At long last, we found out our permanent sites, where we will be spending the next two years! We were all biting our nails at the ceremony, which was painfully placed at the end of a long hub day. All of us gathered in the gymnasia’s large auditorium and our names were called out one by one by the Regional Manager who will be in charge of us (there are 5 RMs, each of whom has 2 or 3 oblasts of Kazakhstan under their jurisdiction. An oblast is basically like a province.). On October 31st (yes, Halloween), I will be swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer (til now we’ve actually just been lowly Trainees), and the next morning I will board another 18-hour train to my site – Ust-Kamenogorsk!
Fondly called “Ust” for short, the city is also one of the top 10 largest in Kaz, with a population of over 300,000. It is located in the northeast of Kazakhstan as you can see, very near the confluence point of Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and China (it is less than 500km from each of the latter three). Renowned for its natural beauty, Ust is built in between two rivers (the Irtysh and Ulba), and there are many mountains nearby. I have been told by current volunteers there that vegetables are available year round, and that it’s one of the most sports-minded cities in Kaz (people ski, hike, skate, bike, etc.). I am also on a Peace Corps Tier 2 living allowance because of its large size, which is nice.
Speaking of other volunteers: I have one Kaz-21 EDU sitemate with me who is teaching English at a school in Ust proper, and another Kaz-21 EDU in a town about 3-4 hours east of us. There are also several Kaz-20s that are posted in the area, so we will have plenty of company and opportunities to work together! I am thrilled with my placement, which is good because it will be hard to leave my friends and life here in Issyk. My overall experience in training has been amazing (and will be hard to beat, honestly), but I am stoked for what’s to come.
*All pictures from the official website.