6/17/05 We're HERE!

6/17/05 We're HERE!
Hello Everyone! First, everything is wonderful!!

It took quite awhile to get here, and we have been incredibly busy since, so there has been hardly any chance to breathe, but life is good and we are very happy.

We have language classes every day as well as technical and medical training, and soon we will go into Kazakh classrooms and begin a sort of student teaching.

We live in Panfilova, which is about 15 kilometers outside of Almaty, the largest city. We live with a Mother, Father, Grandmother, and 7-year-old brother. They are Kazakh, though most Peace Corps people seem to be living with Russian families. Our family speaks Russian though. Mostly everyone is afraid of me because I don't speak Russian, but they have taken a real liking to Jack. All the time our Grandmother says "Eat, Eat" and Jack complies. Although she is worried that I will become as small as her pinky finger.

Our host family is incredibly friendly, and we couldn't ask for nicer or more accommodating people. Our mother cooks three meals a day for us. So far we have had cucumbers, tomato, and bread for each meal, as well as apples, but the rest varies. The meat is interesting, but good. Yesterday we had meat served over noodles, with some sort of broth you mix with a sour cream type substance. It was very good. We also always have tea, what they call chai. It is in the 90's here, and yet every meal they still serve chai..

The food is served in about 20 different platters scattered around the table, and they think it is funny when we use our forks to serve ourselves instead of our hands. I learned quickly that there is food just for me and food for others. Grandmother got very upset when I tried to take some of her butter! There is always lots of candy on the table too. We brought our family some After Eight Chocolates and I guess they don't have mint here because the Grandmother did not like it at all. I will send a picture of Grandmother (Babushka) as soon as I can because she has an amazing face, and very few teeth, all of which are gold.

We have our own room, which is their daughter's room who is currently studying at Cambridge. Each room is separated with curtains of very bright colors, so the house has a very open feeling. There is a bathtub with hot water! And a flush toilet! But that is unusual.

We live in a nice neighborhood and there are dogs everywhere. Houses seem to be made of concrete blocks with tin roofs. There are no front porches as everyone stays inside. Many houses have gardens. In the gardens there are always dogs, cats, chickens, and sometimes cows.

The people here are all incredibly friendly, and the children are very curious about us. The people look very different. Some of them look very Russian, while others look Chinese, or Mongolian, or Turkish. I cannot describe my host Mother's face. She has a strong look about her, like a Russian, yet her features are a bit Asian, and all at once she looks incredibly friendly, open, and honest. She is very beautiful.

We have been studying Russian every night, though our host family insists we watch some T.V. with them. So far we have watched Beverly Hills 90210 and many, many Mexican Soap Operas. They are all dubbed into Russian, which is great, because you can figure out what is going on anyway. By the way, Marta is having Jorge's baby!

Sorry for the fragmentedness of this email, I have been speaking broken English all day long and cannot remember how to stop! When I come home from school I say to Jack, "You go school and is good?" I hope all of you are doing well and are enjoying the summer. We are thinking of you often and wishing you could experience everything with us. Please feel free to send questions; I would love to tell you all about Kazakhstan. I feel so fortunate to be having this experience.

Much love,

Amy (and Jack)