Friday, April 07, 2006

searching for a perfect family

Ufilmalik is my regional manager for Peace Corps - the person who among other things, sets up new sites in Kazakhstan for future volunteers, and helps maintain old sites, including helping current volunteers with any problems. Yesterday, she came to my site and we looked at families in Tarkhanka. Nina and Kolya don't want another volunteer, and I don't blame them. Having a foreigner stay at your house for two years is quite a responsibility, and I dare say, sometimes a headache. We went around to three different families. The first family has three daughters, two of which have already graduated and live in Ust, and come home sometimes on the weekend, and the other daughter is a sixth-grader in school, and one of the best students I have ever taught. She's really cute. The father there, of course, was a little hesitant, but I think ultimately he'll give in. The second family was an older couple, with a tidy little house and a really nice TV and DVD player. The lady seemed really figity and uptight, very eager to please. Ufilmalik didn't really like her; she must have a pretty good radar for families. I had been forewarned about this family by my old counterpart that this family might try to take advantage of the volunteer for the money. Now why someone would want to take the money a host-family is supposed to use for food for the volunteer, a volunteer who is working for next to nothing in their country, helping their children - why take that money and use it for personal means, like a satellite dish or computer, that's beyond me; but there are those people. It's a reality of Peace Corps. Sometimes people only look at Americans and see dollar signs, not a person who needs to eat. Go figure. The third home was a little old babushka. The home was nice enough, and was quite livable from my standards, which admittedly may have changed over the past two years, with the only exception that there was only a bath, and in that bath was the old woman's laundry, which smelled vaguely of fish. Ewww. I wouldn't want to share a bathroom with that. She did have a pretty cat though, and I don't really like cats.

After Tarkhanka, we went about 8 kilometers up the road to a village called Vinnoye, which is requesting a volunteer, partly because of my recommendation, and partly because it's a good school, albeit smaller, with enthusiastic students, and enthusiastic English teacher, and an enthusiastic director. Ufilmalik talked to the director and teacher about everything regarding a volunteer, how we aren't paid by Kazakhstan, how we come here away from our families for two years to work for free - these facts seem basic but in my school for example, the teachers and students still don't really know that I'm not a regular teacher. I guess they think that an American saw an add in the paper for English Teacher in their village. It's also a fact not readily embraced by the tax department in my county, who repeatedly called me several months ago (after I had already lived here for over a year) to demand that I pay my taxes, undaunted when told that I don't even receive a salary from Kazakhstan. Anyway, I think the new site in Vinnoye will be good for a future volunteer. It was a long day, and I got to speak with some nice local families; the only downside to the day was that on Thursdays I usually go to Ust to meet up with Inessa, and I didn't get to do that. It put me in a funk I guess.


At 4/13/2006 02:10:00 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Hey Dan,
Congrats on your new job and acceptance to Graduate School. I know you will do great, even after having this long break from studying. You love the campus life and I am sure it will become second nature to be there again.
It sounds like you are paving the way for your relief person to step into your shoes. The other village sounds nice. I hope you find a host family who will be accommodating and supportive.
I hope you are feeling better now. Nothing like having a nice day in bed reading the latest book to get well. We can all dream....

Hang in there! We are all looking forward to you coming home in June!

At 4/15/2006 02:41:00 AM, Blogger KazAch said...

Yeah, I've been reading a lot more, weening myself off of computer games. Instead I've found ebooks. So I sit on my computer and read all evening. Already read three books this week. But that will all end when I start school and work...[sigh]


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