8/3/05 We Got Our Assignment!

8/3/05 We Got Our Assignment
Hello, friends and family.

We got our site placement! We are going to live in Bayan-aul. It's in the north, about 120 kilometers south of Ekibatsuz, and about 240 kilometers south-southeast of Pavlodar. There is actually a (very) small paragraph about it on Kazakhstan's official tourist website (yes, they have one). www.president.kz (Click on English, Geography/Tourism, Nature Reserves—we’re located near the bottom of the page after Barsa-Kelmes.) It is apparently a resort town and we can count on water and electricity but definitely NOT internet. So send those emails soon because after August 19th we will be able to answer them about once a month or less.

We will know our address soon and will send it out. Don't send us anything before August 21st as we will not be there yet.

Some cultural knick-knacks:

1. You can't throw away bread here. Ever. For any reason. As the staple food here bread is sacred. Our family, for example, burns all the bread we don't eat. One of our friends put some bread on the ground for the birds and our teacher about had a fit.

2. Capitalism. Still in its infancy here. A store would, for example, rather not sell you something at all than make change for a large note. I know, I don't get it either. It happens. My friend got yelled at for trying to buy the last of something because then the store wouldn't have any more. I guess stores consider themselves more of a service than a way to make money. (We've been told you can’t even buy a whole box of tampons, but only one at a time-yeah, we really don’t get it either.)

3. Third sheep. We found another sheep pelt so we know the head is someplace. Will let you know when it pops up.

4. Eating. We are always told to eat more. For example, the other day my grandmother told me to eat more, I said (exaggerating only slightly) that I had eaten 40 pieces of meat. She said that if I really had eaten that many that wouldn't be enough, and, if I finished all the food, they would make more. It only really counts when you eat meat and (possibly) bread. so, when I'm eating dinner I have to remember not to eat too many vegetables because they don't count in my “score” and they wont believe me when I say I'm full. :)

5. Directness. People do not mince words here. In the U.S., for example, we are “shy” about our grades and do grade postings by social security numbers or (even worse) secret names. Here grades are given in front of the class (in front of everyone). Or, for example, in Amy's language class the other day (again in front of everyone) Amy's teacher said. “Amy, you are ready for the test, Erin you will be ready soon, and Tony, you are not ready and need to do more work.” If you are bad at something, they have no problem telling you. It's better, really, in many ways, because it saves us from (firstly) all kinds of hand-holding and (secondly) it saves time because people find out they are not good at things earlier and therefore don't waste other people’s time later.

Take care!
Jack & Amy