08.18.10 [sorry, backlogged again]
This summer in Shymkent has been both sweltering and fun aspromised. It’s about 100 degreeshere and the perfect time for some serious pool parties!
The day after we got back from the Summer Leadership School,I didn’t even have a chance to catch up on sleep because the birthdaycelebrations continued. I held abelated party with over 20 great friends in attendance: all our ABWK/Dostarvolunteers/counselors from SLS, 6 of us PCVs (my sitemates, as well as Tes whocame up from Zhetasai and Leah who came up from Turkestan!), and local friendsfrom English club and basketball. Olga, one of my best local friends and former roommate, helped plan thewhole thing at a water park out in Aksukent, about 20 minutes outside of thecity. The water was cold, theweather was hot, there were two fast and fun water slides, and they playedAmerican music on the dance floor – all in all a perfect party destination. 🙂
Honestly, on this THIRD birthday celebration day, I onceagain had never felt so spoiled and adored. Our Dostar volunteers got me a basketball with all theirnames signed on it, my fellow PCVs got me an AMAZING blender (smoothies foreveryone!!), my bball fan club got me a hilarious mug with their pictures on itas well as 23 long-stemmed red roses. I also received souvenirs, trinkets, a Russian book, a customizedt-shirt (that says “Becca We Love You” in French;) and a real Hawaiian lei, aswell as a ton of sweet cards.
[All my adorable gifts!]
In return, I made everyone American(/Chinese) picnic food(thank you Phillip for your culinary genius and assistance as always) andbought an obscene amount of watermelon and delicious SKO melons foreveryone. We had potato salad,ranch pasta salad, Chinese black bean eggplant, coleslaw, cornbread andbrownies to share!
The next weekend Evelina had another pool party at herhouse, which was also amazing. We went into the hot banya (the post-Sovietversion of a sauna) and poured water on the hot rocks until the small roomfilled with hot steam. You basicallycook like a dumpling until you can’t stand it anymore, and then run outside andjump into the ice cold pool under a sea of stars, then run back and do it allover again. We also put my blenderto good use making ice cream and berry smoothies, ate delicious shashlik, sangkaraoke, and just generally had a blast. “Family Reunion,” they called it… a volunteer tradition in celebrationof the end of summer and everyone’s eventual return to school or university.Many of our guys will be going to study in Almaty or Astana in September –they’ll be terribly missed here! 😥
This weekend Anna was also able to spend time and visit asshe was down in Shymkent for work. She graduated ’09 from H and is spending the summer as an intern in thePolitical Dept of the U.S. Embassy – small world! We went on a Sunday trip to the mountains to show her a bitof nature. We cooled a watermelonin the river, played cards, took a little hike and came back to picnic. 🙂
But before you think my life is all fun, I must say I’venever been busier at work! Thisweek I attended various embassy dinners (including a nice dinner at Kokseraiwith the Deputy Chief of Mission who was also down in Shymkent recently),volunteer meetings in preparation for our August 21st conferencewith the orphanages, and intensive planning for my upcoming trip to the faircapital of Astana for donor development. That trip will actually be sandwiched in between two trips to Almaty,the first of which is to meet the new Peace Corps Regional Director for all ofEMA (Eastern Europe, Mediterranean and Asia), and hopefully the newKaz-22s! We also won two moregrants this week; one Y-PEER advocacy grant for work with journalists, and oneresearch grant from the Soros Foundation (well done and congrats to ourhard-working grant writing team!). I will actually be attending the mandatoryTraining of Trainers in Bulgaria for the project this September with anothervolunteer on our team as part of the grant stipulation. I am getting so many interesting opportunitieshere that I could never even have imagined in the U.S., which just goes to showthat valuable resources and rewarding professional experiences exist everywhereif you just know how to find them. 🙂
With so much work and play, I can definitely say that thissummer has not been boring by any means. And that’s just how I like it!