July 2007: Das vedanya do novy streytch

July 2007: Das vedanya do novy streytch
Das vedanya do novy streytch
Hello All!
In Russian "das vedanya do novy streytch" means "good bye until next we meet" which I hope will be soon! Jack and I are currently in Almaty finishing our last paperwork and we fly out on Tuesday. Saying good-bye to Bayanaul was actually a lot more difficult than we expected. We left behind a lot of good friends and no matter what else we felt about the place, I truly feel that it was my home the past two years. Our last events of course included lots of vodka, sheep and horse meat, and toasts as well as a tour of many of Bayanaul's natural springs. Many of the toasts were given in honor of our parents, so you should all be feeling healthy and happy for a long time to come :)

We left Bayanaul with the Shaikhin family, whose daughter, Torgyn, will be joining us in the US in August. Jack's parents will be hosting Torgyn for her junior year of high school, so if anyone wants to meet a real live Kazakh you can! Not ones for a quiet evening in, the Shaikhins and their friends took us to a "sauna." This was a room they rented out in a health club that had a private area with tables, a banya, two showers, and a small swimming pool. We wore bathing suits since we were all together, but they made sure to bring lots of birch branches so we got the full banya experience with being hit with branches in the banya, then running into a cold shower and jumping in the pool. It sounds bizarre, but it was wonderful. I've never felt so clean in my life. That was of course spoiled the next day when we got on the hot sweaty train with all eight of our bags, but it was still nice while it lasted.

We have lots more stories, but will save those until we get back. Good luck to you all and thank you for all your kind words and encouragement these past two years. We can't wait to see you again! Now the answers to our survey from Jack:

So, here we are, at the end of a journey that started more than two years ago. I will apologize in advance for the length of this bulletin, and attempt to resist the urge to turn this into a dissertation about “my life in Kazakhstan.”

School is over, camp is over (and went great), and this is it. We are waiting for final medical clearance to leave.

It all started back when Amy and I applied to Peace Corps over the winter of my last year in law school. The first time around they told us we would most likely be going to Africa, and that Amy would be teaching English and I might be teaching science. Then they told us they had run out of money to send new volunteers that year and that we might go next year. We got officially recommended for service and were told that our area of service would be Southeast Asia. If any of you are at home doing the math, Kazakhstan is to Southeast Asia as Arkansas is to French Rivera, (not anywhere near it, not anything like it) but there you are.

I think it’s safe to say that, like just about anything else in the world, we have mixed feelings about leaving. While it is true that we are looking forward to coming back to the United States, it’s not true that we won’t miss anything about being here. I haven’t thought about health insurance, my resume, time cards, Federal Interest Rates, dental plans, or my “career” in two years, and I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t missed it. I haven’t worked 8 to 5 hardly at all, and I haven’t missed that either, not one bit- call me whatever you want. It’s going to be tough to readjust to those. But while being here for two years was enjoyable, I think that longer would become trying. Not having a toilet isn’t that bad when there’s an end in sight. Otherwise it would be depressing. Even though I don’t really miss the work day I do miss the work ethic sometimes. I miss just being able to get things done rather than making a running list of things we have to do when we go to Pavlodar, and then still not getting half of everything done for reasons like the staff at the store are “resting” or that it’s a week long holiday.

I really can’t say for sure that my outlook on life has changed. I’m sure it has. It’s possible that we won’t know until we get back whether we’ve changed and how much. I think that it’s almost certain that we’re more relaxed about things, you have to be here, or you’ll drive yourself insane. I’m sure that we’ll move a little more slowly. If we’re suddenly three hours late for everything you’ll know why, although I think it’s more likely that we’ll just enjoy the fact that everyone actually thinks being on time has a function in society.

When I look back over the last two years it sort of seems like we haven’t done that much- victories here are a lot smaller because of the language barrier. So we remember our first joke, the first time we taught grammar in Russian and people understood it, the first time we successfully bought train tickets, things like that. I suppose the biggest accomplishment is that we did it, but people spend their whole lives here so it seems odd for me to congratulate myself for living here for two years.

Now that we have tickets in hand I can now tell you about our journey home without jinxing myself. We are leaving Kazakhstan on June 26th and going to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Tallin (Estonia), and Riga (Latvia). We are leaving Riga on July 11th and flying to the United States. Because of the time difference we still arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Airport still on July 11th. Since we are flying into the lovely L.C. Smith Terminal we won’t officially be leaving the 3rd world until we step outside the airport.


A lot of you fell for the trick question with the toilet plunger. Of course there’s a use for the toilet plunger! Bucket + toilet plunger = washing machine. Maybe people thought I was kidding about that?

1. The email bulletin was
A. very funny and insightful
B. nothing short of fantastic
C. really cool
D. worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. Or at least a People’s Choice Award.
All answers are correct. Obviously.

2. Jack and Amy are moving to:
E. Washington, DC

3. Amy’s profession will be:
B. Graduate student (American or George Washington University)

4. Jack’s profession will be:
A. Nothing/doesn’t know Ideas? Suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

5. The capital of Kazakhstan is:
D. Astana.
Almaty used to be the capital but is not anymore.

6. Amy and Jack live in:
A. Bayanaul, Kazakhstan. I had some sympathy for some people who wrote in “on the moon.”

7. The national dish of Kazakhstan is:
C. Besbarmak
We have also been told that D. Karduk (sheep’s entrails) is also a national dish so if you said that one go ahead and give yourself a correct answer.

8. Running water is:
A. Super duper
B. Nice for washing dishes
C. A great aid in cleanliness
D. Necessary for the successful operation of a flush toilet
All of these answers are correct.

9. The coldest it got during our service was
C. -42 C (which is also -42 F)
This is fairly cold.

10. The hottest it got was
A. +43 C (109 F)
This was the most uncomfortable I have ever been. +43 is far worse than -42.

11. All of the items are useful except C.
A. The empty and torn plastic bag helps start the furnace.
B. The empty box helps start the furnace.
C. The empty beer bottle has no use. There’s nowhere to return them so they get thrown in the shed. And that’s the responsible solution.
D. The empty jar gets used for storage of salt or sugar or whatever else.
E. The plastic bottle is for storing distilled water.
F. Sorry, this was a trick answer. The toilet plunger is used as an agitator for washing clothes.

12 Amy and Jack :
C. Taught English.

13. We did not eat:
D. A sheep’s eye and
G. Camel’s milk
There’s a funny story about the horse sausage. Amy came out of our bedroom to find our host mother hunched over a bathtub with some of a horse’s meat in one hand and his intestines in the other. She said, “Amy, we’re making sausage!” Amy said, “I have a lot of lessons to plan.”

14. We did not see:
B. A cow being guillotined. Our friend saw that. There is a special cow guillotine.

15. Horses are:
Any of the answers are acceptable. Horses are pretty, tasty, and pretty tasty all at once.