Parties, parties, parties :) and it's not even the New Year yet... I haven't written in so long due to late nights, busy days, and early mornings. I remember before Christmas looking at my planner and thinking, "How am I going to fit everything in?!"; but, I did it! Today was our last day of classes, so now I'm on break until the 11th of January :) Even without teaching, there is still quite a lot that I would like to do in the next week or so.
Even though Christmas is over, my itunes is still playing my Christmas playlist. It still feels as Christmas-y as it felt during the actual Christmas time here because of the interesting way New Years is celebrated. It's sort of as if they mix a bunch of holidays into one. They have a Yulka, or Christmas tree, decorated and lit up, with gift giving and the Santa concept, but they dress up in costumes, and also have fireworks and sparklers. Strange. To me that's just no fun to do all of that for only one holiday, anyway - why not spread those out over the whole year...?
I've had two New Years parties so far, one with the teachers last night and one tonight with the students. The teachers' party was nice. We rented out a hall and ate and danced, played silly games, and probably more that I didn't understand lol. I like that people have no hesitation to dance here, no matter the age, or anything. I had fun for the most part, (however, it goes back to the whole sitting for long periods of time in a huge room full of people speaking Kazakh way too fast for my level - and psyching myself out.) Also, we didn't come home until after midnight. I had two classes this morning, the first was at 8:50, and they weren't entirely planned to my satisfaction. A PC higher up had planned to come visit our sites and sit in on our classes at sometime today, so I wanted to make the lessons extra good. :) I spent so much time making this great board game to use for both lessons, both last night and this morning - and guess what... lol, we played it in my first class (without observers) and my second class (and observers) didn't show up. Oh, story of my life... :) The PC did show up in the afternoon, which was what I was expecting - but you never know! In the evening today was what I thought was a Teachers' Ball Masquerade... wrong again. I was excited to wear my cat mask that I didn't have the chance to wear for halloween. (Thanks Jane and Dave!) I went at 5, like I was told, with my mask to wear, which I was pretty pumped about lol. The event turned out to be a prom-ish dance, with no costumes. I felt a little silly. I even didn't leave until 20 after 5, and I was still awkwardly early. Oh, America and our punctuality - I was even punctual about being unpunctual lol. I'm so cool.
Christmas turned out really well! Johnny and Saltanat came over, and we had turkey and danced. I played Santa the night before, which was so cute. My gifts were by no means extravagant, but everyone liked theirs. I sort of kicked myself for the gifts I gave Zharas and Zhere - an abnormally ripped Spiderman doll and a mini kitchen set... encouraging two things I didn't mean to support (especially in this country): machoism and domestication. Oh well. I remember liking my kitchen set when I was little and sometimes I wish I were more domesticated than I am lol. The dinner was nice, although, after the turkey, my host mom brought out a big dish of bishbarmak. Apparently, turkey isn't meat in this country. Out loud, I politely declined. In silence, I absolutely refused. After dinner, we danced, of course.
In between then and today, I had spent most of my time with other volunteers. Sam, a friend from Panfilova, came from Balhesh and so on the 26th, we met up with her in Taldy and did a White Elephant exchange and then karaoke! It really was a lot of fun. Karaoke is different here. You pay for a room for a certain amount of time and just sing amongst each other. I'm not sure which I like better, but this was nice. It felt like you were in you're own basement or something. The next day I had dinner at a place called Hessens in Taldy with some other volunteers and our PC visitor. It was delicious! And he gave Johnny and I a ride back to our site. That was extremely helpful, considering I was planning on catching a marshutka at 7 to make it back in time for my first class of the day - oojus, lol.
I have a couple of ideas formulating about the break. I've heard talk about sledding, skiing, road trips (to some kind of outdoor Russian baptisms, or back to Panfilova, maybe visit my first host family - PC headquarters, in Almaty, has wi-fi now!) I'm sure I'll easily fill the time. First up is New Years!