Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ice Sculptures

These are six of my fourth year University students and Kaz 17 volunteer Jay (far left). There is a display of ice sculptures at the main square in the city, including two big ice slides that gives the kids here hours of entertainment everyday. Yes, you can make the assumption that ice sculptures mean that it is constantly below freezing here. This sculpture is of father frost (the other santa) and one of his snow queens or the group of woman that seems to follow him everywhere. I already had to turn down one request to dress up as Father Frost for a celebration at the main library here, because I was suffering from food poisoning but also because I told myself a few years back that I was never going to be that jewish guy in a santa suit. But Father Frost is more of a New Years character, and the Russian Orthodox Christmas is not until January. For New Years we plan to celebrate in Ust Kamenogorsk, drinking vodka and lighting as many fireworks as we can afford, because there are just some things that you have to savour when you're away from New York. I have two weeks off from classes and since according to the Peace Corp we cant leave our oblasts (regions) until after three months in site, I plan to spend as much time skiing and riding horses as possible.
I hope everyone who reads this has a Happy New Years,
2007 will be a good year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Avat Host Family

"Swearing In" was November 10th, televised on all 3 National Kazakhstan television stations, I was on TV, said my name and where I was going. I said goodbye to my host family, gave them some tea and some teacups and a Tom and Jerry dvd that I bought on the streets of Almaty for their 5 year old granddaughter. I was given a traditional Uyghur hat which is what I'm wearing in these photos with my old host mother and father. It was such a nice gift and i felt bad cause all i got them was tea. I jumped on the train heading straight north for 20 hours and got off in Jenghis Tobe, a two hours drive from Ust-Kamenogorsk, where my camera was promptly stolen. I took a cab to the city then a bus to the village where I met my new host babooshka, a 66 year old woman and former director of the collective farm that was Vinnoye under the Soviet Union. Ive started teaching, 6 classes back to back on Mondays and Wendesdays, and Im looking for things to do in the rest of my free time. Im only 30 minutes from the city so its good to have the opportunity to experience both urban and rural Kazakhstani life. The transition from New York City to Vinnoye is as expected, quite difficult. However, getting to know the people and creating good relationships is much easier here than in New York. I have internet access from an internet cafe in Ust, so I should be connected at least once a week. While walking to the internet cafe today I passed through a meat marker, rows and rows of fresh meat on makeshift tables, plus the heads of every domesticated animal you could think of lined up under these tables. Most of them had gaping holes in their skulls where Im guessing the brain was removed. The weather dips below freezing every day now and its only a matter of time before the snow comes. Time to try to find some nice wooden skiis.
My transition to a Kazakh man must first come with my attire. It becomes pretty obvious that im a foreigner when i walk around in real Nike's. Usually I get looked at from my feet up, so ive purchased some snake skin looking pointy dress shoes to wear wherever I go. Ive also found a nice warm hat with some ear flaps (the traditional Uyghur hat just doesnt cut it in the winter up north unfortunately) and am searching out some tight dress pants and the kitchiest tie i can find: hey, there are some things about Borat that just might be true.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kazakh Kids and I

Holding down the Kazakh region with my new friend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The village of Vinnoye, the blue houses are a
horse farm.

new address

My new address in Ust Kamenogorsk is:

Mr Samuel Robinson
A-A 2490
Ust Kamenogorsk

Send me mail.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vinnoye: Population 1,876....make that 77.


Training is coming to a close and in a couple of weeks I will be residing in my permenant village, named Vinnoye in Northeast KZ (over 1,000km away). Vinnoye is very close to Ust Kamenogorsk, the capital of the oblast (region) and a large city. This region of Kazakhstan has much more of a Russian influence (90% of the village is Russian), with some Germans,
Chechyens and Kazakhs. So basically in training I was in a different country, a place with much more of a muslim and "silkroad" influence. East (Vastok) Kazakhstan gets down to -45 and vodka is much more of a staple here. This region of Kazakhstan was originally supposed to be part of Russia but when Stalin chalked out the lines for central asia, he included it with kazakhstan for some reason. The Russians here are really mad at him for this for some reason.
My village is so small that when I first visited it in early october for a week I almost had a breakdown, coming from NY. It used to be a thriving collective farm under the Soviet Union, but since the fall many people have been moving to Russian and without finacial assistance from the USSR it has slowly become smaller. The village is about 1,800 people and the school
has 200 students, so I only have classes monday and wendesday. There are some nice mountains by me, including the Altais (some of the largest in the
world) and some great hiking and skiing spots. The steppe farther to the west is insane, its just thousands and thousands of KM of flat land or plains, with nothing in sight.
Russian remains insanely difficult.
"Swearing In" is on the 10th of november, and the next day I head 1,000
km north to Vinnoye, population 1,876...make that 77.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

End of September

So not much has changed in the last week or so,
I have started teaching classes and it has been going well, trying to get the hang of standing in front of 15 Kazakh kids trying to explain grammatical english forms that i didnt even know existed. I find out in about 6 days where im going to be spending the next two years so that is a bid nerveracking but for the most part i dont have the time to even think about that with russian language still consuming half of my week.
I uploaded some pictures to try to portray Kazakhstan in the best light as possible, although without the mountains, it would be quite bleak at times. However, the culture is quite the opposite and Im learning something new everyday. For example, the number 7 is so highly regarded as bringing good luck, that when I bought a phone card with a new number, each extra 7 in the phone number was an extra 1000 Tenge or so (about 10 dollars). So the guy whose walking around with 777-7777 is basically the man.

Some of our students, with volunteers In Jee (far left), Ehren (second from left) and Erin (far right).

Mountains, School Children, Bazaars: Kazakhstan Part 2

Breathtaking views of mountains on top of Medeo, we had to walk up 864 steps, on about a 60 degree angle to get to the top

My site mate Matthews' family donkey

Babooshkas can handle more vodka than the average American

View of my village from the tallest building (4 stories)

Another mountain view from Medeo; Hopefully I will get a chance to hike these before I leave for my permenane site.

Mountains, School Children, Bazaars: Kazakhstan

World War 2 Memorial in Panfilov Park, Almaty

The view of the mountains from my village

Some 3rd - 4th grade children from my school

Nuts and Fruit at the Ziloni (Green) Bazaar; Almaty

Celebrating "First Bell", the first day of school in my village, August 30th.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

1 month down, 26 to go

first off I now have a cell phone that can recieve incoming calls, however i cant call out of kazakhstan, my number is 0117 701 781 6712. For the last four weeks i've been spending about 7 hours a day learning Russian, everyday except for Sunday, where I try to get down to Almaty to use the internet or just return to civilization for a bit. Im living in a small village outside Almaty with a very nice Uyghur family who takes very good care of me. Theres a great view of the amazing mountain range with snow tipped peaks right outside my window and my family grows tons of fruits and vegetables which are all very delicious. So i am trying to overcome the diffuculties of the cultural divide by learning as much russian as I can, the classes help but its still difficult. Next week we are going to start team teaching with local teachers so that should be nice to get a taste of what teaching will be like. All the kids are really nice, they tend to gravitate towards me for some reason,running after me and calling my name, Kak Sam! Kak Sam!; i havent even met half of them. I live with four other volunteers in this village, they are all very nice and we get along well. Yesterday one of the other volunteers host brothers took us to the mountain ice skating rink called Medeo, the highest olympic size skating rink in the world. Its about 2400 M above sea level, and the temperature fdropped about25 degrees as we went up the mountain. The view at the top was amazing. I'll try to post some photos soon. Anyone whose reading this and wants to give me their home address, that would be greatly appreciated as I realized i lost alot of my addresses and when i have some freetime writing letters may be fun, and the only means of communication possibly afterr i leave training in 2 months.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Address

My new address for my first three months in country, which will consist of language, cultural and skills training will be the Peace Corp HQ in Almaty: Peace Corp Kazakhstan P.O. Box 257 Almaty, 050022 Kazakhstan Attn: Samuel Robinson. However I will actually be living in a village about 2 hours out of the city. I just finished two days of "staging" or orientation in Philadelphia, learning the basics of what these next two years will consist of, including ways to approach cultural differences and some issues we may face throughout our service. I wont have internet access for three to four weeks after I enter the country so don't be worried if you don't hear from me for a while.... missing Brookstan already....-Sam

Monday, August 14, 2006


I fly out Tuesday, August 22nd.