Knock, Knock! Winter is at the door!

It may be autumn on the calendar, but winter has arrived in Pavlodar. The city is about 60 miles from Siberia, so it is not surprising. It is a rude awaking though. We have plenty of snow and cold weather in the US, but we also have the comforts of the US in the winter, like a car sitting 10 feet from my door and the ability to warm it up before getting in and traveling to any destination I want when I want. Relying on a semi-modern bus system makes the cold all the more unforgiving. But we are all doing our best to deal with the cold and it hasn’t stopped us from enjoying our journey.

This week we had our 2nd formal Russian lesson at school. Kazakh lessons this week were cancelled because some of the teachers in the school were working on projects during the fall break. Not knowing the language has been a huge battle. We are learning as much as we can on our own and can get around the city for necessities fairly well, but we are also giving our translation apps on our phones a real workout. I am still having issues with my US phone and I have not purchased a local data plan yet. Therefore, I do not always have a translation app available, but the Russian dictionary on my phone usually does the job. And, I am typically with someone from the group who has a data plan available. We get by. However, we want to learn the language and it would be much easier to be able to talk to people rather than to have to play Charades and Pictionary to communicate. It is disheartening to always have to point and grunt to make purchases at the market. Yes, we are happy to start the language classes.

Friday night was probably the best night in Kazakhstan so far. A local teacher arranged for the group to have dinner at a Russian restaurant. It was a beautiful venue. There was a dance floor and good music. The food was delicious. It was a lovely evening. I haven’t danced so much since I was in college. Another really nice aspect, the men here dance! Everybody dances! EVERYBODY! I had a dance partner for every dance. Music in most places here tends to be fairly bad techno music or traditional folk music. I have nothing against either of those, but there is almost nothing else. Friday night was a wonderful mix of traditional Russian music, pop, US hits, and international dance and pop. Refreshing! There would be music and dancing for about 20 minutes and then it would stop and professional dancers would perform. They did the Can Can, Flamenco, and several traditional Russian and European dances. It was fabulous!!! Since we couldn’t read the menu, which was as beautiful as the rest of the experience, our local host ordered salads and a meat dish of chicken and beef cutlets in a cheese sauce for everyone. He selected very well. Oh, yes, the menu… it was a fabric covered work of art. The right hand page had the items listed and the left side was tapestry and illuminated manuscript reproductions of Russian history, stories, and myths. (Thank you, Liberal Arts College art history classes. I recognized the art and asked someone to verify that I was correct.) I forgot to take pictures of it before our server took the menus. Gorgeous!

The Winter Wonderland and business of education continues here in Kazakhstan. It is a tough business, but there is joy and fun along the trail we are have selected to walk. Peace and love to you all.

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Woke up this morning to this view from my window.

 

 

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Russian Language Lessons

 

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The charming decor at the restaurant.

 

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Ready to start the festivities

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A hungry bunch!

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More of the lovely decor.

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The food and dancing was wonderful, but the best part of the evening was the company and a chance for fellowship with those making this journey together.

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Really, where is the food???

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Our host for the evening! Thank you!! Such a lovely experience!

 

Fall break

The students are on fall break today through Sunday.  They return to school on Monday.  Teachers do not get a fall break.  We still report to school. There is plenty of work do, completing reports and working on projects.  A few of us went out to eat tonight at a local Chinese restaurant called Zebra. The food was very good and the company was wonderful, as always.

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My steak and veggies.  Sooo gooood!

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Appetizers!  So cute! I didn’t try any, but they tell me they were yummy.

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The gang and the restaurant.

Peace and love to you all.

Dinner out after a busy week.

This week, we had several teachers away at an academic program.  Students took quarterly assessments.  So the international teachers have covered classes, proctored tests that were in Russian and Kazakh, followed an alternate schedule that wasn’t in distributed in English.  Plus, some of us had our formal observations.  Crazy, busy week. Our usual Friday restaurant is remodeling and we have a team member who will be returning home this week to attend to a family issue. So we opted to try another restaurant.  It is a spaceship themed place. Some of us missed the bus to the location and had to get a cab. Therefore, we missed the alien who greeted arriving guest. But the food was good and the company was great! A wonderful evening.  Have I mentioned how amazing our international team is?! They totally rock!

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It was bitterly cold when we went out to eat last night. I got up in the middle of the night and looked out the window. It was a beautiful snowy night in Pavlodar.  Our first semi real snow of the season. It won’t take long for the beauty of the snow to wear off and be replaced by the dread of the oppressive cold. But for now, I will just enjoy the lovely view.

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Teachers’ Day Evening Gala

I haven’t had a chance to share photos from the big party on Friday night.  Lots of great food, entertainment, dancing, and friends.  There were hired professional dance acts and singers, as well as skits and performances from the staff. An amazing event for people who work hard and deeply believe in the future of this country and its people.

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The venue

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The food…and this is just the appetizers!

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The fireworks!

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The people…without these people, and many more who are not in the photos, I would not survive this journey, much less thrive as I have.

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A mix of international and local teachers.  Cooperation for a quality education, truly something to celebrate!

Happy Teachers’ Day

Today, Kazakhstan celebrated National Teachers’ Day. Part of the educational initiatives here is to bring respect to the profession of teaching. Today was a day of total respect for teachers. We were greeted at the doors of the school by students cheering for us and handing us candy. Music was playing.  Then the students “gave us the day off” by teaching the classes.  Yes, my coteachers left students in the room to teach so they wouldn’t be embarrassed or anxious about performing in front of the teachers. (We were within earshot.) There are small presents of candy bars and such throughout the day. The students put on a concert for the teachers. It was fabulous.  Such talent. We got to leave school early to get ready for the big formal gala tonight at a local banquet hall. All day students wished teachers a Happy Teachers’ Day during the day and thanked us for what we do for them. I was almost brought to tears more than once by the words of students today. What a giant step in bringing respect to the profession. And the teachers here earn that respect every day.

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Happy Teachers’ Day

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Concert photos

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Skit, “What Teachers Do After Classes” It was in Russian, but I still understood most of it. Very funny!

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Self with English teachers, Sam and Makhabat

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Mikael and me. He is an engineer that teaches model building.  He totally rocks!

Will try to post pictures after the party tonight.  Peace and love to you all.

So little time, so much to tell

People are telling me that I am not posting enough on the blog. I am afraid of posting too often. And I just really don’t have the time I would like to have to devote to sharing my adventures.  Things are very busy here. They tell me it should slow down soon.  I don’t believe them. But here are some pictures of tonight’s escapades. It was a fairly normal night. We had dinner at the food court at the mall and then a quick stop at the grocery market on the first floor.

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This Ervine and me waiting on our burger. Ervine is a biology teacher from South Africa. He lives near me and always makes sure that I get into the building before he lives after the group goes out. He also makes sure that I get on the right bus to get to church on Sunday.

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All those trips to the little mall nearest here and it wasn’t until tonight that I realized they had air hockey! It is a lousy air hockey table, but it is air hockey.

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Man-Yee,  a biology teacher from England, had the dinner of Champions tonight.  Salad, chicken nuggets, and beer.

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Greg, a chemistry teacher from Texas, took the night off from the restaurant near his apartment where he usually eats to dine with us in fine food court style. He had the pizza. Looked good,  but I haven’t tried the pizza.

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Too bad this picture of Adrian is blurry, because it otherwise captures his personality very well.  He is a math teacher from England.  He was here in Pavlodar last year and has been able to provide insight and experience to those of us who arrived this fall.

It is a wonderful group of international and local teachers.  We even saw on one my fellow English teachers at the market tonight.  Without them, this transition wouldn’t be possible.  We help each other and lean on each other. At this point,  we probably know each other as well as some of our closest friends and family members back home know us. We are sharing an experience that those thousands of miles away from us will never truly know. I am so grateful to have this group with me.

Peace and love to you all!