So this blog will be about Almaty, the biggest city in Kazakhstan. Almaty was once the capital of Almaty before it was changed to Astana. Almaty or Alma-Ata which means “Grandfather Apple” in Kazakh is located in the south close to the Chinese border. It is a very cool city with lots of things to do. My group were really able to get to know the city well and even though we were about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Almaty, we endured those gypsy cabs/buses just to get there.

Before I go on with my story, let me tell you what a gypsy cab could be. So, Kazakhstan doesn’t really have a cab system outside the city so everyone could just be a potential taxi. You basically do a hitchhike pose and a taxi will stop then you can barter for how much you would pay for it. During this time, I didn’t really have the language skills to yell at the taxi driver for a lower price so we relied a lot on how much the locals told us it should cost. Now, however I am happy to say that I could yell in Russian and basically tell them that my money does not grow on trees for me to pay for that much. Haha.

Ok, so we would always take a cab to the city and pay about 300 tenge or about $2 to go to the city. Of course, it is not that much if you think about it in dollars but we didn’t have that much money. We were trainees and only get like $4 a week as allowance. It was actually kind of expensive for us poor volunteers. As I have mentioned Almaty is cool and it is one of my favorites cities here in Kazakhstan. I feel like we were in the city every weekend or every other weekend just to get some food and internet. South Kazakhstan is also famous for their beautiful mountains and we were lucky enough to go to Medeo. We suffered 900 steps up the mountain, but it was totally worth it because the view was amazing and it reminded me so much of Quito! Which as all of you guys know, is my favorite city in the whole world.

Ok so here is the list of my favorite food in Kazakhstan.
1. Doner Kabobs (awesome Turkish confection!)
2. Lagman (awesome Uighur noodles, the only thing with flavor)
3. Potatoes and meat that was baked by my host aunt during PST
4. Shashlik (barbequed meat)
5. Vareniki (Perogies like which reminded me so much of home)
6. Plov (Uzbek rice with meat)

I will not list any more, but all I have to say is that the top 2 are my favorites! Also, I miss Mexican and Chinese food sooo much!

Next blog may be interesting!

Ice Rink!


Ohh Shoot! Earthquake!!!!

Here is one little thing that you need to know about my training site. I lived in a village called Baltabai, and it has about 3,000 people. When I say that it’s a village, its definitely a village in southern Kazakhstan. There are cows, donkeys, dogs, chickens everywhere and its hard to miss them because you can smell them a mile away. We are always the talk of the town and I am pretty sure that everyone knows what we are doing the minute we start doing them. As small as this village is, we didn’t have any cafes or just a place where 10 Americans could hang out. So 3 weeks before we were supposed to leave to go to our permanent site, here comes 2 cafes!

Of course, we were all excited to eat shashlik and drink less than a dollar beer. I am not kidding when I say that those beers are about 90 cents each. The one draw back about these cafes in a small village is that we run into the problem of seeing our students and the whole town talking about the Americans drinking at the café. That happened by the way, we didn’t need to tell our host families where we were because the neighbor would just do that for us. As would be expected though, being in this “fishbowl” didn’t stop us from hanging out at the two local cafes and sometimes striking up conversations with the locals. I am sure that our locals get super confused whenever we talk because half of us are studying Russian and the other half are studying Kazakh. Every time we open our mouths they have to guess whether we will order in Russian or Kazakh. After a while, we just didn’t mind nor cared that we were being watched because we just wanted to hang out and spend a little time away from Technical Sessions and Language.

So the two cafes are the first half of this blog while the next half is totally about a different experience. It is not exactly my first time experiencing this, but after 10 years of not being in the middle of it. I can still say that it was still a little unnerving and interesting.

I am sure that has piqued your interests so I will start and talk about my first earthquake in Kazakhstan. As per always, I woke up at around 8 am on a Sunday morning getting ready to go to the nearest town with other volunteers for the Bazaar (public market) and the internet. I stepped outside to go to the outhouse since it was early in the morning and I needed to go. As I was looking for the dog, I heard the windows move and I was thinking that the wind was not strong enough to make that noise when the ground started moving. I looked around and said out loud that “Sh**, I just had my first Kazakhstani earthquake” Again, I said that this is not my first experience ever because being originally from the Philippines; we get this all them time. So it was not such a big deal, until I went in to the house and found my host family freaking out. I mean major freak out!

I sat in the kitchen and felt the aftershock, this is freak out worthy apparently. I went into my room to get ready for my excursion and saw that my phone was basically blown up with text messages. Messages from my TCF making sure that we are ok and a funny text message from one of my best friends Katya. Which says “Please tell me that your outhouse fell!” This will be a lot funnier later when I tell you guys the story and I am sure it will get some chuckles here and there.

The rest of the day consisted of a lot of aftershocks that it just didn’t phased us Americans anymore. I spent my day at ECIK and I didn’t feel anything. I was able to go to the bazaar, use the internet and hang out with the other cool volunteers! Oh, I forgot to say! The epicenter was apparently not that far away from my village, which was why we kept feeling the aftershocks. Everything turned out alright though and it still ended up a very good day because I was able to speak a lot of Russian. Yay Me!

And the winner is….

When we were in PST, our lovely PCVTAs or helpers organized a scavenger hunt for my training village and the closest training town from us (ECIK). The main objective of this scavenger hunt is for us to practice our language and some of us were able to do that. The price for whoever wins it is to go to the Peace Corps office in the city for a night and eat Pizza Hut. Of course, for those who are reading this will not think that the price is worth it, but for those who did not have internet at their training village; that night at the Peace Corps office seems like the greatest gift ever! Also, the pizza since most of us have not had pizza for the last 2 months.

We had a list of things that we needed to find and take pictures to prove that we did find them. The pictures are below to show you guys that we really found them. Some were easy to find and some were hard to get. We had the hardest time finding a babushka wearing a blue scarf on her head and a pair of fake (Bazaar) prada shoes. The last one meant something to my training group because our wonderful PCVTA Janelle had a pair of these fierce Prada shoes. I loved those shoes! After the hunt, we also had to write something interesting about the pictures in Russian/Kazakh. It was Russian for my group and it was really hard to find an interesting way to describe those pictures when your language level is of a 3 year old.

Alas my group did not win the hunt, but it was still fun to have made a really good friend while doing this scavenger hunt. I am happy to say that Carrie and I are really close friends and it all started with this hunt as being the only 2 girls in a group of 5. I guess we really didn’t need the win to spend time in Almaty, as I will gladly tell you guys on my next blog.

The Trainees with some students! We found a statue!