Location: Uralsk, Kazakhstan

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

Monday, July 19, 2004

Do you smell what I smell??

     Wow! It's been one hell of a week! Thank God it's Friday! And how do I celebrate??? I sit in my room. Does it get any better?!?
     I did have some excitement today. To begin, it's actually cold!!!  Talk about refreshing excitement! And then, IT happened! I wore a jacket for the first time today since I've been here. And guess what  found in the pocket??? No, come on, you gotta guess!! Yes! That's exactly right! An unused kleenex!! It was sooo soft! I had forgotten what they felt like! It gives a runny nose a reason to live! Hold on, I just gotta blow my nose one more time! I truly forgot what that was like. Kleenex will definitely be added to the Christmas list!
     Speaking of noses, came up with yet another brilliant idea! (That makes a total of 2 in this lifetime!!) Well, you know how so very much I want you to experience Kazakhstan? Well, here is the ultimate experience for your very own noses...I'm going to send you, in an airtight bag, my very dirty, and, oh yes, very smelly clothes!!! Just one whiff and you WILL know more than you ever wanted to know of Kazakhstan!!
     I've been here a month now and have had 2, yes 2!!, opportunities to wash my clothes. As of tomorrow, I will have no choice but to forego my morning splash in the bucket, and instead use ti to wash my underwear with a bar of soap. I can't wait!! Are you as excited as I am?? I really don't think so!
     On Tuesday and Thursday of this week I "taught" at a university in Almaty. Each class was an hour. It had to have been the combination of the July heat, closed windows (due to traffic noise) and begin extremely nervous. I was completely drenched! Don't even ask what I would have done at that point for a Klondike bar!! But, it was a learning experience. Unfortunately just not for the students!! I now know, that I do not know how to write a lesson plan. Really, it's a good thing to know! Somehow I survived. The students were great; very forgiving. And their English was well beyond what I expected. They should have been teaching me English!!
     The host family is doing great. I don't have any complaints other than I'd rather not be living with a host family. As much as I love them, I prefer living alone. They would make great neighbors though! And, everyday I'm able to communicate a little better with them. From that sentence do not assume I mean that my Russian is improving. NO!!! I'm just getting really good at charades!! Seriously, my Russian is improving a bit. Albeit, via a slow and painful process. In addition to class I do study a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT! And from THAT sentence, please do not assume I'm disciplined and dilligent. Like I said, before, I live in a very small Kazakhstani village. What else is there to do!?!
     I live about 2 blocks from the Mosque. Several times a day I can hear what I believe is their call to prayer. Of course I have no idea what is being said, but it does sound neat. Nothing against Muslims, but I'd rather live in a Jewish village! Too bad the Peace Corps doesn't go to Israel!!!
     Right now I can smell something cooking. And my host mother is an awesome cook!! And by amazing, I mean it's amazing that I can smell anything over my own body odor!! Although, it is the most effective means of birth control known to man. Nonetheless, I must investigate to kitchen/dining room/reading room.
Hope you're all eating as well as I am!!!
Much, much love,

Sunday, July 11, 2004


Wow! What a weekend! Two friends and I escaped from Issyk and went to the big city of Almaty, without any chaperones!! I won't go into detail as to how lost we got. But, it was great to get away and relax a bit. I certainly had my share of walking this weekend.
I start teaching this week. Hopefully I'll still have time to play on the computer. But, if it takes a while to respong to emails, don't be offended.
Talk to you soon!!

love, Rachael

Friday, July 09, 2004

What a life!

Life in Issyk

All in all, this is quite an amazing village, as long as you love mountains, cows, children, and not being able to speak the language. What can I say? I love it!
Every morning I wake to the light of the sun. I’ve yet to set my alarm clock. I then take a walk to my favorite hole in the backyard for official morning business. My host father (Suliman) is always up well before me tending to the animals and me. He heats a bucket of water for me so I can wash up. What a guy! After that comes the real challenge; finding clean clothes. Once I find something that isn’t too dirty and smelly I throw it own and pretend not to mind.
Next; breakfast. By this time my host mother is up fixing my breakfast. She’s such a sweet woman and I really, REALLY wish she wouldn’t do that, but when in Rome. So, the entire table is set for a king. I’m usually served what we had for dinner the night before. Not typical breakfast food, but it’s very good. And this, as all meals is followed by a cup of tea.
While I’m eating, Sonya (host mother) makes my lunch; usually just enough to feed a large army. Since the first day I’ve always brought home what I don’t eat thinking that she’ll stop packing so much. Still working on that one. Then, both mama and papa walk me to the street, mama gives me a kiss and hug, and I’m off. A brisk, half hour walk to school.
School. Six days a week of intense and long classes. I absolutely love language class and my teacher. It’s the technical classes (education), health classes and meetings that drive me to the point of insanity. On days when it’s just language class there are only 12 students at my school. The other 30 live in other villages where they have their own language class and teacher.
The majority of volunteers are young, immature and just out of college. Hence, they know it al. So I try to avoid large group activities. Unfortunately my two best buddies are in other villages as well. So we usually only see each other with the rest of the herd. But, that’s alright.
Language class. Of course it has to be intense. We have 10 weeks to learn 2 years worth of the Russian language. This is my favorite part. It also helps being just a bit more advanced than the other students when it comes to language. Once again, thank you Lois!!!! There is, however, a certain someone in my class of 6 people. You Seinfeld fans will appreciate this one! It’s none other than Uncle Leo!! I wish I were joking. The man is severely ADD, hard of hearing, and possesses no social grace, much less, awareness whatsoever! It provides many laughs, but even more frustrations. The entire Peace Corps staff and volunteers are well aware of the problem, but no one wants to address it. And no one can explain or remotely understand how he made it in. Would you care for a sample?? We took a field trip to Almaty. This city is an hour from Issyk and is the biggest city in all of Central Asia. We were passing a huge statue when Uncle Leo asks me who it is. How and why the hell I would know, is beyond me. So, I tell him, “Oh, that’s my brother.” Well, he believed it.
After school, it’s back home. I’ve never had such a strict and enforced curfew in allllll my life! If I say I’ll be home by six, I better be home before six. One time, I got really crazy and came home an hour late! They had called everyone except for my brother in Almaty asking about my whereabouts. That was a first AND a last time. At least I know if I were to be MIA, the search party would not be far behind. So, on days when I’m on time, I’m greeted by mama with a hug and kiss. The women are very affectionate with other woman. Certainly doesn’t bother me any.