28 June 2007
We got to go to Sasha’s “speech” therapy this morning, and it was good to see him interact with his teacher. Again I was surprised and impressed with all that she did with him—there was speech and occupational therapy mixed together in bite sized chunks so that he was pretty focused for about 25 minutes. Apparently each kid gets this one on one time at least once a week. In the winter, when they don’t go outside as much, they come three times a week.
You may notice a bit of a forehead “shiner” on his right side. Apparently he flew off the slide in their playroom a bit too fast yesterday. We aren’t worried about the bump—we are just glad it didn’t happen while we had him.
The Other 22 Hours
Now that we have been in Petropavlovsk for 18 days I thought I would share with you some observations we have made on daily life here. Because we have not lived in other parts of Kazakhstan we don’t know if the following observations are applicable outside of Petro or not. (We will not be living in other parts of Kazakhstan to see.)
For entertainment’s sake this will take the form of a Top 10 list.
10. Not a lot of people jog.
We continue to get the odd glance as we plod along each morning. We especially appreciate the stares from the people drinking beer outside the bar at 6:00 a.m. because they are still out from the night before.
9. A lot of people do smoke, but not inside.
The human ability to adapt shows in our tolerance of smoking. The longer we are here the less we notice the smoke that is always in the air. Granted half of it is from the noxious emissions coming from the cars, but still, we do appreciate that people tend to smoke outside rather than inside.
One accoutrement of smoking that we particularly enjoy seeing in places of commerce is the cigarette lighter that is shaped like a hand gun. It has that whole slow death/fast death irony thing going for it.
8. The women are not shy about hair color.
This is a moderate example of hair color–
I will look for better ones–I know they are out there.
We have never seen the range of colors on hair that we have seen here. I have been unable to capture the most glorious evidence on film, but trust us; there is more eye-popping purple, magnetic magenta, outrageous orange and brilliant blue hair here than anywhere else we have ever been.
7. In general, buildings are entered from what we would consider the back.
In the beginning we kept thinking people were taking us down the back streets and alleys in an effort to confuse us. Now we understand that residences are not entered from the street side. We don’t know why, but at least now we don’t always think we are being kidnapped.
6. About 30% of cars have right-side steering wheels.
Again, we don’t know why, but it continues to surprise us when we see people driving their cars from the passenger seat.
5. Heat is delivered to all buildings from a huge heat factory outside of town. The heating pipes are above ground, but some have orange insulation sprayed on them–which I am sure helps a lot when it is -50.
There is a very strong Soviet block era feel here, and the heating system is part of it. We have heard that the temperature in the Baby House is sweltering in the winter, but part of the problem is that the people in the building do not control their own heat. (For the teachers at school . . . does this sound familiar?) It is blasted in from the factory when the factory decides how much heat there will be, and everyone is used to the system. Interesting.
4. Kazakhs love Texture!
I have never been to a place that has more surface textures. There is a huge variety of building facades, with some buildings using three different kinds of texture. The odd part is that the texture is applied only to the lower half of the first floor. From that point up it reverts back to the crumbly concrete and indiscriminate paint that prevail on the upper floors.
There is also texture on every interior wall—there are no wallpaper or stucco free walls here, and it does give the eye and mind something to enjoy when someone is speaking in an indecipherable language, so we appreciate that.
3. Drainage systems do not seem to exist.
We are here during a moderately rainy season and whenever it rains enormous puddles gather across the somewhat level ground. People have to plan long, circuitous routes to avoid the puddles, and even when one tries really hard to not get wet, there will always be some place to step that is just a half inch too deep, and the shoes will end up wet.
This sinkhole appeared in the Bazaar one afternoon after a big storm
In the market where we buy our produce every day, someone has strategically placed bricks in what becomes a mini-lake so people can sort of walk across, rather than around it. In the beginning of being here we thought this may have been a problem unique to our apartment complex or neighborhood, but now we know it is just how Petro is non-absorbent. It does make the morning running more exciting – you get to employ some hurdling techniques to leap and avoid getting wet.
2. Fashion is important.
I have to admit I was surprised by this. It is clear that fashion is important to the young women of Petro and many times this fashion takes the form of tight pants and high heels, with glitter or sparkle on each piece of clothing. It is not that everyone is a “Fashion Don’t” but a lot of people are “Fashion Maybe You Shouldn’ts.
Some women pull it off. Our translator, Masha, has great style, and has the long, lean dancer figure that begs for close fitting clothes and high heels. Alas, many women here do not have the body or more understated fashion sense of Masha, and it certainly adds entertainment to our daily walks. It also has affected how I dress—rest assured I am not going the tight pants, high heels route, but when I dress as I would in the summer in the U.S., I feel somewhat underdressed. So my highest heels and skirts have been getting more of a workout than I would have guessed, and Steve is learning to walk a bit slower because, while fashion here is important . . .
1. Side walks are not important.
The ankle strength of the women here must be phenomenal. The “sidewalks” in Petro are spotty at best. There are stretches of uninterrupted pavement, but those only last for 20-30 feet before deteriorating into mud, sand, churned up asphalt or puddles.
We observed a work crew over a series of two days dig a deep narrow trench, (ostensibly for a cable or pipe) that traversed a sidewalk we use daily. One evening we walked by and saw they were filling it in—great! The next day we expected they would repair the sidewalk as the final step. Ten days later we have realized that this sidewalk was as good as it was going to get, and that we, and the other pedestrians, are helping to smooth it out every time we walk over it. One good part about all the asphalt left behind—it does provide a stepping space for when the sidewalk is a huge puddle . . . maybe that was the plan all along.
This last photo sums up the top three points. Notice, the mud where a sidewalk should be, and note all the little holes, from the stiletto heels. We have bad drainage, fashionable over functional shoes and all where a sidewalk should be. As Sasha would say, “Voit” “There”