Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Comedy Clubs

Got home finally but after a lot of palaver… with the roads closed on Friday there was nothing for it but to head out for pizza which was great. Four cheeses followed by fruit mouse cake. Taste overload.

With all the rain freezing on top of the snow just walking around has been treacherous and I fell over more times on Friday than every before and in the course of it managed to pull my neck. Just like the rest of my family and especially Steve such ailments are not suffered in silence and so it was probably a result of all my murmurings that I was instructed to lie upon a bed of nails at the home where I was staying. In actual fact it worked at taking the pain away from my neck but I think that was only because it was transferred to my epidermous which suffered from being prickled with 1000 needles. Lasted on the nail bed long enough to be polite but not a moment longer. After all I was crashing on the floor in this persons house for the second night!

The bus on Saturday morning we had tickets for never showed up so along with everyone else had to change them to a later bus which meant we missed the start of Jena’s training session in Lisakovsk. But all the volunteers were looking good in their red AIDS t-shirts which have been shipped out here courtesy of Alan.

I ended up going to the comedy club in the evening in Lisakovsk which I now understand about 30% of the words (it is difficult with music and when people are speaking fast) but only about 10% of the humour (that is primarily because most is just not funny although I would not dare say that here for fear of my life). Comedy Clubs are very big here. Teams from each town are formed – about 5 to 8 people – they do a stand up sketch which has lots of visual humour and then they are given phrases which they have to on the spot make a joke out of. Usually three teams compete against each other. On Saturday it was Lisakovsk, my town and Rudney. We won! The whole 500-seater theatre was sold out – they are really that popular. I know most of our comedy club team so it was good to see them win and I shared a bus ride back in the minibus so no more waiting at the bus station!

Back home now. Monday off work with a slight temperature. Maybe I am hardening being out here but this time I did end up in bed for a week like last time! Or maybe it was just luck. At any rate back at work and doing lots with disability awareness. Alibek is helping for the next week which makes things so much easier!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Stuck again

Well I am once again stuck away from home because the buses are not running.!! This time is it rain!! In the middle of January when temperatures are expected to fall to - 40 it is today scorching 4 degrees above which is not as welcome as you would think! The snow melts and forms sheet ice and so at the moment all roads between towns are closed as buses and cars are being blown off the road!!! Noone knows when things will open again but at least I am stranded in Kostani with a pizza restaurant, supermarket and friends rather than somewhere else.

Work is going well at the moment planning a conference for the end of February for coordinators of volunteer centres in the region in Volunteer Systems Management - there is someone coming out from VSO in London to lead the training. Otherwise I am at the moment constructing some training on disability awareness which I should hold next week or the week after depending upon when I can get an interpreter tospend the day with me to hold the workshop.

Orphange good witha few more kids arriving at the end of the quarantine which was imposed for a week last week! I am not subject to quarantine but the kids are so they were hyper after a few days. Think it was for nits as lots of the boys had thier hair shaved but was told it was officially that is was for food poisioning ... I think nits is more likely but not knowing the word for nits I was asking if the kids had cockroaches in thier hair which understandably had a negative answer!!!

Daisy - your ginger has arrived and the tea tastes great but your phone number is not accpeting my text messages and my email will not load here so I just wanted to say a quick tnahk you and when I get more of a chance I will make proper contact!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bus surfing

This weekend I went to visit Jena who lives in the next town along. Usually quite an uneventful journey although never without frustrations but this weekend was exceptional… the wind in Kostani ( 6 hours away) was blowing snow over the road which means that the buses from my town which run Zhitikara-Kostani-Zhitikara were not running….so I got a seat on the only private minibus from the town and ended up having a pram wedged between me and the person opposite me for the two and a half hour journey…and I though getting there was going to be the difficult part…

Coming back was a joke. No buses for the second day as the snow drifts had not been cleared. Rather than run late the buses are cancelled but in the late afternoon they started arriving. Fine. Except the only buses that go to Zhitikara are Zhitikara buses (there are five each day) and to but a ticket in Lisakovsk you must wait for the bus you want to arrive and see if there are any places left. They pretty much run on time so that is not too much of a problem. When all free places have been sold or it is established there are no places there is then a stampede to the bus itself led by the grandmother types who always can out manoeuvre you to get to the front of the queue. So you wait and then the bus gets filled up with ticket holders while those without have to argue their merits to be allowed to stand – the driver is not obligated to take you and depending on mood will take some, all or none. Well with all buses full to the gunnels they were not stopping to let people on leaving me and everyone else stranded. I could not even get a seat in a taxi. So the only option is to sit and wait it out for the next bus which I dutifully did.

Fortunately for me when the bus arrived I was spotted by an amiable young police officer who has seen me a few times in the orphanage and speaks a little English which he learnt from missionaries. He saw I was being turned away and told the bus driver that I was to be allowed on. It was really good of him to do that as there was no other way anyone was getting on the already full bus. The act of generocoity did not go down so well with the crowd I was plucked from – one cry of ‘how can you let the youth on when you are not letting on grandmothers’….

Once on the real clapped out Soviet bus it felt a little like the scene in Titanic where the third class are locked down below clamouring to get out – there were people everywhere. 33 seats and a head count of at least 55 – really like the Northern Line in rush hour only with really thick coats, lots of fur and no air. For the first hour I wedged myself into a gap but at the next stop when everyone disembarked for fresh air I inadvertently ended up being among the last to get back on. Big mistake! This placed me standing next to the driver with nothing to hold onto and a large, cracked windscreen to lean on. Normally not the place you really want to be standing for a few hours but it is made even more enjoyable by the potholes in the road which make the whole experience a little more akin to bus surfing as to keep my balance I needed to learn the art of surfing with record speed. I made it home in one piece which is what counts but it felt very much hit and miss at times!

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Back home. Went ice skating on the first afternoon back in Zhitikara which was quite fun. I might even try to learnt o do it properly before I come back. The football picth - where I spent a very cold afternoon once - has now been turned into an iceskating rink. Well not the pitch itself but the part around the edge. You hire skates and then set off on an epic assult course ( the ice is not as smooth as you would want but then skating on water that has been sprayed on a football pitch is not probably ever going to give you a smooth surface!) and for an hour you can skate around. My skating was somewhat less skillful than everyone else who I reckon must have been skating since birth...

Then for the next 6 days I was rested up in bed with winter flu. I have been warned repeatedly about how strong the flu is here but I have been taking my multivitamins and the rest so was not expecting to be knocked the six like I was. Temperature up to 39 and more and three very uncomfortable days when nothing would take it away - Russian, Kazakh and British pills did nothing. Better now and spent most of the time when the temperature had gone watching DVD's and reading books that I had been given for Chiristmas so not all bad although of course I would have prefered not to be ill...but then with 7 of the 16 kids at the orphanage for Xmas ill I had no chance being the 'weak foreigner'....

Showed my head at work on Friday the first day I was up and about again and abck to start on MOnday.

Off email - not working on this computer ahhh

Friday, January 05, 2007

BA or Skat??

Well back up north and on the net qucikl before heading home. Was tempted to change my ticket and jump on the outbound BA flight back to London which was taking off after my Skat Air Company flight to Kostani but boarded the deathtrap of a plane and arrived safely.

Only -9 back here today so a gentle ease in to the climate rather than a sudden shock.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Banoffee Pie

Just been out for lunch and went to a place which served banoffee pie! Might seem insignificant but I think it has been my culinary highlight of the festive period especially after it was following a tuna mayo bagette... although expat hangouts may get a bit tired after living somewhere for a while I really enjoy them and have been indulging on European cuisine at every opportunity (beats porridge and heart). Also on the food front I saw some brocolli in the market here and never saw any in Almaty so for a late Xmas present I have some for Tina along with red cabbage and aubergine. I think she will prefer that to all the real Xmas presents i got her!

One Xmas present front just a warning to anyone who recieved socks from Zhitikara - my advice would be to wash them before wearing them and to put something else between your skin and the harsh wool (like your normal pair of socks) and to wear them like indoor slippers. And when you do wear them just think of me wearing them out of necessity with three other thick pairs of socks, thick insoles and fur lined boots just to keep my feet from freezing!

Back to Alamty tomorrow - New Years Day plans changed as we were meant to be going to an ecotorusim place about 4 hours away but no taxi would take us so we had to stay here. The upside was that we had 14 hours nonstop DVD watching with take out pizza which was a somewhat different but still very enjoyable way to spend New Years Day.

New Years Eve was with Sergey and his friends and we had a mini banquet with lots of toasts before moving onto champage. Out of nowhere a bottle of Verve Cliquot was produced along with some cheap local sparkling wine we found in the supermarket the day before. I personally stuck to the V Cliquot for my toast but most of the others that did then swapped thier fancy champage for the sweet sparkliing wine which allowed me to see the New Year in sipping VC for most of the early hours... and they say that the way you start your year sets a pattern and all that...

Will be back on Kazakh phone tomorrow 7 701 610 31 62

Happy New Year