Sunday, February 22, 2009

Birthday 09

Hey Veenies, look closely at the photos below. We had a pretty big party at our apartment for my 43rd birthday. A perennial challenge here in Almaty is finding an address or trying to explain to a Russian or Kazakh speaking taxi driver where you want to go. We use a lot of hand-drawn maps because, for example, after being here for 8 months, we still don’t know the name of the street we live on. The whole block is called Mamyer and it’s broken up into numbered parcels that makes sense to everyone but ex-pats.

So our “invitation-map” had lots of arrows and buildings for reference, but the final marker was that great bright red Canadian hockey jersey that you guys gave me, hanging in the window. We’re already known in the neighbourhood as the cana-dee-ans--now it’s official.

We had friends from South Africa, Siberia, Eastern Russia, The States, New Zealand, and of course, several from Canada. Numerous of them have made several “stops along the way” in their careers. Of the 50 people on our teaching staff, we are the least interesting in terms of cultural experiences. Last night, there were representatives here from every one of the ‘stan’ countries, several from Africa, one from Venezuela, and one elderly lady who was born in Turkmenistan during the height of the Soviet Empire (she was a bit mysterious about that).
In June, four of our teaching peers are moving to Chennai, India, two are going to Bratislava, Slovakia, two are going Sanna, Yemen, and one is going to Prague. The family we had Christmas dinner with in Thailand are moving north to Atyrau, (otherwise considered the armpit of Kazakhstan).
Everyone is from somewhere else or they are going somewhere else. When I was in Vancouver last week, a few people asked me what I thought was the best part of this “project.” Without hesitation I always respond in the same way: the dinner conversations. We have met so many interesting people who have worked in such obscure places and I never really get tired of listening to their stories.
Here’s one: this couple we work with lived in Azerbaijan for two years--very fundamentalist Islamic place. They were walking through the open bazaar and James said “Wow! Look at this place. You could buy anything here. Probably even opium.” His wife was horrified that he said that out loud so she kind of shoved him and told him to be quiet. In a micro-second, one of the male vendors whipped off his belt and gave it to James, suggesting he use it to keep his woman in line. Edna took away all my belts.

We had a great party last night even though we may have a offended a few Kazakh traditionalists. They’re very superstitious. Apparently, it’s considered bad luck to have a birthday party before your actual birthday. But I’m still alive. My head really hurts though.

Have a great weekend everyone. Congratulations Brad and Laurie! (Brad: I taught Kyla to say “Boys are Bad!“ as soon as she could string together a sentence--it’s never too early to start.)
Pax, Dave

1 comment:

Dave said...

Hey, Belated Happy Birthday Dave. Hope things are going well. We're finally coming out of the deep freeze here in Kamloops. Keep up the blogging.