I wonder if I'l have so much to write about in 4 months (or 14 months!), or if it's only because there are so many changes happening in this stage of PC that I have to pick and choose what stories to post lol... Let's see, yesterday was such a fun night, but it was too late and I was too tired to write on here. I guess it wasn't super special, but the munchkins finally warmed up to me! After another game of volleyball (I don't remember if I've mentioned volleyball before, but there is a teacher at the school who loves volleyball and loves that I also enjoy volleyball. We often play on the spot. In full on dress clothes. And she holds nothing back haha.), my host grandmother came over. It was just a nice night with the family. The little ones said cucumber a thousand times. We played cards, and laughed. By the end of the night I could hardly pry the little ones off of me. Zhere, the little girl, is so ornery. She loves making faces and it's hilarious. Zharas, the little boy, lost a tooth. They didn't take to the tooth fairy story as well as Ablai did - maybe when I can explain it to Zharas directly...
I saw Johnny today! It's funny how annoyed I was with him at counterpart conference - and that whole week at that... seeing him 24/7 lol. But I haven't seen him in two weeks, so it was just a long enough break to be excited about seeing him again. It's funny we both had so many stories, I don't think I completely finished one to the extent that I had intended, if that makes sense. He's doing well. His counterpart and host family, which is only one old lady, definitely have that shot gun hospitality that I don't miss about my old host family. They both wanted me to stay the night and move to Balpuk Bi lol right then! Hey, I must say that I would prefer a clearly overly excited counterpart to the confused/I can't really read her silence type of counterpart I've seen so far. I had a nice visit with Johnny though; and managed to politely talk my way out of staying the night. My ride home was a hilarious adventure.
So it's pitch black here by about 7, and now cold and snowy. Johnny kindly walks me to the bus station to catch a cab. (Mind you cabs here aren't really cabs but random people who are willing to drive you places for money, gypsy cabs, if you will lol) When we're at the bus station, Johnny, being a gentleman, wanted to do most of the talking. I would actually have preferred to take care of it myself since generally people here take to Kazakh better than Russian. (Especially from a white girl :) It cost me 70tg to go from my village to Johnny's town. These drivers wanted 700tg. I thought that was ridiculous. There was no way I would pay 700 tg for a ride 10 min away, especially when I came here for 70 - without negotiating, even. These drivers aren't the most polished Kazakhs usually. Johnny was nervous that I was so insistent on not paying 700. He's like "Noelle, your making them mad and I'm the one who will have to walk home by myself - with them watching" lol. I refused to pay. I wanted to just walk away and find someone else... Johnny wanted to negotiate... The lowest they went was 400. We walked away. I found another guy who would take US for 100... I didn't realize he meant both of us would pay 100, and so when that was clear, I decided 200 was fine.. "I'm cold, I don't want to argue, take me home" lol. So I told him I was going to Mambet, also called Lenin. "Ok, sit down." Johnny was still nervous for me haha.
So I'm riding along with these big Russian guys in black leather jackets with big voices. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I definitely had my guard up. We were told oodles of stories about gypsy cabs and what-not in PST. Then the flutes of the Celine Dion - Titanic song come on the radio... I start humming. They look at me and smile. Then before I know it, we're singing... "Near... Far... Where ever you are..." haha. They clearly are talking about me and English. So, I say clearly, "What is your name?" The big one grins and says with thick Russian accent, "My name is Maxim." They were very nice guys. Making small talk. And when I say small, I mean small. It was funny. Before I know it, I see a big sign all lit up that says, "Taldykorgan". Shoot. I went the wrong way. I tell the driver, "No, not Taldykorgan, Mambet... Lenin." "Yeah, yeah, we'll go there next." is what I understood... So after multiple invites to see a movie, go dancing, everything under the sun, we drop off my new friends. The driver stops in front of some building (that must have been called Lenin), and is prompting me to get out. "Uhh... no.. Mambetttt, Lennnin." He clearly has no clue what I'm talking about. Thinking maybe I was pronouncing something wrong, I called my counterpart and had her talk to the driver, she was clearly concerned for me haha.
Once the communication was clear, he annoyingly tells me that I should have said Lenin, the village. Well, I didn't even think about it. I thought it was clear enough to specify, Lenin... the village's name is Mambet - formerly known as Lenin. I wasn't sure if he was going to kick me out... so I didn't say much, I just sat there and waited to see what he would do. If he would have kicked me out I wouldn't have blamed him really lol. How do you not know where this village is? It's not far... it's just small. As we're leaving Taldy for Balpuk, he asks me how much am I paying. Man, I'm already paying way more than I wanted... so I say "300?". He sort of sighs of disappointment, but doesn't argue. I think he felt bad for me. He told me to come sit in the front where it's warmer, I did... but I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do... We pick someone else up, who he clearly knows and is now in the back - where I can't see him. When we stopped for gas, I gave him 500 instead... thinking it would probably be best to show my appreciation before this friend of his might think of doing something stupid. He happily took the raise, and trust me I was happy that he was happy - and I really was grateful for how well he took my rookie mistake (even though I don't think I did anything wrong necessarily). The ride was for the most part smooth sailing. He gave me his phone number and told me to call him whenever I need a taxi :). I may or may not take him up on that...
In the end, I'm proud to say that there was a miscommunication that had nothing to do with a language barrier. My language was clear, and he understood me. I even had a genuine conversation, in both Russian and Kazakh, beyond our robotic structures like "In your spare time... what do you like to do...?" I just forgot to mention that Mambet is a village not far from Balpuk Bi... who would think to do that anyway. My host family and I had a good laugh, annnd now I know.