Walking on a Winter’s Day

The US is plagued with severe weather- snow measured in feet not inches, subzero temperatures with even more extreme wind chills, and ice storms. But here in “next door to Siberia” it is 23 sunny degrees F and a beautiful day for a walk in the river. No, not by the river, on it! The river here had been frozen over for months. The ice layer is 2 to 3 feet thick. Last weekend they had a car race on the river. In the summer, the river looks sort of like the Ohio at Cincinnati and Maysville areas. It is not as wide in most areas but it is in parts.I am not sure how deep it is, but it is plenty deep enough to make standing on it an amazing experience. Winter is very different here. It is extreme, but but not as surprising and dangerous as it is in the US. I am thinking about all of you in the States. Stay warm and safe! And while you are snuggled up at home, hope you will check out the pictures below! Enjoy! Peace and love to you all!

From the bank, walking the path to the river.

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This is where the river splits and there is an island in the middle. I am stand just at the beginning of the split, so that is about half of the river behind me.

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An ice fisherman that we met and what he caught in about about an hour. He was just reeling in the little one as we were leaving.

wpid-20150221_144456.jpg wpid-20150221_144508.jpgWalking on the island in the middle. A view of the school from the island.

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All My Love! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Life here is very busy, so I don’t get to post as often as I would like. But I wanted to make certain to send lots of virtual love to all my internet followers and everyone back home this Valentine’s Day, as it is one of my favorite days of the year. For many people, this is a miserable day that is focused on romantic love and we all have had our painful experiences in relationships that can make for dread on this day. I am no different and find myself relationship challenged in many areas. My husband and I met on Valentine’s Day. A few years later, we signed our divorce papers on Valentine’s Day. A few years ago, the end of complicated long term relationship made for February 14 challenges. But, fortunately, I have never restricted myself to romantic love on this day and have always saw it as a celebration of all types of love. Love of family and friends, spiritual love, life passions, and a host of other affections. So I have weathered the storms and retained a love of the heart-shaped reds, pinks, and purples of this day.

This year, today is particularly special to me. I am honoring this amazing journey and the new perspective of love it has given to me. I am learning to love new things and rediscovering a deeper love of other things. Beyond my family and friends, my greatest loves are the arts and books. (Actually, there are a few people I would trade for the right art supplies or tickets to the opera. Just kidding! Maybe.) Tonight a few of my colleagues and I will attend a dance performance here in Pavlodar. It is a mixture of ballet, modern dance, ballroom, street dance, and visual beauty. I think it will be Swan Lake meets Dancing with the Stars meets hip hop. I get to see artistic movement with people who making their own journeys in this Land of the Free Spirit. How can I not love this! So, I will embrace my new love of winter to travel by taxi, to other side of a town of that is still fairly foreign to me, with people I could have never meet in the US, to see a performance that I could have never gotten to attend back home. Lots of new things to love.

Yet, there is no need to worry. I still love everyone back home and miss you all. As the winter wears on and the days tick by, I grow more anxious for summer and coming home to visit with my first loves-family and friends. I love the new experience, but there is no substitute for the comforts of what you know. Only about 5 more months!

In the meantime, I will continue to love new things, have amazing experiences, and send all my love to my readers! And you can check out these video links of the dance troupe that we will see tonight! Enjoy! Happy Valentine’s Day! Peace and love to you all!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc6rXhk00mQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSuHR4kHVOo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr485UBwhNg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYmN5HGFYEU

Weather update

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Grades 9 and below did not report to school today. For grades 10, 11, and 12 and teachers, it was business as usual. I was plenty warm walking to school this morning. Well,  my eyelashes are still trying to thaw out, but otherwise, no problems.

It really  wasn’t  too bad. There was no wind in the morning going to school. It was a bit biting on the cheeks on the way home in the afternoon. Lots of moisturizer on the exposed face parts to combat the dry skin. But all things considered, I am managing. We warm up some soon. I just might survive Siberian winter. Only about 4 or 5 weeks left of this worst part.

Peace and love to you all!

January Update

It has been a while since I have posted! Life here has been busy. I didn’t go to the US or anywhere else for the winter break. It was a bit strange not to be with my family for the holidays, but I had a good time here in Pavlodar. I finally got to go to some museums and explore the city further. I am learning what winter really is and that it can be fun at times. I won’t write a lot for this post, but I am including some photos of my life as it has been here in Kazakhstan for the last few weeks.

Peace and love to you all!

Christmas in Kazakhstan

20141224_193957 Dinner with wonderful friends20141219_124112Holiday soda, just like home, but in Russian and Kazakh!20141221_170749

My Christmas tree, a present from a friend who was afraid I would be homesick. So thoughtful and sweet!20141224_145211Made my family’s traditional cabbage rolls. It was a challenge to find all the ingredients, but I did. They were tasty.

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My lovely new skates

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Skating at the rink outside my apartment. All the soccer fields are turned into skating rinks in the winter. FREE to use! That day, it was warmer here in “next door to Siberia” than it was in Kentucky. Sorry, Kentucky!

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Kick off for the NIS Science Fair!!!

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My first attempt at cross country ski. Not entirely successful, but lots of fun. It will just take some practice!

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Skating at ANOTHER FREE rink not far from my home. This one has music and better maintained ice. But I have to walk about a mile. Totally worth it!20150117_140109-1_PerfectlyClear 20150118_123442

Getting ready to attend the Ukrainian Festival today.

20150118_135322 20150118_140538 20150118_143510 20150118_144717 The theater where the Ukrainian event was held was once a movie theater. It is a lovely building. The tree below is in the lobby and the “leaves” hanging off of it each have the name of an ethnic group or nationality that makes up the country of Kazakhstan. The display name translates to something near to “Our Earth” or “Our World.”

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A few quick notes

Several people have asked about an address and have offered to ship things to me. I cannot tell you how much your thoughtfulness means to me. I will post the school address soon. But, it takes a really long time for stuff to get here and it can be very difficult for me to get it. It takes an interpreter, time off work, and hours at the post office.  And that is in the event that it actually gets here.

My mom has a list of the very few items that I need and can’t get here. She is shipping those things to me. And frankly, the things that I miss from home are not things that can be put in a box!

Thank you so much for caring about my journey and my well being! I feel the love 8000 miles away. I am so blessed!

Also, I will now also say that I had been unsure that I stay in Kazakhstan after the winter break. There are many reasons I was considering leaving, but most of those have been resolved,  changed, or just aren’t important anymore. So I didn’t want to give out an address.  At this point,  I am planning to stay in Kazakhstan at least until the end of the school year.

I will accept monetary contributions for a winter coat or winter break to somewhere REALLY warm. Lol! (Just kidding, please don’t start a Facebook page for donations!)

Thank you for making me feel like the most loved person on the planet with the best family and friends!

Peace and love to you all!

A Delayed Update

Below is a post that I worked on this week, but I am just now getting to publish it. Life is busy here. I haven’t gotten to write about the visit to the art studio, our Friday night dinner snafu (we got to eat, but confusion and chaos arrived it the mist of our plans. Hilarity ensured), or the bitter cold. So many things to tell and so little time to write.

I am loving this experience. There are so many challenges. I really want to share so much with those following my journey. But, like life back in the States, you have to live it and do what you have to do when you have to do it. Sometimes I don’t get to write everything I want. And, sometimes, if you haven’t experienced it, you probably wouldn’t understand it. Therefore, it is difficult to write about it. So, I write what I can when I can. Hope you enjoy the delayed post below! Thanks to everyone who is traveling with me in one way or another.

From last week:

It has been another exciting week in Pavlodar. We still have several teachers at conferences and some special projects in process, so the international teachers were covering classes while local teachers were away. On one hand, it is nice to have complete control of my classroom as I had for years in the US. On the other hand, it was exhausting and I miss my coteachers. They are wonderful and I miss their company and expertise. I think they may be back tomorrow and things may get back to somewhat normal for a few weeks.

Yesterday was a particular interesting and eventful day. I posted some pictures already of the swim club. My internet was out so I only got to post briefly from a café with wifi and didn’t get to give many comments. Got up fairly early, about 6 AM, to meet the swim club. Took a bus just about 4 or 5 stop away to the Chekhov Theater to meet the member who was hosting our visit. It was a beautiful snow covered morning. Not too cold, but I was bundled up well. I had not explored the area around the theater before now. It is­­­ a historic district. The few pre-Soviet buildings in this area are mostly located here. The historical museum is there as well. We walked a few blocks from the bus stop to what used to be a KGB prison. Now, the club members use a small section of the building as changing rooms and workout areas. The rest of the building is a children’s sports center. There are Olympic rings crudely painted in white on the back of the building. Lori, another international teacher from Iowa, went with me. There was much excitement that the English speakers were coming and especially that there might be Americans in the group. Regardless of age or body type, people moved excitedly and gracefully through the cramped area preparing for the frigid swim. The energy was contagious. Men and women from their 20’s to their 80’s. I felt totally in the way and awkward, but no one seemed to mind. Everyone got ready and we walked through the snow and down the icy steps to the river. Some cheered as we walked. No one was wrapped up or in any type of cover up. They wore swim trunks, bikinis, one-piece swimsuits with tennis shoes and winter hats. When we arrived at the riverbank, the group goofed around, teased one another, did a few last minute warm up exercises, and posed for pictures. Then walked right into the 34-degree river and swam, for a few minutes or for several minutes or however long seemed good enough. No one ran out of the water and sprinted for the warmth of the building a few hundred miles away. They got out, dried off, goofed around some more, and sauntered back to the building, chatting and sharing the joys of good health. They invited us to come again. They asked many questions. Some our host answered on our behalf; some he translated to us. It was an interesting start to another fabulous day in Pavlodar.

On the way back to the bus stop, we stopped at a café for breakfast. Our host came along to translate for us, as we did not know if the restaurant would have an English menu or one with pictures. (No, we cannot learn the language fast enough!) They had an “American breakfast” with fried eggs and toast and there was fresh squeezed orange juice. And, pictures on the menu! New place to eat! Score!

I was only able to bring a limited number of clothes and most of those were dress clothes for school, not many “play” clothes. And after 3 months, they are about worn out. Also, the weather is rapidly changing. I needed new clothes. There is almost no one in this country who is larger than what would be about a size 6 in the US, so buying clothes has been a challenge. And quite frankly, the clothes here are a bit loud and blingy for most American style preferences. With the assistance of my landlord’s college age daughter, we finally found some fairly good places to buy reasonable clothes for me that I can wear for work and for fun. We had a nice girls’ day out with a lovely lunch after shopping. We ate at Krendle’s which is considered one of the best restaurants in town and which has the best bakery in town. There we meet another US citizen who is living here. He is a musician. We exchanged numbers and hope to have him join us for dinner with the international team. He is from Ohion which is a bordering state to my home state. So excited to find other Americans hanging out in Kazakhstan.

The day ended with a visit to a local artist with a tour of her workshop. I will have to write about that another time. There is so much to tell! It was a magical end to a really fun day!

 

Peace and love to you all!

Winter time fun

A coworker invited me to attend a meeting of a social club to which he belongs. Yep, that is crazy people swimming in the freezing river! A very energetic group of people who swear by such health practices. A fun and welcoming group. Thanks for letting us tag along.

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After a brisk morning at the river, it was Girls’ Day with shopping and lunch with Assel’ and Lori.

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Tonight, I have been invited to visit the studio of a local artist! So excited!

Peace and love to you all!

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!