Friday, April 06, 2007

28 days left!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I tried to blog, no really I did, but Blogger has changed the format and it was more than my short attention span and slow internet access could handle. Anyway, with that in mind, I have 28 days left before I COS! I will be traveling to Kyrgyz Republic for a few days and then I fly out of Almaty on the 8th and for Europe and then eventually the states.

Kazakhstan has been great I will fill in another "real" post now that I have figured out the whole process again. Kazakhstan is wonderful but I am definitely ready for a change, and a job, this volunteer stuff is great but strenuous on the wallet. All in all, if I were to go back 2 1/2 years, I would do it all over again. I am busy trying to get rid of things (amazing how much junk one can accumulate over 2+ years) say goodbye to friends and family, and enjoy my last 4 weeks. Thanks everyone for all of your support, it was needed and appreciated and I will return to the states soon, whenever I get tired of travelling or run out of money!

A few shoutouts: Sue Mrva, please email me to let me know if your coming to Europe, same goes for Bill Murphy. HM1: I am coming soon, Morocco would be great just bad timing (want to go in May?) but San Fransisco here I come. Tom: Saule finally got her interview, she will probably beat me to Denver, but you had better be there when I get back! Ryder: Super excited about the job, that is incredibly awesome! We'll all come out to D.C. soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The EKZ does SEA

Wow, I have been back for two weeks, and time is just flying by. Vacation was sheer craziness, which seems to be the story of my life however, this was more than normal. On June 10, after 15 months I left Kazakhstan for the first time and headed to Southeast Asia, an area of the world I have always wanted to travel to after having seen my Dad's photos from his time there 30 years ago (sorry to date you HP:). My sitemate's, Heather and Ryder, had finished their service in Peace Corps and were taking several months off to travel and relax before heading back to the states and we agreed to meet in Bangkok and backpack Southeast Asia together.

My vacation went a little like this:
At Angkor Wat I discovered that to "format the image" means my super cool high tech camera will delete all photos on the memory card successfully erasing all photos I had ever taken, I picked up food poisoning while in Siem Reap rendering me practically bedridden during my stay in Kuala Lumpur, then, due to my illness and my not caring whether I lived or died, I managed to lose a bag containing my camera charger, iPod, flash drive and cell phone on a train back to Thailand, after less than an hour in the sun without sunscreen I successfully burnt my entire body to a shocking shade of lobster red on Phi Phi Island, and finally in Singapore (thankfully Malaka was disasterless unless you count the fact I was hardly moving due to my really bad sunburn) the atm ate my debit card, leaving me stranded with 7 dollars.

Despite all of these catastrophe's, the trip was amazing, and I still managed to have a lot of fun (thanks HM1:) I ate mango and sticky rice while paddling through the floating market outside of Bangkok, explored the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, admired the view of Kuala Lumpur from the bridge connecting the Petronas Towers, relaxed on the white beaches of Phi Phi Island, explored the backroads of Chinatown in Malaka, and finally, fell in love with cultural and amazing Singapore. I would love to someday return, to spend more time in each place and to explore the countries we weren't able to visit. It was a great vacation, I was able to spend time with my friends outside of Kazakhstan, and it was a much needed break. So in a nutshell: I love Southeast Asia!

To the EKZ: Tom: This is our favorite time of year for licking 35T ice cream cones on the benches of Kirov and strolling down the Strelka. While it isn't as hot this year and thankfully, we have water, I will miss those random moments. Enjoy the dinner parties:) Ryder: Thankfully my remaining pictures are intact due to the keylock, thank you, thank you! Whew:) Have a wonderful time exploring Cambodia, I will miss your Plov, it is still the best in KZ! Heather: Thank you so much for making the trip not only bearable but fun. I definitely am the most disaster prone traveling companion ever, yikes! Ust will never be the same without you, but I will wander the isles of the bazaar's and cherish the memories we have. I love and miss you all, Shasliva!

Another Sidenote: A huge thank you to the amazing people at Sherman & Howard (specifically the Tax and Probate department:) who gave me a parting gift over a year and a half ago, unknowingly funding this trip of a lifetime. Thank you so much for 5 amazing years, you will always be my favorite law firm!

Also, sorry, tried to upload pictures but it didn't work:(

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I am still in Kazakhstan, well actually currently I am sitting in an Internet Cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia...but that is only because I am on VACATION!!! Three days ago I left Kazakhstan for the first time in over 15 months(!) and flew to Bangkok, Thailand to meet two of my PC sitemates who had COS'd (Close of Service (i.e. they finished their two years.)) We ran around Bangkok for two days, seeing the floating market and other famous sites, and then we headed to Cambodia to see the famed Angkor Wat. Tomorrow we are headed to some Flooded Forrest thing (at least that is the plan until we properly consult our LP Cambodia book.) Then we are headed to Phnom Penh and then Malaysia. I will eventually write a blog about the last four months, but honestly I need this vacation to put things in perrspective. Thank you all for your concern, I will be returning to Ust after my vacation to resume my Peace Corps service. I hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bungee Pommels and 140s

Well, the past two days have been holidays. I am still not sure what holiday Tuesday was, all I know is my work was closed, and then Wednesday was inauguration day so, once again we were closed. To celebrate these holidays, my friend Misha called me up and asked if I wanted to go skiing. Do I want to go skiing? Am I from Colorado? Heck yes! So after texting in a very enthusiastic affirmative answer he tells me he will pick me up at 6…pm. What? So my first thought is we must have rented a cabin. Then he says we are coming back around 11…pm. Hhmmm, this warrants a phone call. So after talking about this, it turns out the slope (yes, Colorado peeps, that is singular) is about 30 minutes outside of town, and its lighted so we are going night skiing. Well, alrighty, so I call up Heather and Frieda to drag them along with me for this fun filled 3 hours of night skiing.
After arriving, we head to the ski rental area. Well, things looked positive considering the ski’s looked like those in the states (sometimes one just never knows,) however here, rather than asking the length you want or your skill level, they just hand you a pair that looks to be roughly your height. Not happening, I think my skis were 140’s, yeah, haven’t skied on those since grade school. Well, it turns out they wouldn’t give me 180’s because as the guy pointed out “you are too short for those.” Well humph! No use pointing out that skill level should factor in, I just decided to live with them as time is limited and it is already 650 tenge an hour to rent these. So we all trek outside in our gear, ready to hit the slope. After much confusion, it turns out that you do not buy a “night ticket” or “all-day pass” as you would in the states but instead you pay 220 tenge every time you want to go up. For all of those lodge bunnies at home the situation is ideal. For those of us wanting to cram as many runs in as possible, its choot-choot doraga, and inconvenient. Oh, well.
So finally after buying our pass the three of us girls finally get a good look at the “lift.” Remember those pommel or t-bar lifts at the bunny slope? Well, this is kind of the same idea, except for a few differences. First, you go up the entire mountain on this thing. Second, the t-bar part is located on the end of a bungee cord like device. You snag the t-bar off the line, and it pulls down to the length you need, and you and your partner put it behind your butts, remain standing and let it drag you up. Right, sounds simple, and actually it is except for one catch, you take this all the way up the mountain. You know those steep parts you pass over in the chair lift in the states, well, this way you get to be drug up them by the bungee t-bar. So yeah, that’s lots of fun. Frieda and I were laughing so hard, our legs were aching, and all we heard from Heather behind us was “I fell of the liiiffff…” then nothing. The other issues we came across was due to the fact the whole slope isn’t lighted, you need to get off at column 8, and take this little trail over to the slope. Crazy times, as the guy who stands there to tell you to get off, is up this steep incline part, and only yells it if you don’t get off. No, nice little landing area, you fall off at this incline, slide down on your butt to the end, adjust your ski’s and then follow the trail to the slope. Other than completely crashing into the side of the mountain in order to get off, it was fairly uneventful, and we managed to find our way to the slope.
As I stood there and gazed at the lighted slope before me, for a second I was home. The powder was a great fresh six inches, the slope was fairly well lit, and the sounds that filled the air were swishing skis and the wind in the trees. As I made my way down the slope, a smile appeared, and I enjoyed a sport that is beloved throughout the world and was the cause of many great childhood memories. While we only were able to get in the one run, it was absolutely worth it. I felt the catch of the powder, the sting of the wind, and the poles in my hand. Believe me Knazhe Goree, I will return!

Spaghetti and Laptops

Happy New Year everyone!!! I hope that everyone had a great holiday season. We here in the EKZ kept things nice and calm while ringing in 2006. After a crazy Christmas, with tons of friends and activities, we decided to keep New Years low key even though it is a huge deal here in Kazakhstan. My sitemates Jay and Heather came over, and while Jay whipped up homemade spaghetti, Heather and I watched movies. It was a great fun to watch him slave away while we did absolutely nothing except occasionally yell out encouragement and sample when he wasn’t looking. At midnight we popped the obligatory champagne, made our resolutions, and toasted in the New Year while watching our neighbors set off fireworks (yep, that’s right you firework lovers, no bans here.)

Another exciting moment in my life occurred last week at the Post Office. I received a Laptop and a Printer in the mail!!!! It is/was super exciting! I did not bring any electronic equipment with me to Kazakhstan thinking I wouldn’t use it. My organization does not have a printer, and our only computer runs on Windows 95, and does not even have a USB port for me to plug in my thumb drive. This has been just the largest blessing, I know can work on a computer at the same time as my director, and even more exciting, all of the programs are in ENGLISH!!! Yeah!! So to the anonymous donor of my laptop and printer, just know you have been the biggest blessing of the New Year!!! Thank you so very much!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bovines and Slumber Parties

This morning I opened my balcony door to get a good whiff of cold air and determine how many layers of clothes I needed to wear today, when I noticed a man with an ax, a large chopping block and what looked suspiciously like blood spatters across the snow. Then imagine my horror when he and his son proceeded to drag over a cow carcass and chop off the cows head. Now granted I am in Peace Corps but please understand I live in a city with most modern conveniences, I even carry a cell phone, and yet there is a man butchering a bovine outside of my apartment. Did you also know that this procedure is accompanied by sickeningly loud sounds of bones shattering? Well, it does, and it is not a pleasant sound on a Saturday morning, or really any morning for that matter. Once they had deemed the cow sufficiently chopped into "pot-sized" pieces they then carried it up the stairs to their apartment where I am sure, the family will serve this cow with great honor at their New Years day celebration (they don't celebrate Christmas here.) Although I do ask you...What pot would fit a cows head?

Hope everyone has a great Christmas!! The EKZ is having a slumber party this year. Everyone is cramming into my and Heathers apartments (they are next door to each other) and we will be making soups for Christmas Eve and French toast on Christmas morning. I think it should be a fun time for us to party and hang out! Have a wonderful Christmas, it will probably be next year when I blog again. (Please note 2 blogs in one month, it must be a record:)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kendo and Pumpkin Pie

Blogger has been blocked from public computers since November here, and unfortunately it is the only way I have access to it, hence the reason why no blogs for two months. Another PCV threatened to use her Kendo on me if I didn't update, so I this is going to be a short entry:)

Tons of things have been happening here. I moved into my own apartment:) YEAH!!! I also went to Pavlodar for 10 days for a language camp and Thanksgiving. I have begun working with an Ecotourism firm here in Ust in addition to working at the hospital. It is also officially winter here which means we will not see the ground again until May. All in all some pretty eventful and fun times.

My apartment is perfect. It is actually right next door to another PCV so we pretty much feel as though we are living in a dorm. It has been really fun, resulting in several late night movies, snacking and just all around hanging out. It also gives a great meeting place for everyone before we go out. It also came with a microwave (gasp) and get this a washing machine!!! When everyone came over we just gawked at it. It isn't even one of the old school Soviet ones you put in the tub, it is a brand new LG and better yet it is permanently hooked up!! How exciting:)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and this one took the cake. We were able to spend a whole week together as the Pavlodar PCVs arranged to have a language camp. We rented apartments, hung out and gorged all week. It was fabulous. I was able to see people from my group again which was great as we were able to catch up and live together for 10 days. For Thanksgiving dinner Ian managed to scrounge up turkeys, and we even made a pumpkin pie from scratch. We fulfilled all of the Thanksgiving requirements: tons of food, tons of friends, and tons of Amerikanski football. Can't wait for next year:)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Elevators and Manicures

Nothing really exciting has been happening here. I currently am in the process of looking for an apartment as Peace Corps has approved my group to move out of our host families on November 1. I have already looked at one apartment that is owned by one of the doctors at my hospital. It is a cute studio on the seventh floor of a building that sits on the Ulba River. I am tempted to take it as the price is right, and it faces east so I have a great view and excellent sun exposure. The downside is that all of the other PCV’s live on the other side of the river and Soviet elevators creep me out. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal however, taxi rides are 300 tenge a pop, and I would love to walk home and having been caught in an elevator in the states, I know what it is like, and at least there I knew whom to call, here I wouldn’t have a clue.

Side Note: The True Peace Corps Experience

There is a local expat who for her birthday wanted to have a girls spa day, so on Saturday she treated my girlfriends and I with manicures, pedicures and hair masks at the spa. Well, I took great pride when during my manicure, the manicurist had to clip calluses off of my fingers, specifically my thumb. Evidence that I have been working hard during my PC service here in KZ. Well, you know how when you feel calluses, you are not always sure what they are from. The next morning I figured it out. Here the best way to communicate with other PCV’s is by texting on our cell phones. When I tried texting one of my site mates, I noticed that my thumb was really tender. Apparently, that delightful manicure removed my “texting callous.” Hhmmm, I wonder how long it will take before I rebuild it back up again…such is the life of a Peace Corps volunteer.