I hear there is some confusion about what I am doing in Kazakhstan, so I want to clear that up!
I flew into Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, in August with 70 other Peace Corps trainees. We were split into about five different groups and sent to smaller villages (like suburbs) around Almaty for training. My group was located in a village called Taldybulak. There were 10 of us (in the beginning, 8 of us in the end) who were trained in teaching techniques, lesson planning, and cultural experiences. The 10 of us were split into two smaller groups for language training and our teaching practicum. I was with three other girls named Sarah, Clara, and Carrie. We studied Kazakh 3-5 hours per day in a teeny tiny classroom and also taught and observed lessons in School 34. We frequently saw the other “language group” of 4 students that studied across the street at School 35. The pictures you might have seen on Facebook are of training and my friends there.
In the beginning of November, we packed our bags and were sworn in as real Peace Corps Volunteers. We attended a conference and met the teachers and organizations that we would work with as volunteers. This is where I met my counterpart teacher Gulshat. From Almaty, Gulshat and I boarded a train to Turkestan where I have been since. I have been here a month now! Gulshat and Ardak are two local teachers in the school I work at. The school is called Daryn School. It is a school for gifted students who must pass a test to get into the school and subsequently pass monthly tests to make sure they are studying well enough. I teach 21 hours of lessons every week with Gulshat and Ardak (there is another teacher, but due to family problems, I haven’t taught with her yet). We lesson plan and give lessons together every day, soon we will hold topical clubs for the students I hope!
I will be in Turkestan for the entire 2 years and will stay at the same school. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the students at the school. When I am stressed and frustrated with the constant tests and interruptions and cultural differences and and and…. I go out to a common space for students and sit on the sofas. They are set back in this little cove that is surrounded on three sides by hanging fake flowers and vines. I sit there until my students come by and say, “Hi Miss Jennie! How are you?!” They make me so so happy. They are so open, so diverse, and so honest. These are the only students I have ever met that speak such truth. When they do poorly on their tests and I ask them why, they say, “Because I’m lazy and I don’t study enough.” They are taught from a very young age that they fail because of not working hard enough. I tell them that I don’t know a single student in the States that would blame their own laziness for failing. We often blame teachers, schedules, the test, etc. I have the utmost respect for these students and know they are anything but lazy.
The students study from 8:30 or 9am until 5pm from Monday to Saturday. I also work at the school during these hours and am known for carrying a huge bag of work home with me every day! I spend any free time I have during the day speaking to students. I am slowly learning their names, but am ashamed for not knowing more already. There are so many of them and their names are so difficult for me! Anyway- I could carry on forever about them. They make my day every single day. They light up life here!
I hope that the situation is a little clearer for everyone. If you have any questions or just any news- please email me! If any of you out there are interested in Peace Corps, definitely email me! Jennie.email@example.com
And while we’re at it, here is my address. I have already received letters (from my mom and Peace Corps…..hint) at this address, so it is a-okay!
Edige Batyr Street 36
South Kazakhstan Oblast, Turkestan 161200
Republic of KAZAKHSTAN