The last two weeks have been a blur- I realized that I have barely communicated with my family and haven’t checked my email once. Since our site visit I have taught 8 classes, one more trainee from our village went back to the States, and we just finished our culminating community project. Our group chose to put on a talent show because we 1) wanted to showcase community talent, especially among our students, and 2) we wanted to bring everyone together in a fun event to spice up another quiet Friday night in good ole’ Taldybulak! We quickly discovered a strong rivalry between the two schools in our village and also wanted to bring them both together through the event. We definitely achieved the first two objectives, but I am not sure we united the schools, as students and teachers started cheers in between acts for their school and two girls got in a little tiff in the middle of the event. I am not sure what we could have done differently, though.
There are moments here when I have nothing to say but, “I love Kazakhstan!” These are often funny and usually unimaginable situations, but in my quest for zen, I take a deep breath, smile, and say out loud…I love Kazakhstan! When several small children follow you into “bathroom” (a set of squat toilets outside) to see if the American can pull off the necessary maneuvering to make it into a very small hole in the company of other people…what else is there but: I love Kazakhstan!
In preparing for the talent show, I had many of these moments. With the enormous help of school staff members and one of our Peace Corps facilitators, we gathered students and teachers to participate in the show. We, however, had about 30 participants at one point, which was completely unmanageable. We also needed sound equipment and arranged to use Peace Corps equipment, but found out about 4 days ago that we couldn’t use it. Renting equipment would be about 3000 tenge per HOUR and with dozens of acts that was out of the question. We had two solid judges, one that said he should be available (and did end up coming) and one judge that backed out the day of. One judge was a local shop owner that we named Duken Man. A duken (dooken) is basically a shop so we call him Shop Man. We walk by him everyday and buy snacks at his shop so we invited him to be a judge. I love our group for its personality and sense of humor in situations like this!
So we showed up to decorate the auditorium with a considerable amount of stress about pulling this off…and we find that the auditorium is flooded with water from a busted pipe! One poor woman attempted to sop up the water with a few dirty rags. She worked for 5 minutes and left for 10 minutes…in and out. We couldn’t do much work with all of that water, so we tucked our business casual pants into our black socks and jumped in! We scooped water with cut-up water bottles and a trash can lid until we had hauled about 12 three gallon buckets of water out of the auditorium. Yes, you did your math right- that is about 40 gallons of water that was standing in front of our stage! Life never ceases to amaze. Kazakhstan never ceases to amaze.
Ultimately we had about 20 contestants, 200 people in the audience, 10 Peace Corps volunteers that came to our event (thanks guys!) and 6 winners. There were hip hop dancers, belly dancers, dombra (traditional instrument) players, singers, and lip-syncers. Our group even opened by dancing to Thriller! The hip hop group was so good, I got goose bumps and the whole crowd went crazy!
This project was one of our final tasks towards the end of training, so we are winding down and getting ready to become real volunteers! We still have to do a teacher training, teach an entire unit, and take our language test, but then we are sent to the far reaches of Kazakhstan to spread the peace. Some days I find that I am terrified, but hope I find many more “I love Kazakhstan” moments!