April 2006

Hello All!
Happy Easter! Happy spring! Happy Mother's Day! I can't believe we have been living in Kazakhstan for 10 months already. Our Russian is still steadily improving (and yours too since Jack gives a great lesson below—feel our pain!) as well as our Kazakh. By that mostly I mean I am getting even better at shaking my head yes and smiling when I don't know what is going on. As a result I have agreed to start teaching English to the Mayor's staff, to teach extra lessons to students who are hoping to study abroad in America next year, to try to get funding for new equipment for our gym, and not to move into our new house for another two weeks.

Living here for almost a whole year, we sometimes forget the funny little differences between Kazakhstan and America. For example, I just recently realized how amusing all the public buses are here. There are no "new" buses in Kazakhstan, only "new-to-Kazakhstan" buses. Therefore the destination signs on the top of all the buses are wherever the bus was going before it was sold to Kazakhstan. Usually these buses come from Turkey or Germany, so it is amusing to board a bus for Pavlodar with "Frankfurt" or "Istanbul" written across the top. The one we took today said "Windoowandu." I think that's in Latvia. Of course all those little safety warnings inside the bus are in another language too, so forget about it. Also forget about first-time use bus amenities such as lights or air conditioning.

But all in all we are getting used to everything and really starting to settle in. I definitely understand now why Peace Corps is two years. Now that we are comfortable, hopefully we can start to do some good.

All the best.

Hello to everyone again.

Its April here and that means the same thing it does there. We can't wait for the school year to end. Not that we aren't enjoying it to death in the meantime.

Here's another little language lesson for you:

Russian verbs. The Russian language loves very specific verbs. So "to tell" as in "I told you once..." is one verb, "to tell" as in "tell her I said hi" is a different verb.

The hardest ones are verbs of "motion". (I am moving, not the verb)

Russian verbs love prefixes. If I leave, this will have the prefix PO. If I come back, the prefix PRE. If I leave to go far away, the prefix is OO. Easy enough right? To have gone by foot one way is "SHOL" for men and "SHLA" for women. "SHLEE" for parties of two or more. The very for round trips by foot is "HODEET". For car, naturally, it's a different verb. That's "EDET" in present tense, "YEHAL" for past.

So: (keep in mind "ya" means "I")
I came back by foot. Ya preshol. (For Amy its Ya preshla.)
I came back by car. Ya preyehal. (Amy-preyehala)
imp leaving. Ya poshol.
I'm leaving by car. Ya poyehal.
I'm leaving to go far away. Ya ooyehal.
I didn't go to school. Ya ne hodeel (to school)
I'm not going to school. Ya ne eedoo (to school)

And many more!

I teach two sections of kindergarten. This presents problems all its own. There it's not so much the language barrier (they don't speak their language yet either, hence no barrier) but the KID barrier. For example, we drew pictures of our families one week. One kid drew aliens.

The next week we drew animals, so I could tell them what noises the animals make in English. (dogs, for example say "woof woof" in English but "gov gov" in Russian---isn't that fun?) so the kid drew aliens again. He assured me they make noises like a tractor. I took his word for it.

So then we drew Christmas decorations. He drew aliens. I dutifully put it on our tree.

Next week we drew "our house". What did he draw? You guessed it, a Christmas tree.

A fine $2 bottle of vodka to whoever tells me what he draws next.

Amy and I will be moving soon! our very own house. Who would have guessed our first married house would be in central Asia?

Jack Simms