This last Saturday we found out our site placement and, as I told you, I am in Turkestan. Turkestan is pretty big (definitely not a village) and is very religious. It might be the most religious place in Kazakhstan; there is a famously huge mausoleum and supposedly if you make the pilgrimage there 3 times, it is like making the pilgrimage to Mecca. It is called the Second Mecca. I will be working at what is called a “Daryn” school which is for gifted students. I am not sure how the students are selected yet, but hope it isn’t based solely on finances or familial connections.
I tried my best not to have expectations or preconceived notions about my site, but was totally shocked by this placement. My training village is truly the size of a village, though it has many amenities not usually associated with the word “village.” It is pretty much a suburb of Almaty. However, in my training, I felt comfortable with my image of what my role as a volunteer would be. The community is small and one could integrate and assimilate into it by visiting neighbors, and introducing oneself to students and families. The level of English is pretty low, so it was clear why a volunteer might work in a place like this. Needless to say, a city with 120,000 people and a school for already gifted students through a hitch in my logic and careful ordering of my life!
I am working to reconfigure my vision as a volunteer, though I obviously understand the need to see exactly what I will be working with at the school before setting strong expectations. My biggest concern is integrating into my “community” and really figuring out what that community will be. I am trying to wrap my head around how to make friends and how to find organizations and projects. I am hoping these opportunities make themselves apparent as they have in the past, because I am committed to my goals of getting as many experiences as I can, learning as much as possible, and teaching as much as is needed. I want to be active and busy (big surprise there!) The trap with such a large site is being able to get your own apartment and remaining isolated. I am worried about, but know I will work hard at, making friends and creating connections. I will also be living with a host family for the next 4 months and hope to find one that I can stay with for longer. PC has found some awesome candidates for me already! I will let you all know my address as soon as possible…though I have only received mail from my family so far…friends, you gotta keep up J
Love and miss you all! - Jennie