Saturday, December 30, 2006

New email

Snow has come to Bishkek. All is white and now slushy.

Quick admin note that from 31 Dec my email will no longer work and is being replaced by ...

Spending New Year with Sergey and his friends. Met them yesterday - all very welcomign and all poligots startign part of a sentance in Russian before ending in English. So amazing to hear. Best of all with the English words as signposts I can follow nearly all of what they say when they are speaking in Russian! Big bonus!

Will try to be online again tomorrow.


Thursday, December 28, 2006


Arrived in Bishkek with little problem. Shared taxi from Alamty through the border and no problem with visa so fingers crossed it will be the same on the way back. Been to Sergeys university and the state museum which would double as a musuem of bronze castings of Lenin - not sure if the displays have been updated too recently.

Bishkek feels different from Alamty. Less traffic and pollution and more homogenous. This certainly is Central Aisa whereas in the ethnic Slavic populations hide this somewhat elsewhere. Great to see Sergey again and a familar face. This time I am on his turf and it looks like the days will be filled!

Going back up on the 5th January and at the moment got mixed feelings. I am really enjoying my time down here - Almaty and Bishkek are alive and busy which I really like with the trappings of London if you are looking for them. Taldy Korgan, where I spent Xmas, was sleepy but still had products, vegetables and fruti that i can;t get bakc in the north - we had a cauliflower with lunch on Chirstmas Day!. Life or maybe living seems to me to be easier here. But then I know that when I am in Zhitikara I can make more of an impact and assist people who would normally loose out on international support to the regional towns and cities also I have made a great community of friends and people around me so it feels like I will be going home. Got lots of work planned for February so should be quite busy when I return.

Looking further into the future I have confirmed my end of service. I'll be working through until the 23rd March and then will leave my placment before coming home at the end of my contract on the 6th April. Well over halfway now which seems crazy - some times it seems like the summer was last week, graduation and all the fun before I left but it was nearly 5 months ago! But at other times it seems like I have been here for a long time and the end cannot come soon enough! My emotions are a lot more stable than when I first arrived which is good becuase I am no longer liable to change what i feel in the space of thirty minutes...

Anyway going to get off and meet some of Sergeys friends.

For while i am in Kyrgystan I have a new sim card as the Kazakh ones do not have roaming and with the free credit a new sim was cheaper than using Sergeys phone. So for the next week until the 3rd Jan contact me on internationalo daialing code for Kyrgystan +996 ( I think) then 503 311 549. Back to +7 701 610 31 62 after the 3rd January.

Email service good here and internet cheap so will try to be online a few times so emails particularly welcome over the enxt few days!

Take care

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On to Bishkek

Christmas is over. It was great ot recieve so many texts and a few calls. We ended up havign a traditional Christmas in the end and, having got up late, didn't eat until the evening so celebrated at the same time as home pretty much! Got some great presents which will keep me occupied when I go back north - books, star at night stuff ( the stars are so clear where I am), a book to teach you about folding napkins and DVD's!

On Boxing day we had an earthquake - we were watching a DVD early in the morning and then say the lights and assorted Xmas decorations start to sway and the sofa kind of rocked. Lasted a few seconds. It was 5.7 on the Richter scale but the epicentre was a over 300km away. Still I has everyone talking becuase this area is due for a big quake any time. In fact it is over due.

Had a great taxi to Taldy Korgan but the taxi home was not great - the windscreen was shot to pieces but was the best we could get. But the up side was the driver had to go slow in the fog and becuase of the unroadwortheyness of the car it was cheaper than expected.

Got my visa to go to Krygystan to visit Sergey and leaving this afternoon for New Year.

Having fun. Good to be in Alamty - such a different kind of life here. Really getting to like the city. There is so much to do and see.

Next post from Bishkek!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Chirstmas Eve

Christmas is here. I''ve taken some of my holiday time and headed south to stay with other volunteers over Chirstmas. Now in Taldy Korgan with three others and we are all set now for tomorrow - the mulled wine has been flowing, presents wrapped and under the tree, decorations up.

A few great days in Alamty and some stories which will be coming but just a quick note to say Merry Christmas and if you are reading this to let you know that I really appreicate all the support people have been giving me - the parcels, ginger packs, phone calls, text messages - you all know who you are and thanks for everything!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guardian arrives on time

Waiting for internet to be turned on. Home now in Zhitikara. Really nice to be in the Kostani – quite a different standard of living there and in a way quite glad I am somewhere smaller as it is nice to come back to somewhere people know you.

The bus back was a nightmare. Over 5 hours of sitting on a real Soviet relic which may have even predated Lenin I think. I had a seat which was fine but there was not luggage rack or space under the seats for anything and being a Sunday the bus was completely full so I has my bag wedged between my feet and then bags in the aisle which were well trampled upon by every old woman and then more on my lap. Managed to sleep somehow although I am regretting that now because my back has played up since. I was travelling in the day and the 5 hour hop now no longer seems like the mammoth trek it did at first. Who knows I may start to leave London the and south east when I get home but I wouldn’t count on it.

It was kidney for lunch yesterday and then today it was heart stew. The only good thing about this unfortunate combination of meals is that there is nothing worse than either of those two dishes which makes tomorrow a good day.

Bought bus ticket for next week to get to Kostani – I am taking a lot of my annual leave in one go and heading down south to see Tina, who I arrived out here with, and then we are both going to stay with another volunteer for Christmas before I head off to see Sergey in Bishkek. Flying down as the thought of another 40 hour train ride both ways was less appealing.

Trying to write reports at the moment about Volunteer Day and also AIDS day and then a seminar about youth alcoholism in the UK was sprung upon me for tomorrow. Think I will talk about binge drinking.

Guardian has arrived on time for a change which has taken me completely off guard so lots of reading to do this week!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blue Cheese

Well in Kostani at the moment. After organizing Day of the Volunteer in Zhitikara I was invited to the oblast Day of the Volunteer Celebrations in Rudny (a town about 4 hours from Zhitikara on the way to Kostani). It was quite impressive! Lazer show and in their cultural palace complete with airport style security checks on entry . A world away from Zhitikara it has to be said. After a brief awards ceremony the dance hall turned into a techno club for all the guests – about 200 I would guess who were from various NGO’s working in the oblast and were all young. There were a few of the American Peacecorps there and Jena also came so it was quite fun to be together even if the muisic had a heavy beat!

Headed into Kostani to have some meetings on Friday – went to the AIDS centre were I spent over three hours chatting with someone who I think may be the director who was really interested in what I had been doing in Zhitikara and who I will meet again with a more detailed idea of how we can collaborate together in the future. I am trying to build up some strategic partnerships with my organizations and the regional centre so that when I leave they are able to enjoy some support. As the foreigner it is quite easy for me to initially get introduced to the right people so I made the most of this and met with three organisaitons. Also booked tickets down to Almaty for Christmas and went to the interpreter colleague to see Alibek, the guy who has been helping me out, and speak with his class about the practicalities of working with interpreters.

Kostani is great! There is a supermarket which the security nearly threw me out of. I just walked around looking at the stuff. Lots of great imports but all with a price tag. I found blue cheese at the cheese counter and nearly lost it. Half the block has been cut into huge pieces and I asked for half of one.

‘Can I have half please’
‘The blocks are already cut’
‘OK, can you cut me a new one?’
‘The blocks have already been cut’

At this point I was salivating about eating the cheese and was not happy.

‘But I don’t want a kilo and a half of cheese’
’But that is the only size’
‘I am sure not everyone want so much. Some will want a lot and some will want a little’
‘So can you cut me a little’

At this point I walked away but was followed by security for the rest of my time in the shop! In the end I relented and bought the blue cheese and split it with a friend so things ended happily.

Anyway enough for now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Internet problems

Been quite for a while as the internet in Zhitikara has stopped working for no reason that I can understand! Can't load any emails in the Akimat, the internet cafe (photo studio computer) has has the phoneline removed for no obvious reason and so the owners friend said I can use it is his company when they get their modem fixed. So basically I am without internet for the forseeable fturte - but today I am in the regional town witha good connection although little time/ Just been reading through a mountain of emails which I will reply to as soon as I can and came across two things which may be interesting to read (both relating to me)

First VSO Kazakhstan is being prfiled on the VSO homepage this month - and for when that changes try

Second is the LSE have followed me up in thier careers profile and placed an update which I wrote online here

So at least there is something to be getting on with.

AIDS day went well and Volunteer Day was stressful but I will do that justice at a later date. Just been to the AIDS centre in person and now the condom crisis is well and truly sorted out and I am walking round with a further three boxes of 144 condom sachets.

Taking holiday from the 18th and going to Almaty and a town nearby for Xmas with other volunteers and then on to Sergey in Bishkek for New Year.

Tired. Ill for the second time in so many weeks but this time have horse sized tablets to take which are brilliant which makes me think they are probably prescritpion only and as I had to mime my symptoms to the chemist could well be antidepressants! They all think I am slightly mad after the hunt for the female condoms which I have been told by the AIDS centre today are not avalible here anymore. So the question make over that has been lifted which is good.

Somehow ended up in a conference today at the interpreter college and found out they have a BBC news connection and while it is 6 hours by bus away from where I live I have a feeling I will be back again.