It has been almost 3 months since I have been in Turkestan. I am teaching about 25 hours at school, but am actually working at the school about 50 hours per week. We work Monday through Saturday and it has been difficult adjusting to a one day weekend. In fact, I am not yet adjusted. This last weekend definitely didn’t feel like the rest I needed. On Sunday we usually clean the house and do laundry. We have a semi-automatic washing machine so we have to rinse and wring all of the clothes by hand. That chore takes some time! I also try to prepare for at least half of my lessons for the week and study Kazakh, too.
My Kazakh is finally beginning to improve thanks to my wonderful tutor. Perhaps I am just deficient at learning languages, but it has been more difficult to learn Kazakh than I expected. I understand much, much more and my vocabulary is expanding. However, it is very difficult to learn and replicate grammar structures simply by being surrounded by a language. I usually only listen for specific words to pick up the meaning of what someone is telling me; my brain doesn’t even register the tenses and endings necessary for creating sentences! Therefore, I usually just blurt out a series of verbs in the infinitive form and some nouns here and there. I convinced my tutor to teach me grammar and to let me speak during our sessions (though it is clearly painful for her). I think we have made progress!
The first 4-5 months was a time of constant adjustment. My life seemed to oscillate daily between ups and downs. I couldn’t figure out the best way to go about my job or my existence here. I haven’t been too homesick (though I think about you all every day!), but approaching 6 months feels different. The things I missed in the first few months were all superficial. I miss some foods, coffee, my coffee shops, TV programs, etc. Now a two year experience seems more real. I find myself missing the way Americans interact, the way I communicate with my friends and especially my family. I miss the freedom to ignore traditions and to protest injustices and irrationality. Being practically mute has made me realize how much I like voicing my opinion! Look out- when I come back to America I will have saved up all my opinions and you all won’t hear the end of them!
It seems that my life here has settled and normalized, though I don’t have every thing figured out and my days are certainly not boring! Just the other day, I got onto the wrong public bus going from lunch with friends back to school. I got shoved into the seat farthest in the back of this packed bus before I realized it was the wrong one. It started going the wrong direction and I had to yell at the driver to stop. Everyone was laughing at my obviously foreign accent as I climbed over 20 people to get out of the door. I then had to walk about 6 more blocks to get back to another bus stop. It has been raining here, so the road was disgusting with mud that I was getting all over my nice school boots. Then a car drove by and sprayed me with muddy water! I was rushing to get back to school for my last lesson, but when I finally got there, the schedule had been changed yet again and my class was moved until the next day. Like I said- it is never boring here.
That is one thing that I am really enjoying about teaching- my days are never the same. One of my greatest fears is falling into a routine that sucks my life away and so far teaching has provided variety and excitement (and a fair share of exhaustion.) Every day is a new day, some met with endless frustrations and some met with the smiling faces of my (progressing!) students.
On that note, I would like to ask a favor of everyone. My students' English level is pretty low all around. We are working on listening, speaking, grammar, and writing. Those things can be done with relatively few resources. However, I would like to get the students interested in reading English books- of which there are NONE here. If you have the time and are willing, I would love to receive ANY reading materials! This can be magazines (even old magazines), childrens books, and "young reader" books. If anyone has Highlights magazines, those would be amazing. My address is posted again below. Thanks for all of your continued support!
Edige Batyr Street 36
South Kazakhstan Oblast, Turkestan 161200
Republic of KAZAKHSTAN