Thanks to everyone for sending so many great questions. It has prompted me to make a little FAQ list so everyone can see the questions and answers.
1. Food: What are we eating and are there Doritos here? Since the family killed the sheep last week we have been eating mutton every day. I'm not sure how often of an occurrence killing a sheep is because we haven't been here long enough, but I'm guessing they are going to run out of meat one of these days. Our host mother is an excellent cook and has not repeated a style of cooking the mutton yet, but we always have mutton. This weekend she also made homemade raspberry jam, so we have been eating that with bread every day and it is wonderful. She also made apricot jam, but we haven't tasted that yet. I have not seen Doritos here, and tortilla chips in general are unknown to most Kazakhs. They do have potato chips, but they are savory kinds like chicken or fish egg (that's right, fish egg). There are some American brands here like Snickers, but most English Word brands are from England and not from the U.S. This is a good thing sometimes though since they have the good Fanta Orange, and Cadbury Chocolate.
2. Chores. What are our obligations at home? We are not allowed to help around the house because we are told that we are guests. One day Jack came home late for lunch, so he ate by himself and I was permitted to do his dishes. ƒº We try to clear the table whenever they let us, and we do our own laundry and ironing (which is unusual for host families to let you do yourself). My host mother said she is going to start teaching me how to cook though, so I am very excited about that.
3. Clothing. What do we wear and what do Kazakhs wear? To school we are allowed to wear whatever we want, but I have been wearing skirts because it is so hot. Today I finally have jeans and a t-shirt on. When we get together for training though we have to dress up, so women wear skirts and blouses and men wear nice pants and polo shirts or button downs. Some men wear ties as well.
As for Kazakhs, they always look very nice. Men wear button downs every day no matter what they are doing, and women wear nice skirts and dresses. This is particularly true if they are going to an event. Just to go to a meeting at our school for host parents last night our host mother wore a beautiful dress, stockings, high healed shoes, and earrings. Ethnically Russian women tend to wear fewer clothes, though they still wear a lot of dresses. They tend to prefer rather see-through dresses though and Jack's teacher has been known to wear see-through tops. I am sure they are nice to wear in hot weather, but I'm not sure I'll be picking up on that trend.
4. Horses. Do we ever get to meet and/or ride the horse before we eat him? Unfortunately, no. I have yet to see a horse, although there are many donkeys about, and other evidences of horses are on the sidewalks. I guess horse meat is more popular in the winter so we were "lucky" to get some last week.
5. Please clarify the shower situation; if they are outside, what do people do in winter? Sorry for the confusion, in the winter people only use the banya since it has steam. Most people go once a week to a public banya, which are supposed to be quite nice. I asked a Volunteer who has been here for a year if people just have greasy hair all winter and she said, "I don't know, people are always wearing hats indoors and out all winter."
6. Travel. How do we get where we are going each day, and have we been anywhere else yet? Each day we walk to school or to training. Luckily we only live about 10 minutes from the training site where Jack also has school. Many people have to take a bus and then walk, which all together takes them about 50 minutes. We have training twice a week, so at least they don't have to do that too often. The other 4 days a week (we only have Sunday off) we go to our schools for language lessons. It takes me about 30 minutes to walk to school, but I get to walk down a nice shaded path along the main road, so it is a nice walk, especially since the payoff is so great at the end when I get to see the mountains. As far as travel goes, we aren't allowed to leave our site for the first three months so we haven't been anywhere. Two people in our group speak Chinese though, so we are hoping someday they will want to go with us to China. Tomorrow we will go into the largest city, Almaty, for the first time and will get to buy things we need at the bazaar. We wanted to go to a Mexican restaurant while we were there too, but we found out meals are about $20 at the Mexican Restaurant, so I guess we won't be going. There is no chance of Mexican food anywhere else in the country. Oh well.
This is getting sort of long, so I'll save the rest of the questions for next time. Keep the questions coming and thanks to everyone who has written. I love to hear from you and get your pictures and stories.
Love to all,