Sunday, October 25, 2009

Counterpart Conference

October 23
The past 3 days we've been in Almaty for our counterpart conference! It's been so weird and awkward. It was held at that same hotel that we stayed in when we arrived initially for orientation... LOL I was reunited with that stupid plastic palm tree! And the most hilarious part was that I actually liked it. I can remember just plain rolling my eyes at most everything in the entire hotel complex, but this time around I was impressed! It really is a beautiful place. I ate every single piece of food served to me... while last time I may have consumed an accumulative spoonful portion the entire stay. I actually looked forward to eating porridge everyday. A toilet and a shower is a luxury in my book. So it's full of tacky nail salon wall paper, oddly unleveled floors, and strange hodgepodges of room decorations... it's warm and pipes are not exposed. So they didn't serve grilled salmon and a Ciao! salad... I'm getting surprisingly good at sorting fat from food simultaneously in my mouth - organizing textures gracefully mid chew, and politely storing the unwanted in a cheek. I honestly thought I could beat the whole perspective change concept. I thought I could keep my standards, and just live with different conditions without making a big deal of anything... I don't want to be that guy... comparing everything to Kazland when I come back home. But even after a couple of months I'm noticing a huge shift in perspective! Darn it. The hotel really is a nice place, when compared with surrounding hotels, maybe. I think this whole Kazakhstan thing is almost more traumatic because it is seemingly almost familiar, but just done completely backwards. lol. It's sort of like Kaz had a choice of maybe 5 things to keep "normal" in my perspective - and the Kaz and I picked completely different things. If that makes sense.
I'm glad Kok Tobe had a chance to redeem itself. I have been having a great time. All of the education trainees are here together... which is always fun to see the people in the other villages. Even though there are still people that seem interesting should we cross paths... I've definitely stayed consistent with my familiar group that I know and love :) I figure now is not the time to play small talk with strangers... we only have like one week before everything familiar is swiped from under our feet and I want to spend what little time I have left with my pre-established good friends, no offense. So we spent the days in repeat sessions that we've heard 29,405,682 times before with our counterparts, and evenings either going out (Dancing :) or hanging out inside (Salad bowl :). I really love my friends.
My counterpart's name is Zhamiyla. She's 43, the head of the English Department at the school, has 3 kids, and was pretty quiet. I'm somewhat concerned with her level of English. The first thing after an awkward hug was "You're young." Uh... You're old? lol. She really didn't talk much at all - I could clearly see how nervous she was. Every activity they gave us was so hard for her. Could you imagine, not only being an English teacher, but being the head of the English Department, expected to know English so well... then showing up and being completely showed up by someone who had never taught a real class. Being completely lost due to language! I don't blame her for closing up... talk about a shot to your ego. eek. So I just acted like I didn't notice that things took her forever, or embarrass her for not understanding directions. I feel like under her nerves she's a really nice person. Although her one word answers to all of my small talk questions didn't help much the time pass. Most of our time was spent in difficult silence. She didn't smile much, but when I attempted Kazakh. I told her we (Andrew and I) play Kazakh lol, (I meant study)... She also lit up when I asked about maybe entering the talent show! So we sang the infamous Kozemning Karasuh (though I still haven't memorized it entirely!) I figured even though I'm no professional and definitely wouldn't have entered on my own... I can sure sacrifice some pride for our relationship lol.
We also were given our host family options! I have three options. One with three siblings(ages 4/5/14), a mother, father, and dog... 5 rooms; One is a grandma and granddaughter (4), banya, no door?, dog... 4 rooms; One with no siblings living in the house, mother, father, grandma, cat, no banya (go to daughter's house), 6 rooms. I'm not sure which way I'm leaning so far. So once I go to Mambet, I'll live for a couple of days with Zhamiyla and meet these families before I choose which one to live with. She actually already knows all of the families. My current host mom insists that I choose the one with no kids. I'll wait until I can check them out in person. Really, location is a big deal I think, and I want to have good people around during the extremely cold hibernation months :).

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