Multicultural celebration

Our school has celebration of the cultures that make up Kazakhstan last week. Amazing! 1974554_10205118721266329_929835163_n 10583775_10205118729906545_50941974_n1241173_10205118715586187_2105474999_n 10588664_10205118815988697_1281810523_n 10622005_10205118800708315_2001737630_n 10638053_10205118716146201_1392602296_n 10668128_10205118719146276_1523064174_n 10668275_10205118828709015_927791106_n

That is Sam standing with me. Her name is actually Aiassem. She is one of my coteachers. She has been a big help!! She translates for us often and she is just a wonderful person!

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The gentleman sitting in the floor is Belben. He is an international teacher in the English department. He is from the Philippines.

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The gentlemen under the wolf fur is Greg. He is an international teacher of math from Texas.

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The woman standing next to me is Man-yee. She is from England and is an international biology teacher.

Stop overanalyzing and eat your horsemeat

We were at the food court in a small mall near here. There was a coffee shop. I asked a veteran international teacher if the coffee was any good as I was thinking about trying it. I had heard that it was difficult to get a good cup of coffee here. He said, “No, it’s awful; but go have a cup. I can’t tell you about the coffee. You have to find out for yourself.” And he absolutely insisted that I go get a cup of bad coffee. Really bad coffee. It was the best advice I had been giving in ages.

I thought about some of the things that I post on my blog, post on Facebook, or send in emails about my experiences here. There are things that I don’t mention because I know that it would make people worry about my well-being while I am gone. I don’t mention them because how do you explain it to someone else who hadn’t lived through it. I don’t mention it because had I known some of these things, I might not have come here. But I had to find out for myself. No one could have told me. What could I tolerate? Would the lack of 3000 count Egyptian cotton sheets be my breaking point? Would the constant fluidity of the scheduling at school be my proverbial straw? No one could tell me that. There are things I don’t mention because I just can’t tell you about them. You have to find out for yourself.

And then I thought about the horsemeat. I had viewed a promotional video for the international teachers program and one of the US teachers talked about eating horsemeat. She said it wasn’t bad. I tried the horse meat. It wasn’t too bad. I am not having it every night for dinner, but I am glad that I tried it. Now I know. Other people could describe eating horse meat to me. But that is no replacement for the actual experience. Had someone in the video mentioned that it was awful or given even a hint of what the taste was, I would have not tried it. I would have missed the experience. I would have missed taking part in a cultural cornerstone. I would have missed making a connection with this community and country. I can’t describe that for you. You have to have the experience to understand it.

Which lead me to thinking about the opinions we offer to one another, the reviews we post on line, the comments we make. How many things have missed in life because I didn’t find out about them myself?

What is my opinion really worth? Can I really tell you what your first kiss will be like? If I tell you that it will likely be awkward, could be embarrassing, would that stop you? Do you really want me to tell you about your first kiss, or would you rather have that first kiss?

I didn’t get that cup of coffee, sadly. The coffee shop was closing and they only had a few baked goods left. And they don’t actually have anything on the menu that I would usually order. But I will stop back and find something on the menu that I would like to try, even if it isn’t supposed to be that good.

There are lots of things here that I have tried that I wouldn’t have tried had I not been on this journey. With any luck, I will be trying more of those experiences in future, whether I am in Kazakhstan or somewhere else. So, perhaps instead of overanalyzing a new adventure, maybe you should just eat the horsemeat and find out how it is for yourself.

Learning our way around Pavlodar

It has been another exciting week in Pavlodar. We spent a good part of the week trying to finish immigration issues. The US citizens has additional requirements, from the US government, not from Kazakhstan. So, the US teachers still have an outstanding issue or two. Should be finalized soon! I keep saying that. And one day it will be true!

The schedule and teaching assignments at school have changed several times. We are told that this is standard operating procedure here. It is confusing sometimes, but not too frustrating. I am enjoying getting to work with different teachers and meet different students as I try to navigate this new environment. Just like every other school, each teacher has a different style and each class has its own personality and dynamic. I am really enjoying the students and local teachers. They ask interesting questions. They share interesting information. And sometimes they get my jokes!

Outside of school this week, we had the walking tour of Pavlodar last Saturday. I now know where to buy many of the things that I need or will need in the near future, like warm clothes and kitchen supplies. I also found the YARN SHOP!!! We have looked for a yarn shop since I arrived. Everyone knew that finding a yarn supply was important to me. I hope to actually go back to buy knitting supplies in a week or two.

It was about 75 degrees last Saturday when we went on the walking tour. This week it has been in the 50’s. Fall lasted about a week. Winter will be here in a day or two. It is below freezing at night.

A fellow teacher from Texas had his heart set on concocting a burrito by combining various menu items at a local restaurant. He practiced saying shredded cheese in Russian ALL day. His heart was broken when we got to the restaurant and found out that they were out of the beef entre that would be the basis for his creation and his attempt to bring home to Pavlodar for a few brief moments. But they found substitutions and in the end all was well. These are the moments that make the hardships worth it. These are the memories that we are making in Kazakhstan. I hope we can continue these fabulous occasions to get us through the hard winter ahead! Peace and love to you all!wpid-20140910_130848.jpg

This is, or rather, was my boss. We had a going away party for him this week. We wish him the best in Astana.

The Early Days

There was a delay in getting internet in our apartments, so I haven’t been able to post much. But now we have connectivity. I am hoping I can post more regularly and have more meaningful, in depth content. Thanks for your patience.

This has been a remarkable adventure. It is the hardest, scariest thing I have even done. It has also be the best, most fun thing I have even done. I am still not entirely settled here. Things are going fairly well, but there are a few question marks lingering. My happy travels could take a turn at any minute and the fun could be cut short. I hope not, but I am prepared for a premature departure if necessary. My health is good and I am safe. Immigration issues and such would be the reason, not anything dangerous. That should all be worked out this week. I will feel much more settled when it is. I am sure it will be worked out.

A little over three weeks ago, I boarded a plane and took an exhausting, nerve wracking trek of about 8000 miles. It was easier to leave than I thought it would be. My ability to handle the flight, worry over lost luggage, making all the connections, and general travel anxiety were my biggest concerns. I didn’t have time to think about differences in language and culture, the actual job I would be performing, or homesickness that might be in my immediate future. So I stepped on the plane and went. I cried at the security checkpoint for a moment leaving my mom. But I was fine once I made it through the scanner and got to the gate. The flight had a few of the usual hiccups, but was better than I thought it would be. And I survived it better than I thought I would. There was a minor lost luggage incident, but the piece was recovered and all is well.

I could write for several days telling you about my first three weeks here. I won’t. I will say that the Kazakhstani people are, for the most part, some of the nicest, happiest, most helpful people I could have imagined. Pavlodar was a military supply production area for decades and was off limits to foreigners. So the people here are very happy to have us here. They are curious and want to learn English. Those who know English have no problem coming up to you and starting a discussion. If they don’t speak English and I am with a local teacher, they will ask them about us. The restaurant staff and local market workers are working very diligently to communicate with us. No one has starved or even missed a meal. We have managed. Google translate and other apps are getting a real workout. And the international educators are learning more of the language. Every day is a scavenger hunt. You not only have to find what you want, but then you have to figure out how to obtain it. Oddly, usually, it is more fun than frustrating. We laugh a lot. The Kazakhstanis have a great sense of humor and the other foreigners are loving the experience. I am surrounded by kindness and happiness and laughter.

My brain is on overtime. Navigating the job, the city, the language. Learning so many things. Constantly trying to solve issues before they actually become problems. Adapting to the culture. It takes everything I’ve got and more. I frequently have to call in reinforcements. Luckily, I have a great team working with me and lots of resources.

The real work at school is just starting. I am beginning to figure out my place in the education process here. It is very different than the US. Today I did the 8 page book foldable with my class. It was fun. They seemed to enjoy it and find the study guide that we made helpful. I was pleased. But I have a steep learning curve ahead of me. And with that statement, I am off to work on lessons for tomorrow and practice my Russian! Love and peace to you all!


Opening Day

At last, students! Opening ceremonies were elaborate as expected.



The crowd gathers.


Parents look on with great pride as their child officially begins the new academic year.


New students shine.


Someone has lost their older sibling!


Year 7 students are eager for their first day at NIS.

There was much music and singing. I am so excited to actually get to work with students soon! Hope everyone has a great academic year! Best wishes!