The following is a special letter for my fellow Kaz Peace Corps Volunteers….
You were happy when you got your site placement in the fair mountainous east, snowy Russified north, or gentrified Almatinskij oblasts. Then winter came, and you realized that -40 is only fun for like, a day. You’ve been bundled in sixteen layers with only your eyes showing and spending as little time as humanly possible out in the brutal Siberian cold for almost 5 months now (yes, dear readers, Siberia does technically include northern Kazakhstan). YOU DESERVE A BREAK. That break is calling you! That break is called SHYMKENT.
The 6 volunteers in our city have been preparing for weeks now for nearly 70 people to descend upon our fair site for the Kazakh national holiday, Nauryz. This has been an impressive team effort — Joe wrote the emails and collected your RSVPs and arrival dates/times (a massive task, btw); Zach booked the Turkestan bus; Sipra and Britt designed the map/brochure, Phillip called all the stragglers; I took care of apartments and money. We have a giant spreadsheet of all your arrivals and are coming to pick you up at the train station in shifts. We cannot wait to see you all after so long and show you the hospitality of the South! We will see sports played on horseback with sheep carcasses, visit the historical mausoleum of a famous Sufi sheikh, eat some delicious traditional plov, and hopefully bask in some sunshine (Inshallah!).
At the risk of jinxing the weather, below is a picture Phillip and I took on International Women’s Day, when the weather turned gorgeous for the ladies of Shymkent. It looks like the forecast for next week is in the 50’s, which isn’t quite this warm…but still a good 90 degrees warmer than what you all have had all winter! 😀 Also, check out our green, green grass…