7/1/05 Learning A Foreign Language, Marriage, Smells

7/1/05  Learning A Foreign Language, Marriage, Smells
Hello All!
It is a beautiful day in Kazakhstan today, and our spirits are high. We went to Almaty, the largest city, last night to go to a concert of the Kazakh National Orchestra. They are called the Nurgisa Tlendiyev Folklore Ethnographic Orchestra, and they tour the US quite often so keep your eyes open. They were absolutely wonderful. For about $2.50 we were entertained to an hour an a half of Kazakh and traditional music played on Kazakh instruments that included the dombra and some instrument played like a flute that sounds like a bird.

One more note before I launch into the FAQs. When you learn a foreign language from an English speaking teacher and you make a mistake, the teacher may simply correct you and move on. However, when you make a mistake learning a foreign language from a native speaker, they are sure to let you know when you have made a mistake and will laugh at you. At length. I have been making an effort to use more Russian since that is the only way I will be able to learn in. As a result I have said the following things this week:

I asked my host mother "Who do you sleep with?" instead of "How did you sleep?"

I told my teacher "President Nazarbayev eats Samovars" (a large container holding water for tea) instead of "President Nazarbayev eats "Samsa" (a tasty puff pastry stuffed with meat). See inset for picture of Samovar-eating President.

And the best, yesterday when my host brother was teaching me some new words, I called Jack "my walrus" (Morj) instead of "my husband" (Mooj). Oh well, at least I'm trying, and providing great entertainment for others all the while.

Okay, now the FAQs:
1. Marriage. At what age do girls marry? I have yet to attend a wedding, but supposedly Americans are favorite guests to invite so hopefully I will be invited to one soon. From friends I have learned that at 21 girls start looking seriously for a husband. Until then they concentrate on their studies.

2. Host Father's Occupation. What does our Papa do? I'm not actually sure. It seems rude to ask at this point, but I'm not entirely clear when he leaves the house, or if he does in fact work. Our family seems to have a lot of money, since their house is quite large and has unusual amenities (such as a flush toilet), but I think our host father goes to bed and gets up before us. He is usually home when we get home from school.

3. Smell. What does it smell like there, and is it stinky? There is not really an easy way to answer this question. If I would give you an overall view of the smell here, it would be of pot. Not that people seem to smoke it that much, but it grows wild pretty much everywhere, and since they burn their trash here the plants around the trash also get burned and add to the overall scent. As far as people go, they do not seem to use deodorant all that often and bathe once a week, so take that for what it is. I can't really say anything though because although I bathe daily, my scent is definitely taking on a new form. I believe it is more mutton-esque, which is delightful I must tell you. Luckily I brought some perfume, so I don't really notice unless I really take a good whiff of my armpit. Other smells include the smell of the cafes, which is of cooking meat and is delightful. We always take a good whiff of the meat cooking in the bazaars because it smells so good, though we have been warned not to try any until we have been here for 3 months and are more used to the food.

4. Allergies. How is Jack doing with the cats? I'm not really sure why people have cats here unless it is just to chase the mice, which are endangered and only like in Kazakhstan. Our family does not allow the cats inside the house, so Jack's allergies are fine. I, on the other hand, am having a horrible time not petting all the adorable little kittens all over the place. I think it might be a bad idea though since I'm sure that have fleas, and that would probably be the best thing they could give me.

Back next week! Have a good weekend!

Amy (and Jack)