Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Site Announcements!!!

BLOG #18
Oct 9

I have been recharged!! :) I just got home from the site announcement hub day!!! I love where I'm going :)What a long and torturous day of speeches that I couldn't tell you one thing about haha. Our bus/van left at 7:`10 this morning, the mountains were gorgeous! We went to Ecick (another training village) and we were in lectures until lunch... then lunch lasted 2 hours! (really...!) then Dr. Victor jeopardy and some more ridiculous stories about what happened so long ago to a random volunteer that didn't mean to happen upon a terrible situation - finally the announcement part! The slideshow really was overkill (it was like slow motion fake outs, a talking camel and a globe than spun... and spun... and spun - and honestly was just executed poorly in my opinion - making it more painful)
So just to recap... I got here to Kazland super excited about Russian culture and language, wanted to go north and wear fur :) - they needed to fill two more spots in the Kazakh-learning groups... my name was one drawn out of a hat. lol. go figure :) - so I worked on my flexibility and went with it. Turns out I had a wonderful group in Panfilova, great language teacher and lots of supportive faculty. I decided I wanted to go south consequentially. Wasn't too crazy about the bathroom arrangements and liked idea of being in a city where showers and toilets were more common (it still drives me nuts that yes, they really say "where's the toilet", or "I need to use the toilet"... and as ugly as that just sounds, you get to the "toilet" and there's not even a toilet there! haha they shouldn't be allowed to say "the toilet's over there" unless there really is a toilet...) and in a city I would have the option of moving to my own apt after 6 months (mainly for cooking freedom) then thought about it a little and got over the restroom thing and decided I wanted more of a rural area (the city got old quick haha) and would prefer to stay with the same family for 2 years if possible. In short... I didn't have a strong preference - or know what I wanted. So randomly in the middle of all that - the staff observes you and analyzes what they interpret by how you act and ask you questions incognito to determine what conditions THEY think suit you best. It's a lot.
Anyway, all that aside... So they sit us down in an auditorium and put on a powerpoint. We of course heard all sorts of rumors of the way they would do this... Individually, in front of everyone, pictures on a map... ect. They go through this stupid talking camel and show and random pictures of Kazakhstan. Finally they got around to reading off the names. They showed a map of Kazakhstan and all of the Oblasts (oblasts are like regions/counties/statesish) and speak a little bit about the school/village/PC history then say the volunteer's name. They started in the north. From the pictures and the cool people they were listing off - I sort of wouldn't have minded if they'd of called my name :) They didn't. Once you're name was called off everyone clapped and a girl came around and gave you an apple and a bar of chocolate. It was all a blur haha. Panfilova people were called and it was weird. They got to the Almaty Oblast -which I definitely went through a phase of obsession with (actually my most recent phase of obsession) They called off a couple of people, who aren't my favorite. Called off some more people. My knees were weak. Blah Blah Blah pioneer site, Noelle Zalar. I'm not sure if I smiled or not. They went through the whole country - some people happy, some not.
Still unsure of what it is that it actually meant to be in Almaty Oblast... all of the other volunteers in the region and I went into a classroom. I was sort of jealous of all of the people going so far away - they seemed much more confidently happy than I was haha. My regional manager's name is Ufilamalik (nickname Ufi - oofee) She handed everyone big white envelopes. The only thing I could remember them saying about my site was that it was a Pioneer Site and I was 10 min from Johnny. Both were true, in the envelope I read more.
My site is a village called Mambet. (maybe try and google it, but I'm not promising it will pop up...) It has a population of 3-3500, comparable to Deshler... I was soo excited to read that its landscape is that of the Zhungar Alatau mountain chains - the site is flat itself, but is surrounded by foothills. It's green! and there is a small river -Koksu- nearby! The weather will be similar to Almaty, which is no problem. 90% of the village is Kazakh and the only language listed is Kazakh! (Talk about new motivation in class lol) It's a small village so you walk around the majority of the time. (same as Panfilova) No abnormal security issues; "Pollution: It's a clean area." we'll see what that really means... It's a pioneer site, which means that I'm the first PCV to go to the village; maybe even the first American they've seen! So, there are no contacts provided. It says it's a new site and a new work place... meaning maybe that the school is new? I'm not sure. The school seems super promising! It's the only school in the village, It's a Kazakh school and holds learning English as a high priority! Even without ever having a PCV in the past, they already have an English Club! English is offered to grades 5-11, and there is a kindergarten English option as well. The Akim (mayor) even supports Enlgish education financially! Also... under possible secondary projects it lists Sports Clubs, English Club, Dancing, Eco club, Handcrafts, Orchestra, Civic/Law as already being projects/clubs at the school! Of course I don't expect the Traditional Kazakh Orchestra concert that I saw in Almaty to be at my school... but to know that there is so much interest is sooo encouraging! I already have something to work with :) My village is 30 minutes away from Taldykorgan and 10 minutes from Johnny... Johnny is in the Russian language group in Panfilova - he's really funny and known for playing ultimate frisbee in our village. Ablai calls him Fantastic Four haha. Overall I am amazed at what an awesome site I have!
It's a small town feel with easy access to civilization... I forgot to mention that the school has 9 computers reserved for English teachers only!!!... it's "clean" and green with mountains and a river, a pioneer site (so I have no shoes to fill haha), they are super excited for me to come! The school was described as almost like an American high school... the director (superintendent) said they will take care of me! The school already has organized after-school activities! I couldn't have asked for more - and I have a funny guy right by me.
Man, I am so happy. It seems like everyone got what they wanted for the most part. Echo will be teaching in a university in the South! Laura also has a pioneer site in the south, which she is pumped about! Anna and Denise are pretty far north... Denise's main concern was for a solid host family (she was the one who had her computer and money stolen) they gave her 5 host family options to choose from!)... I am just in awe of how much they listened to me! I got just what I wanted. Every single thing. My regional manager even said that they picked this site just for me. There is a waiting list of places that they went through and specifically pulled this one out for me. There is even some kind of Italian missionary church in Taldykorgan they found for me! (again who knows what that means lol) But how awesome that they put way more thought and intent in the process than I would have expected! I'm so excited to see this village and meet my students and faculty! It's almost like I just had a kid or something lol I already love my community :) I'm like in la la land! I'll be able to visit my current host family easily and maybe go to the American church on holidays! I can't wait to come back to Panfilova and have an intelligent conversation with my host family in Kazakh haha, which will be easy to do (only 4 hours away). The only thing is that I'm not going to have the sweet train ride of adventure (and sing that confidence song from the sound of music - in my heart..) as most of the other volunteers... which I was subconsciously looking forward to. But if anyone ever comes here, I'll have easy access to Almaty and a willing host family to host us (ahem dad? :) I would be able to bring someone to my village easily if willing lol. The papers didn't mention anything about host families, but I understand there are 2 or 3 that I will be able to meet and choose from. (Prayer request)
The funny thing is that when I came home, I told my host mom and Ablai, "Mhen Mambet baramhin!" I'm going to Mambet - and they busted out laughing lol. Uhh... what in the world does that mean? Do they know something I don't know...? I figured my host mom would be impressed that I was staying in the Almaty Oblast, seeing as the only thing that she could come up with when I asked her where good places to go were: Almaty, and Panfilova haha. She quickly dismissed all other oblasts and cities. Later I found out that she had no clue that Mambet was even in the Almaty Oblast - I think maybe the name of the village means something funny... they kept doing the crazy hand signal (I'm not too worried about it). So, now it's about time for me to come back to reality... Russian class tomorrow and 5 lesson plans to make for next week. One day at a time lol. All this 2 year stuff is still hard from me to wrap my head around. But it's looking much better now that I have a destination. It really changes everything, having something to shoot for. Sidd did the math and once we are sworn in, on the 31st, we'll already have completed 10% of our 27 months here! (or something like that) It makes this whole thing seem much more attainable. I think I could stay this long 9 more times lol....


  1. Noelle, 2 1/2 years ago I began my journey on to earn my masters...2 1/2 years seemed such a long time...and poof! It's done! So excited to hear about your assignment. I'll continue to pray for you!

  2. Hey thanks so much for reading and commenting and praying! It's been such a cool adventure so far... If my posts get boring let me know - I'll try and keep them interesting. But yes, right now it's hard to think about two years... so I just stick to focusing on the day - and It's super crazy to think that I've been here for over 2 months! Time is funny. I can't wait to meet you back in the states, even if it's not until 2011!