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.