Location: Uralsk, Kazakhstan

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I'm alive!!

Hey Everybody,
Yeah, it's bloody hot here! I won't even mention
that there arent' any fans, air conditioning or cold
beverages. But, I can handle it. I sweat non-stop.
Fortunately, I can only IMAGINE how I smell and not
acutally smell myself. One smell I can't get used to
is the outhouse. Yup, nothing like the smell of shit
in the summer! For bathing I get a bucket of water.
And of course right outside the window is the barn and
shit of a different nature; cow shit!! Imagine trying
to bath while not breathing through you nose. Really!
Try it sometime!! But, that I can handle as well.
The name of my village is Issik. And downtown
Issik has a bazaar. Their version of a mall. Today I'm
going to invest in a fan. On average the temperature
in my room is 85. Hope my host family doesn't mind.
Today I spent 8 hours in language class. In
addition to learning the language, there is so much to
do. Keeping up is an impossibility. So, I just do what
I can.
A few days ago I learned how to do laundry. Sonya
brought a big tub outside; filled it bucket by bucket
with hot water. Then, the scrubbing started. Talk
about back breaking work! In a matter of seconds the
clothes I was wearing were completely drenched with
sweat. Sonya then asked if this is how we wash clothes
in America. She got her answer by the look on my face.
I've never seen her laugh so hard. Anyway, got 1/2 of
it done when she insisted on doing the rest for me the
next day. When it dried she still wouldn't give it to
me and insisted again on ironing them. I begged her
not to do that, but, to no avail.
Sonya and Suliman are about 50. Farida is 18 and
right now is away taking exams. So, it's just me, mom,
and pop. This area of Kazakhstan is quite green. And
the mountains are unbelievable. I can't wait to do
some hiking with the other volunteers. Come July and
August it will only get hotter. Although they are
Muslim, there isn't much evidence of it. The women do
not have to cover too much. They all wear skirts and a
shirt of some kind. The kids dress however they want
to. But, other than not being able to shower for the
last 2 weeks, no complaints.
There are quite a few cars. Most of which you
wouldn't even find in a junkyard in the States. And
every vehicle is a potenial taxi. You just hold your
arm out and one will stop. I've only done that a few
times cuz I'd rather get the exercise. The cost from
my house to school is about 8 cents. So obviously I
can't afford it either. ha,ha!
Cigarettes are also pretty cheap. Not sure exactly
how much, but 1 dollar is 135 tenge. And cigarettes
are 50 tenge. So, in other words, less than 50 cents.
Of course the choices are reflected in the price!
I also had my first Kazakhstani beer! I have to
admit, I was afraid, very afraid. To my surprise, it
was great! And, less than $1!
All in all, I'm surviving, learning lots, and in
good spirits. Thanks for your love and prayers!!
much love, Rachael