Peace Corps Volunteers 2010
I am very grateful to have had the
opportunity to work in Gymnazia. I truly enjoyed teaching in my English classes
and I hope that everyone enjoyed their time being taught by us Peace Corps
volunteers. I have no doubt that each and every one of you will become
successful where ever you go in life. Feel free to keep in touch with me and
read my blog which will have updates about my journey in Kazakhstan:
Be sure to let me know who you are if you
contact me. I would be more than happy to practice English or Russian or even
Chinese Mandarin with you! And I plan on visiting Esik a few times during the
next two years in Kazakhstan
so it would be nice to see you when I return for a visit. =)
Thank you for all your support and for the
Michael J. Wong
On behalf of all the volunteers, I, Rachel
Miller, would personally like to thank everyone at the Gymnazia for allowing us
to train at this wonderful school.
has been an amazing town to begin my journey in Kazakhstan. Each day I am in awe by
the beautiful mountains. I love walking through the bazaar and looking down the
flowing river. The breathtaking scenery helps smooth the process of
My first weekend
I was fortunate enough to go on a seven hour hike with my host family. We were
on a search for mushrooms. It was an astonishing excursion that once again
proved how beautiful Esik truly is.
I taught the 11th
form about stereotypes and a common Kazakhstani stereotype is that they are
known for their hospitality. Everyone at Gymnazia has been extremely helpful
and hospitable. The two teachers working with us volunteers have been
remarkable and extremely patient. They have been great mentors in this entire
training process for the Peace Corps. Thank you very much Tamara Vasilievna and
astounding part about the Gymnazia, in my opinion, is the students. I cannot
believe how intelligent the students are. They have been a pleasure to teach
and to get to know. I worked directly in the classes of the 8th and
11th form and they are such a bright group of students that will be
very successful and prosperous in life. I have had the pleasure to get to know
other students through English clubs and observing other fellow volunteers
classes. All in all, the Gymnazia is a school with a very talented group of
training in Esik and more specifically at Gymnazia have been a memorable and
wonderful experience and I thank everyone for being a part of that. I do not
know where I will spend my next two years working, but I will always remember
Esik and the Gymnazia.
and the Goats
are beautiful foothills to the mountains right behind my house, and I really
wanted to take pictures from them, and just spend time up there during one of
our 'Indian Summer' sunsets. This idea formed itself in my brain on Sunday
evening when I spend an hour or so thinking, listening to music, and laying on
a tilted bed of concrete behind my house watching the sun dip behind the
mountains, lighting up the clouds and the hills with brilliant hues of pink, violet, and blue.
anyway, my idea was to grab my music player and camera and run up the hills to
take pictures of Esik (my village) during the sunset. But as I came downstairs
I was stopped by babushka, who, hands on hips told me, "You shall not pass! …
At least until you have eaten some soup.” There was nothing I could do, so I
sat impatiently twitching as the babushka slowly heated up the soup, watching
through the window as the sun began its final descent. Don't get me wrong, I
was enormously grateful for the soup, and all of the wonderful things that I am
treated to on a daily basis, but once that soup was in front of me, I sloshed
the scalding liquid down my throat and flew out the door.
sprinted as fast as I could, but halfway up the foothill, I realized that it
was a lost cause and dejectedly turned around back towards the house. After
walking for a few minutes, I came upon a group of goats standing in the middle
of the trail. I was bumming out and listening to music, so I just walked around
them and carried on my way. After a couple of minutes however, I heard
something behind me, so I turned around to see a bunch of confused looking
goats running at me. To be honest, I thought that the leaders were trying to
attack me, which in retrospect is completely absurd. But because of this
strange thought process, I picked up a large stick and swung it aggressively
toward the leader. They all froze. So I swung the stick again, and they all
took a couple steps back. At this point I figured that I had established myself
as being higher than them on the food chain, so I turned my music back on and
kept walking. You might imagine what I saw when I turned around, so again I put
the stick out in front of me, and again they all froze. This happened three or
four more times as I continued on my way, but by this time I had dropped the
stick, finding out that my hand was just as effective (or ineffective,
depending how you look at it.) By the time I had reached the road at the bottom
of the hill, I had given up trying to shoo the goats away, and was walking
surrounded by my herd.
I must admit that I was a bit unsure what to do at this time, because although
the imagined danger had long since passed, I was still in possession of a bunch
of goats that all seemed willing to follow me home. I must have looked
completely ridiculous, a twenty something American guy standing around in jeans
and a t-shirt looking confused and worried, surrounded by about ten equally
confused goats. Fortunately, when I looked back up at the mountains, I saw a
female shepherd flying out of the brush looking panicked and screaming for her
herd, which she presently saw in my possession. There was a moment or two of
awkward confusion as I tried to explain to this woman in broken Russian that I
wasn't trying to steal her goats, and that they followed me of their own
accord. She seemed dubious at first, but when she heard how terribly I spoke, I
think she just figured that I was too stupid to steal goats anyways, and we
parted in good spirits.
An Interview with Myself
In this article I have decided to
ask myself some questions that you might want to know.
What are some of my favorte things
to do? You may already know some of these. I like to play the guitar, sing
songs, read books, write stories, swim, and do things outside. Now I am
learning to love teaching. In school my
favorite subjects were reading and history.
What do I like to eat? Here in Kazakhstan I like to eat cookies and
drink tea with milk. I also love
Kazakhstan chocolate. In America I like
ot eat Mexican food. Just like here, in
America there are many different nationalities and I like to eat food from the
What do I like to do here in
Gymnazia? I like teaching classes. My favorite is to teach a class where the
students and the teacher is excited about English. I also like English Clubs. I like to see students that are from
different classes. These students are
always excited to come and learn more.
What do I think are differences
between Esik and my town in the United States?
Esik is a very colorful city. The
houses and fences have a lot of color in Esik.
Both Esik and the houses in the United States have flowers growing. I like the flower gardens very much.
What surprised me most about
Kazakhstan? People in Kazakhstan drink a
lot of tea. I liked tea a little in the
United States. Here in Kazakhstan I
drink a lot of tea and I like tea a lot.
my favorite American holiday? My
favorite American holiday is Thanksgiving.
During Thanksgiving families get together and have a large meal
together. My grandparents, aunts,
uncles, and cousins all live in different states. During Thanksgiving I see all of them. Also, my birthday is very near Thanksgiving
so I celebrate my birthday with my family too.
What is my favorite thing about
Kazakhstan? There are many things I like
about Kazakhstan. I like the mountains
near Issik--they are very beautiful. I
like the people who are very friendly.
Maybe my favorite thing about Kazakhstan is meeting students and
teachers who want to learn English, and who want to learn more about my
country. This is fun because then I can
teach them about America and they can teach me about Kazakhstan.
Lastly I want to say thank you to
Gymnazia School. I have had a lot of fun
meeting the students and teachers at this school. Thanks so much!
Max and the
As is the case for most Americans,
music is an essential part of my life.
As is also true for most Americans, I like many different types of
music. I enjoy rock, folk, the blues,
jazz, country, and hip-hop. My favorite
musicians are Bob Dylan (folk), the Beatles (rock), James Brown (funk/gospel),
Johnny Cash (country), Gnarls Barkley (hip hop), and Karl Denson (jazz). Maybe out of those six you've only heard of
the Beatles, but I guarantee that you will like all of them if you give a
only do I love listening to music, I love making music as well. I began playing guitar when I was at
university, and I have been playing ever since.
I started out playing mostly blues—Eric Clapton, Freddie King, and Muddy
Waters—and then I got hooked on folk music.
The history of American folk music and the history of the guitar are
tightly bound. Americans have been
sitting around campfires with their guitars, teaching their favorite songs to
their friends and families for countless generations. What is so wonderful
about this is that often there are many different versions of songs; there are
no official lyrics. It’s as if the words
are alive. Some great examples of this
are the songs, "Frankie and Johnny,” "In the Pines,” and "You are my
have been so happy to learn how much the Kazakhstani people love music. Everywhere I go there is music. And, like me, not only do most Kazakhstani
people listen to music, they play it as well.
I have met so many musicians here: singers, piano players, guitar
players, accordion players, and, most impressive of all, dombra players. Dombra is such a beautiful instrument, and it
takes a talented musician to play it well.
I hope that by the time I leave Kazakhstan in two years, I will
have learned how to play some songs on the dombra. Even if I don't, I certainly will have spent
those years listening to and enjoying the rich tradition of music in Kazakhstan, and
sharing the American tradition with as many Kazakhstanis as I can.
Thank you for
donating photo prints for our photo competition on Gymnazia Day: