Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Great Weekend, but Only 5 More Left!


When April was ending I was freaking out at how fast the time was going by. As May begun I realized I was on the downhill slope. Now, things are really wrapping up. This next week will be Emily’s last week teaching and on Friday her boyfriend will be arriving to spend her last two weeks with her and then they will leave together in the middle of June. Those two weeks are going to be weird for all of us because they will be the beginning of massive change. I hate to say it, but I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in Kazakhstan. Almaty has become my city. Although I can hardly say I have a routine, I have developed some norms. When Emily leaves it will just be weird, especially because that means that Steven and I will be marching home right behind her. It’s also hard because I know that Emily has spent a year here working hard, and I feel like I haven’t really done too much. 6 months really is too short, but I know it is time for me to return home. It would, however, make it easier if there were people coming to replace me. The English centers are in big trouble as it looks like they will go months without new teachers. So I kind of feel like crap leaving them behind when I technically could stay and help a little longer. But, again, I feel pretty strongly that it’s my time to go home. The moral of the story, six months is a very, very tiny particle of our vapor of an existence.

This weekend was quite eventful. On Friday, I went to the National Museum with Steven, Emily, and some of my students. We saw a bunch of old stuff, a bunch of display cases, and some cool stuff regarding WWII and Kazakh cultural history. There was also a trade fair happening inside the museum, but nobody really bought anything. It was fun. I really enjoyed hanging out with my students seeing that my days with them are numbered and honestly, I’ll probably never see them again. The next probable meeting will be somewhere in the skies on that Great Day on our way up to be eternal neighbors. But, that could be a really, really long time. That thought kind of depresses me. I really like my students.

On Saturday, instead of going to church, I went to a rock concert. Ok, ok, it wasn’t really a rock concert. It was an awareness/benefit concert for a special needs orphanage in the area. As I saw pictures of some of the children, I also felt some sort of regret for not doing more while I was here. I could have been volunteering other places instead of settling for my 4 hours a day, 4 days a week job. It was at the “Guns & Roses Pub and Grille” which was a lot like an American “Applebee’s” or “Chili’s” and they served Gloria Jean’s Coffee. When I arrived there I was shocked at the fact that everyone was speaking English. The place was filled with members of an International church and volunteers for the orphanage. Most of the people there were English or American. To be honest, it was a little uncomfortable. I hope this isn’t a preview of what my reverse culture shock is going to be like. After the concert I went over to Emily and Veronica’s for a little while and they had many of their students over. I taught some of them how to play American card games and we had pizza, but I couldn’t stay too long because I had to catch a bus and get home.

Today we went to Kapchaguy, which is the nearest body of water that is large enough to actually use boats and swim in. One of my students, Alla, finished graduate school and so we decided to celebrate. We all met up at NewBridge and drove for about 2 hours or so to a nice place near the lake. At our center there is a security guard guy named Max. He was our driver for the day. Within minutes of getting in the car with him we were petrified. We dug frantically looking for seat belts. All was laughing thinking that we were crazy. (In Kazakhstan it is very uncommon for people to use seatbelts unless they are sitting in the front seat). But we found our seatbelts and closed our eyes. I have not been in a driving situation that scary since travelling to India. Max was born in Kapchaguy City and so he knew where to take us and how to show us a good time. We went to a nice area near the water where there was no other people around. After laying out our blankets we ate some food, drank some juice, and set up some fishing poles. Max was trying to catch us some fish, but finally gave up and went to buy shashlik. In the meantime, while Max went to the city, Alla was arranging for a banana boat to take us for a ride. I was excited to go, but I realized that I had left my bathing suit in the car and Max wasn’t going to be back for awhile. We waited a long time laying in the sun and walking along the water, living up our few hours of complete relaxation. He finally got back and we ate some shashlik, I changed my clothes, and the banana boat guy maneuvered up to our “beach”. We all got on, knowing that the final result of this ride was going to be a catapulting into the cold water, only to get out of the water and into a cool, breezy day. The guy drove us around in a pretty sorry looking boat around the lake, but luckily the sorry looking boat had a pretty powerful engine. So we enjoyed some nice views and the exhilaration of water flying out beneath us. Finally he drove us back to where we started and at the last second made a sharp turn that flipped us all into the water. Once wet, Emily, David, some cool British guy named John, and I decided to swim out to an island. Once realizing it was farther than we originally anticipated, John went back, but we kicked our way to the island. We then decided to run all the way around it. The island was pretty neat. It was bigger than it looked and was filled with some sand dunes as well as a little shack that could have fit maybe 5 people maximum. We were jumping off the dunes when I said, “I just want to roll down these things.” As I went to jump, I got to close to the edge and tumbled all the way down. I got my wish and it turned out to be a blast. When we finished running around the island, picking the stickers our of our feet, and avoiding the trash heaps, we were pretty much dry and dreading the fact that the cold water once again was waiting for us. This time, however, we had no choice. So we swam all the way back and had to bear the cold both of the water and the wind when we got out. Of course, the extremely temperature-sensitive locals were shocked that were swimming in the early Spring when the water was still a little bit chilly. It was well worth the chill, and we enjoyed a little more sunshine and a little more food before packing up and going home. As we were packing up we ran into one problem. David and Gina lost their keys to their car. We searched and searched and searched, but to no avail. David finally concluded that he must have gone swimming with them and they must have fallen out of his pocket. Him and Max went at the car and decided to hotwire it to try to get it back home to the spare key. Sure enough, they succeeded. It was definitely my first time seeing people hotwire a car as well as get the steering wheel completely unlocked. Impressive.

So now that this weekend is over, things are really feeling like I’m on the edge of a steep downward slope. 5 more weekends in Almaty and then I’ll be home. It’s a weird thought. How thankful I am though, for every ounce of this experience. The sun has been setting later and later. We walked home tonight and it was still a little light out at about a quarter past nine. I always find this crazy seeing as I’ve lived in the southern States all my life. As the days get longer and the sun shines more, it is just a subtle reminder of how I need the Son to shine a little brighter, a little longer in the days of my life. I am still doing a lot of searching, and I am more excited than ever to trust God with the blank slate of my near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment