Monday, May 24, 2010

Family Fun Day, Victory Day, and Mother’s Day


Yesterday I had quite an eventful Sunday. I haven’t been able to get on blogger at all in the past few weeks and it makes it very difficult for me to get motivated to write when I can’t post anything. But, here I am again forcing myself to write about my wonderful weekend.

English Sabbath School was in charge of church again this weekend and instead of letting the girls handle everything as usual, I actually tried to plan the service and delegate the activities. It was a quiet Sabbath with the usual church service, but Veronica preached which made it interesting.

On Sunday all of Kazakhstan and the entire former Soviet Union held their hammer and sickles high and proud as they celebrated 65 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany. Also on this day, those in America were celebrating some of the most important people in their lives—mothers. For me, not being in America with my mom, and not really being able to attach myself to Soviet pride was caught up in another activity—family fun day.

Family Fun Day is something that we decided to have in a joint effort with our church and with our English centers. So we rented a 50 person bus (and ended up having like 70 people) and headed for the mountains. We drove about an hour and a half to a beautiful area that I had never been before. Our bus was going along, but would stop kind of randomly for reasons I never quite figured out. One time it stopped and we took the opportunity to get out and go see what was around. Veronica, Orken, and I took off toward the fast moving river and found a bunch of people, celebrating Victory Day of course, making Shashlik and having parties of their own. We found a cool bridge made out of planks and cords and took the opportunity to run up and down it, jump frantically, lean over the edge, and make fools of ourselves. Pretty soon more people came over from our group and we were all playing on the rope bridge. With more people, and more fun, came the rangers to yell at us. So we got off the bridge and the bus was packing back up. We got to our destination and broke out in the activities. We divided up into two teams. I was the Capitan of the “White Team” and we fought hard against the “Red Team” playing in three-legged races, hot dog eating contests, relay races, and egg races. My team came out victorious. After the activities everyone kind of went off and found something to do. Some played soccer, others played cards, while others stuck their feet in the river and soaked in the intense rays of the shining sun. I did my fair share of soaking in the rays and sticking my feet in the cold river, but I also chased some kids around, threw them up in the air, and all that good stuff. We brought a giant pot and they made plof; a lot of plof! Plof (in Kazakhstan at least) is a dish made mainly of rice mixed with vegetables, raisins, and dried apricots. It is sort of fried and quite delicious, but definitely foreign to my American taste buds. One time during the day these old ladies (I heard they were kindergarten teachers) pulled up in a car, blared some bumpin’ music and started dancing. Of course, Veronica and Emily along with a group of their students made their way over and Veronica, in her black skin once again stole the attention of the crowd. They were all dancing, taking pictures and going crazy. Meanwhile, Emir (a six year old boy that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs) and I hung out by these 2 people making shashlik engaging in very basic conversation with a lovely language barrier. We had a really great time, but by 4:00 we were on the bus and headed back. We got back to NewBridge (the place I work) and then walked home at about 6:00. The sun was still shining and Steven and I got to walk through the memorial park we walk through everyday, but this time it was filled with people celebrating Victory Day.

We walked through the park, took pictures with the flower-covered monuments, and embraced the lively culture that was swimming around us. Street performers were out and at their best, children were running around with their new toys, and everyone was in high spirits celebrating the peace that a previous generation didn’t have the pleasure of taking part in. It is so interesting to be on this side of the world and hear the stories of things like World War 2. Americans fought in the war, several of our brave soldiers died, but America never experienced the war like they did here. After all, our big and beautiful country is on the other side of the world and the only attack we experienced was Pearl Harbor. The Soviet Union was penetrated and sieges were made on big cities like Leningrad. People here fought to protect their sons and daughters, their wives and their lives. American soldiers stepped in out of support for freedom and to help nations like the Soviet Union conquer the forces of the evil Nazi reign. We didn’t necessarily fight to protect our homeland, but fought for the protection of others. The elderly people here walk around in their uniforms displaying their huge pride. They have stories, actual stories about attacks on their cities and the fights they engaged in. The history of this part of the world is truly fascinating and it was so exciting to be able to experience it this year. I find it interesting how freely nations like Kazakhstan still display the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union so proudly. They never saw it as being conquered, oppressed, or held in captivity. They saw those times as good, but different times. Nobody I’ve talked to is eager to say that the Communist era was better or worse than things are now.

I had a great weekend, but lost some sleep with the thought that I only have 7 weeks left in my time here. My boss is trying to get me to stay longer, and while I’m praying about it, I’m ready to go home. I was bummed out I didn’t get to spend Mother’s Day with my Mom, but I did get to Skype her and I will be home before I know it.

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