Location: Uralsk, Kazakhstan

My address! Rachael Schmidt 106 Dimitrieva St. P.O Box 56 Uralsk 417 000 Kazakhstan

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The English teachers out for a pint!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Me and Sandie

Me and Ackar's family

My host brother Aslan and his soccer buddies

Me, another volunteer Woody and some students

Friday, March 31, 2006

Found in Kazakhstan

It’s been almost one year since I left Kazakhstan. Looking back now, I can only say that my time in Kazakhstan (especially Uralsk) was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I admit life was often very difficult and trying there, but the beauty far exceeds any bad memories. And by beauty, I’m referring to the people. Namely, my students. Its’ such a blessing to still be in contact with some of them. Their emails (especially Zhannet!) bring tears of joy. These women, and Rafhkat and Alibek, will soon be making great contributions to their country, to their families, and to the families they will soon be starting (like Danagul!) I wish you all the best of luck! And remember that someone in America is thinking of you and is very proud of each and every one of you! Thank you for all that you taught me!
Next, I must thank and acknowledge my host families. In Ecik; Syuliman, Sonya, Farida, and Aslan. They were the warmest, loving and generous people I’ve ever met. And I was most fortunate to have been a part of their family for 2 months. In Uralsk; I was blessed with another incredible family. Ghimran, Maoora, Azamat, Armat (Pushkin!), Askar, Babushka, and Gulzhan. Once again, they made me feel part of the family and truly introduced me to the richness of Kazakh culture.
I must also thank my counterpart, Maryam, and the wonderful teachers of West Kazakhstan University. Especially Lyazzat. She went well out of her way to welcome me and helped me in many ways. And also included me in many family events as well. Thank you Lyazzat! I hope you read this and email me! I lost your email. And Maryam, thank you so much for all your help and patience. I hope we meet again someday.
My neighbors; Ludmila, Oleg, Lena, and sweet little Nikita. I fear you have to put up with me more than anyone else! Ludmila, I miss your beautiful, Ukrainian voice. I hope you’re still singing and happily married. Lena, you were simply the best! Every time I see a vodka bottle I think of you! I pray you and your family are doing well.
And, to the best landlady and friend in the world, Elena. I don’t know what I would have down without you. I miss your friendship and pray you and your daughter are doing well!
The teachers of Eurasia Institute. You guys, especially Jazhalan, are simply crazy! And I love you for that! Albina, Zarima, Jay, Elena, I miss you all and hope your careers are very successful and rewarding. Especially Elena, thank you for the Russian lessons, including me in your family and for your warm friendship. And then there’s Tommy, You’re insane man! We better meet up again someday. Until then, put your damn shoes on!
And finally Ranida. How you ever put up with Tommy I’ll never know. But I’m glad you did, otherwise we wouldn’t have become such good friends. Please keep in touch.
Oh, and of course Askar. I’m so very, VERY proud of you! Congratulations on your scholarship to America. I hope you had a wonderful experience and learned a lot. I wish you the best of success. Please thank your family for me for all their amazing hospitality. You have a beautiful family! Please email me your address (in English) so I can send them some photos.
Oh wait! Tolkyn! God bless you girl! I can’t believe you’ve been in my country all this time and we still haven’t met up yet. I promise to change that soon. I hope married life is treating you well.
Although I may have been “lost in Kazakhstan,” here are a few things I found: life long friends, an appreciation for bisbarmak, how to drink vodka the Kazakh way, the experience of what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, another foreign language, how to hitch-hike, and most importantly, an experience that changed my life forever. Thank you Kazakhstan!
your friend, Rachael

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Here's me at my Schoenberg lecture trying to convert the locals of Uralsk to dodecaphony.  Posted by Hello

And here we have the Peace Corps headquarters of Kazakhstan!! No really folks! If you look in the bottom right corner you can see the blue building. Gotta love the surroundings though! Posted by Hello

Here's Jen doing her best Vanna White showing some prime Kazakh property. A nice little fixer-upper! Posted by Hello

And the lovely marshrutka! Transportation at its finest! All aboard! Posted by Hello

Where all my mail and packages are delivered.  Posted by Hello

A dreary winter view of my backyard. Posted by Hello

Poor Sue being attacked! I'll teach her to fall asleep on my couch!! Posted by Hello

In hot water now!

HEELLLLOOOOOO America!! Boy have I missed you! Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote, but I was only just recently let out of my Kazakh prison in time for summer. Speaking of summer, it is bloody hot here! Kazakhstan basically only has 2 seasons; summer and winter. Spring and fall last about 2 weeks. So after my long and cold Siberian winter I’m ready for a very hot summer. But unlike last summer I am now the proud owner of a fan! Yeah, I know you’re all jealous seeing that you only have air-conditioners. Speaking of air-conditioners, if anyone is insane enough (I personally know at least a few of you are!!) how ‘bout sending me a nice air-conditioner?? I mean, think how much you could help the Kazakh people! It wouldn’t be for my benefit, really!!
Along with this sweltering heat we are also blessed with insects up the wazoo!! As soon as I step out of my apartment I am attacked by thousands of flies and mosquitoes. They are beyond maddening. If people could see us here not knowing we are being bombarded by millions of bugs they’d think the whole of Kazakhstan is mad (when in fact only most of it is!) We have to constantly wave our hands to try and keep the killer bugs at bay. Last week while fighting for dear life, I accidentally smacked myself in the face and sent my sun glasses flying across the bus which then hit some ol’ poor lady! Now I know why they call us rude Americans! How the hell do I explain that one in Russian!?! Anyway, the last I counted I had 38 mosquito bites, and I know I acquired a few more last night.
News flash!! The entire city of Uralsk has been without hot water now for about a month and will likely not have hot water for the rest of the summer. "Why??" Well, it's quite simple and logical; someone ran off with the money that was supposed to be used to pay the bill. Come on though, doesn't this happen everywhere??!!
I thought I would be done teaching for the summer in May. No such luck, till the end of June. I certainly wouldn’t mind another week of teaching except for the heat; lack of air-conditioned buildings, bugs and of course the fact that I’m lazy. But other than that, I really don’t mind at all. I also started teaching at another language institute. When I was told that the class I would be teaching consisted of 8th graders I almost started packing my bags. But, to my surprise, they’re an absolute joy! I honestly look forward to our meetings.
The university however, seems to be even more insane than ever. Schedules. How difficult can it be?!? Not only does it change every bloody week and sometimes by the day, but they also schedule two classes in one classroom and I’ve often been scheduled to teach two classes in different classrooms at the same time. Should I tell them that this is humanly impossible? And at least 3 times a week I don’t even have a classroom!
To escape the insanity I was planning a trip to Moscow in August. Escape is not possible. I was denied a visa to Russia. Why? Because I’m a Peace Corps volunteer. “Oh well, why didn’t you say so!? It makes perfect sense to me!!” Honest! This time I’m not lying! When I applied for the visa (all 3 times!) I was told that Russia does not allow Peace Corps volunteers in their country! Uhhhggg! I mean, I’m about 20 miles from them but I’m not allowed to cross the boarder. So much for my big escape!!
Well, I pray everyone is doing well. Thank you so much for all the emails, calls, care packages and prayers!! I look forward to the day when I can repay your kindness!!
I love you and miss you all!!

My neighbor and Prima Dona extraordinaire, Ludmila, performing at a concert hall here in Uralsk.  Posted by Hello

Another class meeting at my apartment due to the lack of classrooms at the university. Posted by Hello

A VERY Kazakh scene. The men here always sit like that on the streets.  Posted by Hello

A lovely view of my backyard and laundry! Posted by Hello

Some more of my wonderful students at my apartment Posted by Hello

One of my classes at my apartment. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Email address

Hi! Thanks for your email! Here's my email address: rachaelcs@yahoo.com
Take care!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Tommy and I with the absolutely wonderful woman who runs the cafe, Altinaya. An true gem! Posted by Hello

A view of the road in the village where I used to live. I went to visit my wonderful, Turkish, former host family here in March 2005. Posted by Hello

At a local cafe with a visiting professor from Germany and an absolute looney from England. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Photo--Sure do miss civilization!! Posted by Hello

man's best friend! (I'm talking about the dog!) Posted by Hello

photo--entertaining some locals at a community concert Posted by Hello

photo--after the plunge into any icy, Siberian river! Posted by Hello