It’s Wednesday night and I’m just sitting down at my computer and am going to attempt to start this blog entry, I am exhausted. We have just returned from our trip to visit a current Volunteer’s site. The site visits were random (I think that it too hard to send each person to their future sites, some have been placed where no volunteers are currently, some volunteers are busy and cant have a trainee visit, stuff like that.). I do think that they placed NGOs at current NGO volunteer sites, TEFL’s with TEFL’s, Healthy’s with Healthy’s and so on. But luckily, I was one of the two who were sent to their actual site. It was a great visit, Im really glad that I went to my future site, and Im pretty darn excited so that is why I am gonna start tell ya all about what I found out about the place I shall call home for the next 2 years right now. 8 of us left for Jizzakh Saturday morning from Tashkent. We took 2 taxi’s so it only took us about 3 hours. The drive there was pretty much a bore. A whole lota nothin’. This area is called the Hunger Steppe a very arid zone that was hastily irrigated (you cross over the Syr Darya River, main diverted water source) by the soviets for cotton crops, which there is tons of. For a while there were lots of cows and sheep (and quite a few donkey, wha?) grazing in green fields. There has been a good amount of rain lately so I think the farmers get their live stock out as much as they can this time of the year before the extremely dry summer rolls around. By the way, I think about half the “shepherds’ we saw herding the crews were Chad’s age. I kept thinking, “School, school, school. Why aren’t you in SCHOOL?” Anyways, we met up with all but one of the current volunteers in the Jizzakh region at a “Ethnicity’s in America” Fair at one of the schools in the city. After that we went to have a few brews and then went on the other side of town for dinner. Jizzakh City is the regional capitol (by the way, I have attached a pic of the countries regions, you can check out where I will be), it has about 150,000 people, it doesn’t really have much historical places but it has a few nice restaurants, it has a post office that the other volunteers said has really nice and trustworthy people working there (meaning I will soon give you all the address so that once I move, you can send mail there, much easier for me no doubt). It has a fairly nice hotel (for any visitors who couldn’t hang in the village or apartments we got here) that has a restaurant that serves pasta and chicken dishes that are pretty good (the only place that has food that is anywhere near something you would find in the states) and there are three good bazars too. The public transportation is said to be pretty good. AND, the Turkestan mountain range is visible from the city center. Thats pretty much it. There are about 8 current volunteers in the region, 5 in the city, the rest in the surrounding villages, like I will be. The apartments that the volunteers in the city have vary in quality of living. Ill just say that. And then there are 6 of us Uz18’s coming to the region (we are either TEFL, secondary and primary or NGO). AND, and this is a big and, my good friend, Miquela, is in the Jizzakh region as well. She probably has the best site in the region as far as I am concerned. Although I haven’t seen it yet, it is at the base of the mountains, it has alot of ‘color’ from what we have read and heard. Wild flowers in the spring, lots of trees, and streams. It is the second largest city after Jizzakh but it is right next to the Zomin national park. The Turkestan range is right on the boarder of Tajikistan. Anyways, enough about her site, but I am really excited to be a., near my girl (25-30min) and b., so close to mountains which is damn lucky considering most of this country is an arid desert. So, we spent the night in Jizzakh City, and then the next day we tried to go to see a game of, shoot, I forget the proper name for it but it is an ancient sport played in the region, Jizzakh has a stadium, it is similar to polo but it is played with a decapitated goat carcass. Yep. Well I was pretty interested to see this but it was canceled due to the rain I think.
So then Krista and I headed off to my new home, the town of Zarbdor. Zarbdor is about 30minutes southeast of Jizzakh. It is one of the agricultural districts of the Jizzakh region. Population of about 20 thousand people. A good size village, a small town. We stayed with the current volunteer there, Jenni (wont that be confusing to the kids, “Miss. Jenni is leaving but don’t worry, another Jen is taking her place!”). She was fantastic. She has done some great things at this school. The school is fairly large. About 1500 students, 1st – 9th form, both primary and secondary (though Im only teaching primary…sorta). The school is pretty typical secondary school, pretty rundown, over crowded. Her, soon to me my, counterpart, Sayyoraopa, is great. She speaks English very well, Jenni said that she is very much our advocate and is dedicated to her work. As for the rest of the English teachers, and I think there are 6 more, well, lets just say they dont speak English and there is a serious problem with teachers showing up for class. The school deals with alot of small town politics and gossip (mesh mesh, in Uzbek) and there is a through the roof turnover rate for teachers, directors (although there is a good director in place right now), pretty much across the board. But this problem isn’t specific to my site, this is seen as the number one problem across the country. Who would blame the teacher who goes to work at her husbands choyhanna (cafe/teahouse) half the week because teachers rarely get a paycheck. Anyways, Ill stop there, Im sure there will be plenty to say later on that. But there is one other teacher that may be interested in working with me besides my counterpart, so thats good (although I think she may be getting married soon so…). The Director is interested in learning more English himself, he had approved making the wing of the school that we are in into a little mini English wing and gave Jenni permission to start painting some murals on the walls outside her classroom. She never did start it because this was approved recently but Im very excited about that project I might try to start. She started a library in the back of her classroom, she started a few clubs for students and teachers to help them with their English and try to help teachers improve the dynamics of their classrooms. Some things have gone well, some have flopped. But her secondary project that she has really dove into is her camps. She has a summer camp and a winter camp (a Saturday camp called winter fun days that is every Saturday in the month of February.) So I may be running a camp in the beginning of June. I have to see about the logistics of that. And there is two other camps that I will hopefully be working at this summer, in July, in my region, up in the mountains. So that should be a good time and keep me busy during the summer.
I got to meet my future host family. There is my host father, mother and one sister. My host father is said to be quite religious, I did not meet him. He has a second wife some where in town so he isn’t home all that often but my host mother is a good cook and keeps a clean house so he hangs around (wha? yea, I wont comment much on this because I’m not there yet and so I dont know exactly this whole 2nd wife thing works. I do know that in the Muslim religion it is permitted to take more than one wife but I think this may be abused in this day in age, well, I KNOW it is. Mohammed had multiple wives because reasons based around survival in a barbaric and uncivilized society. Nowadays, that’s whack. First wives even go as far as this attempt at self burning when they find out that their husbands have taken a second or third wife and may even have children by them. It is all very sad, beyond sad, it’s tragic. And I am just beginning to learn about it all. One of the volunteers that is in my group is an NGO volunteer and is going to be working with a women’s group in Jizzakh. I am very interested in helping her with her work. These poor women with absolutely no support. Appearances are very thing and practically no one stands up for one another. Where do you even begin in order to help these women. I’m interested to find out.) My host mother is hardly my mother, more like my sister, she is 29. Her parents are Russian, from Siberia. So she speaks Uzbek but is a native Russian speaker. I am very excited to learn Russian later in my service, after I tackle Uzbek, it may be a while. My host sister is 10. Both are very quite, very nice. And their compound is also quite nice. They grow alot of fruits and veggies, they have a fully stocked barn and grazing area. There are two dogs, and 4 cats (yes!). I will be living in the main house for a short time while they fix up this little room, house area that is not connected to the rest of the house. I didn’t see this area yet, there was a pipe that burst or something so the wouldn’t show it to me, but Im glad that if Im going to be living in a village and have less likely of a chance to live on my own, at least I will have my own space. They live on the side of town that has a fairly consistent water supply, they have a well on their property that the neighbors also pull from but they say that it doesn’t run out that often. By the way, when I say water, this doesn’t mean indoor plumbing, there is still a pit toilet on the back of the property. That, I am not looking forward to. But they might have an indoor shower, not sure. They have gas! Thats fantastic to hear for cooking purposes. They have electricity and they have a PHONE! Alot of people have phones its just they aren’t really reliable so we will see but hey, this means that you all will be able to at least try and call me from time to time, that will be nice. There is probably alot more to tell you all but that is basically it. Im happy with my site, its not in the city, yet I am not without gas and water. I have a small very real Uzbek community to live in for the next two years and with all its ups and downs, it is bound to be at the very least, quite an experience.
Thats about it for now. Two and a half weeks till Im off to Zarbdor, let the days fly by and lets get this show on the road…!