasty... but let’s just say I’m due lol. My host mom said that tomorrow we will banya. So, I look forward to that. Definitely.