Thanks so much for sending me questions; it will help me figure out what to write about.
Due to the many, many questions about the bathroom, toilet, bathing situation, I thought I would tell you a bit about Kazakh plumbing. First of all, yes, our family does seem to be particularly well off. Many of the other Peace Corps Trainees (as we are called right now), do not have any indoor plumbing. We have a toilet (though you cannot throw paper in it, a la Mexico), a bathtub (with hot water from time to time), and many sinks in the house.
However, after speaking with other people and visiting (called “ghosting” here) others, it seems most Kazakh plumbing is of the outdoor variety. **Just a note here, I am speaking a bit tongue in cheek in my emails in order to entertain, but please understand that I very much respect the Kazakh people and their way of life. I just didn't want any misunderstandings.** By outdoor I mean the toilets are often outhouses, and the outhouses do not usually have a seat. Interestingly enough, there are often sinks outside, but they aren't hooked up to anything. Every once in awhile someone will poor water into a basin above the sink, then you turn it on and wash your hands just like you would if there were plumbing.
Outdoor showers work very much the same way. In the morning water is poured into a basin, which is then warmed by the sun all day long. Then in the evening you have warm water to take a shower with by just releasing water out of the basin. But the real Kazakh way to bathe is the banya. I have yet to experience a banya. myself, but there is a huge banya. in Almaty we are going to visit soon. A banya is basically a sauna. Water and stones are first heated on a fire. You then pour water over the stones to make steam and mix hot water with cold until it is a good temperature for you. You wash in this manner and if you are really hard core your banya. partner will beat you with branches. One of our friends was beaten in this way by his host brother and he said if felt great and was like a massage. I'll let you know what I think about it after I have my first experience.
Everything is still going fine here. We get to go into Almaty for the first time this weekend so we'll be able to get some items we have been missing. Supposedly you can get anything you need in Almaty.
I am starting to learn a bit more Russian, so I was finally able to ask my host mother if I could do laundry this weekend. She thought it was very funny that Jack helped me. Our washing machine was broken, but our neighbors let us use theirs. It was basically a basin that made the clothes soapy, but I was very appreciative not to have to do it all by hand. Jack rinsed the clothes in the bathtub and I hung them on the line.
Keep the great stories from home coming and good questions.
All the best,