Published on March 13, 2005 By The Mada In Life Journals
Greetings again from Central Asia. To say the least, it has been a difficult and eventful month since the last time I wrote. I don’t even remember exactly when that was. I will begin with the basics. If I’m repeating myself a little bit, and for those of you who have already heard this information, I apologize. Honestly, I just don’t remember what I’ve already told you. I am immersed into the teaching routine now, and was essentially thrown in head first with no life jacket. I am teaching every day, between 3 and 5 hours a day. I have classes with every grade (here we call them “forms”) between 4th and 11th. The 4th and 5th graders speak nary a word of English, so these lessons are nearly impossible for me to teach alone. My counterpart (a local teacher who is sort of like my boss, only not really) handles the majority of the class time. I feel more like an exhibit sitting at the desk in the front, “Everyone point and laugh at the American.” The older kids (usually) speak better but they are (usually) more disruptive, (usually) more annoying, and (always) talk a lot more behind my back. I say behind my back but they actually talk about me right to my face, but always in Russian and always in complex sentences they know I don’t understand. My best classes are the 7th and 8th formers. They understand quite a bit of what I say, and seem more motivated and genuinely excited to have me around. I teach together with my counterpart 2-4 classes in the morning, between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm. Then at 3:00 each day I teach an “optional” class by myself, with only the best students from each form. These are the best classes for me, because I’m allowed total freedom to teach what I want. Also, because I only get the students who want to be there, classroom disruption is at a minimum. There are a few students who I see as possessing a lot of potential. Some have even expressed to me the desire to become English translators in the future, so it makes me feel like I can make more of a difference. Most of the kids, however, have little chance of moving past the basics of the English language due in part to lack of motivation and in part to crappy teaching methods and unrealistic work loads. There are 11th formers here who have been studying English for 6 years now and can hardly get past “Good afternoon” in a conversation. I have the advantage of being given Saturdays off since I’m a volunteer, a luxury here considering all the other teachers and students have classes on Saturdays. Sundays of course are a day for rest, which usually means spending the morning and early afternoon at the local market and for many people the afternoons and evenings are spent picnicking and drinking lots (LOTS) of vodka. I have done my best to avoid the vodka scene so far due in large part to the fact that I am a relatively small person and most of the men here can put down a bottle by himself. I simply have yet to develop that kind of tolerance. That and the fact that the vodka here tastes like gasoline. No mixers of course – it’s all shots, all the time. I have finally found a Russian tutor here. Today – October 4th – was my first lesson. That means I went nearly a month and a half without a formal language lesson, and as a result my Russian skills have pretty well stalled. I’ve picked up a few words here and there from my family and others in the town but for the most part I’m now right where I was in August. To say the least, that part has been more than a little frustrating.
Right now I’m something of a celebrity here in town. I’ve been asked for my autograph, and some of the kids have brought me flowers or ice cream. It is nice in some ways, with little kids always saying hi and everyone seemingly being friendly and asking me over to visit. It can get frustrating at times, though, because everything I do is under the microscope, and I am always being stared at, everywhere I go, everything I do. It wears on you after awhile, so there are times I just recluse in my room with the door shut so as to avoid being seen by anyone.
I don’t remember if I’ve left anything out, I’m trying not to repeat a lot of stuff, so if you have any specific questions about my life here or something you’re curious about, please shoot me an email and I will reply as soon as I can. My internet bill was a little high last month, so I’m attempting to cut back. As a result, I will only be checking probably 2-3 times a week.
One thing I did want to mention: Two weeks ago I received news that my host father from Turgen, the town I lived in during training, died of cancer. The Peace Corps did not have my contact information on file, so I did not find out until a week later. As a result, I was not able to attend the funeral. I will be visiting the family likely in the next few weeks since I have to return to Almaty for a vaccine. The family didn’t even know he was sick until 4 days before he died. He literally went into the doctor’s office for a stomach ache and found out he was going to die in a week. The mother and daughter are obviously going through an extremely difficult time. They have lost not only the father, but the sole bread-winner of the family. It’s not like they can just go out and get jobs to support themselves, as this type of thing doesn’t exist. Since they live in such a small town, the men all had to go to other cities 6-8 months out of the year to provide for their families, so they are in a very difficult situation. I would ask that keep the family in your thoughts and prayers during the coming months.
That’s about all I can think of for the moment. As I said, I hope I didn’t repeat too much of what you’ve already heard, and if I left anything out that you’d like to hear about, drop me a line. By the way, if you’ve missed any of the pictures I’ve sent, you can go to the following website: . One of my buddies from college has agreed to host my pics on his website, so in the future I will send them only to him to save bandwidth for everyone, and I will let you know when I send him new pics to post. Love to all,

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