суббота, декабря 31, 2005

Holiday Explosion

Cnovm godm! Was in Astana again yesterday to try and get Kyrgyz visas--no dice. Did see some nice ice sculptures Hillary says Astana is Disneyland on steriods. You can watch 400 million barrels of oil worth being spent in a few square km.

I made a cookie that looks like a scotsman.

Tonight is New Years con familia Ramsey.

четверг, декабря 22, 2005

Avacados and the Tower of Religious Toleration

So they have avocados at the PAMCTOP. Only I haven’t seen one for so long I wasn’t sure they were what I thought they were. It goes without saying that I didn’t know the word for avocado in Russian. Good thing it’s a cognate. Anyway, I asked the lady there what kind of fruit these were since there wasn’t a sign and I’ve apparently forgotten what an avocado looks like. (These weren’t the greenish black ones from California. They were really smooth, really green and from Israel. )

She has to go to the back and ask somebody or look it up in the bi book-o-fruit they keep in the back… eventually she comes back and tells me what I’m pretty sure I already know.

It’s an avocado.

Then I asked how much for a kilo. She looked at me like I had gummy worms coming out my nose and said no, they’re priced individually. $4 for a kilo would’ve been bad enough, but nope, it was $4 for a single avocado!

So about the “Tower of Religious Toleration”. It’s the Space Needle of Astana because that’s the tall towery thing I’m most familiar with. It actually looks like a giant golden glob award. You pay 500 tg and ride an elevator up into it. You get a great view of all the construction and the vast, endless steppe if the weather is nice.

You also get to look at all the religious groups that got on the sponsors list—the Lutherans, Roman Catholics, a few Orthodox groups, the Federation of Shinto Shrines and a butt-load of Muslim groups are all there. It’s kind of confusing because it’s within a five minute walk of Kazakhstan’s biggest (also brand new) Mosque. It don’t think it’s interdenominational. Islam has always rested lightly here, I’m told, however.

The best part is yet to come. At the very highest platform inside the giant golden globe is a pedestal with President Nursulton Nazarbayev’s handprint in it. You can put your hand exactly where he did and guide the future destiny of Kazakhstan! Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I think President Bush should put one in the top of the Washington Monument.

понедельник, декабря 19, 2005

A few thoughts from the weekend...

Watching the Seahawks play the Cardinals reminded me of how much I don’t miss TV. Advertisements selling me stuff I don’t need. Advertisements lying to me. How many people in America are thirsty, hungry, impotent, bald and without a car? Sports are the one reason I might still spring for cable if and when I move back to the states. Even then, the announcers and “analysts” are idiots. Their pride and utter uselessness bothers me. So maybe I’ll just listen to the radio. Or better yet, make friends with someone who has season tickets.

I’ve even caught myself wondering the place of sports in general. How important is Robbie Tobek’s performance in the big scheme of things? Scary, I know.

I also just heard Switchfoot being played over the PA in the Seahawks game. How am I supposed to feel about this? Still, I’m really excited to be watching real football. 88 yards! Interceptions! Fitzgerald is impressive. Mac Strong! The best name in football!

Also, I went to Astana Saturday with Jon, three Ramseys (Jon, Shaun and Jim) and Carol. As the capitol of Kazakhstan, it’s got all the fancy steel and glass buildings that governments like to build these days. Add to that the old-school Soviet love for gargantuan plazas, squares, monuments, memorials, etc. and you’ve got yourself the biggest construction project I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, Nazarbayev moved the capitol there in 1997. It’s actually a total crap town that’s literally been built overnight.

I wonder if today’s oil-boom countries will be like the boom towns from the gold-rush days in America. Obviously oil has proven more important to the world’s economy recently (and by recently I mean the last century) and there sure is a lot of it under the ground. Still, mankind is using a lot of it too. Also, there are some oil rich countries that aren’t rich at all. Venezuela and Kazakhstan come to mind. (Not like I’m about to complain…)

Astana only reinforces the world view you brought there. It either inspires your optimism for the future prosperity of Kazakhstan or confirms yours suspicions that the prosperity is just a façade. Remember the tizzy everyone got into after they figured out the connection between VP Cheeny and Haliburton? Well in Kazakhstan, all the major companies are owned by relatives of the president. That’s how you get things done people.

Anyway, the whole reason for going to A-town was to visit the PAMCTOP. It’s the single most likely place in K-stan to have eggnog outside of the PAMCTOP in Almaty (more than 20 friggin’ hours away). It’s maybe the most expensive grocery store (there’s a term I haven’t used in forever) I’ve ever been in that wasn’t in London. A bag of tortilla chips and guacamole was $15. That’s 10% of my paycheck on snacks.

This is already too long. Stay tuned for a funny story about avocados and the “Tower of Religious Toleration”.

четверг, декабря 15, 2005

Porn, Icons and Plush Toys

I’ll get to the title in a second.

First: Matt is gone. He left for Almaty this afternoon. It was sad to not have him waiting for us at home after classes today. He’s gonna buck for pastor pretty soon it sounds like. I’d like to follow him, but it’ll be a while yet.

Second: I saw a Kazakh “riverdance” team last Saturday. Shoot, it's already been a week. I almost fell out of my cold but very comfortable chair when the lead guy came out. Not only did he look like John Belucci (circa Animal House) with his gut, curly dark hair and receding hairline, he also was wearing tizzight leather pants and a huge "celtic" belt thingy that would have put the heavyweight boxing belt to shame. I wasn't a big fan of the tap version of Swan Lake, but the rest was pretty fun. Nothing like seeing a bunch of Asians dance like the Irish, that's what I always say.

Third: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe continues in earnest. My students are to have read up to chapter 15 by monday, so we're almost finished. I'm really enjoying teaching a "literature" class. Also, I'm really enjoying "quoting" things tonight. Wonder what the deal is.

So, about the porn. I was riding the bus just the other day when I noticed my bus driver had decorated the front a bit more lavishly than usual. Not only was there a giant calendar featuring dogs eating hot dogs (wierd), a stuffed monkey on a swing hanging from the mirror, there was also a row of three icons (Jesus, Mary and some other guy with a beard) next to a big naked Pamela Anderson.

God bless 'em, one and all... or however that goes.

понедельник, декабря 12, 2005


Mat leaves on Thursday. Sad.

We also had our neighbors over for tea last night. I think they're kind of used to having foreigners live next door. Still, Jon was the only one who could really talk to them. The rest of us just smiled. They seem nice. If I remember correctly, their names are Galliya (mom), Natasha and Yulia. Of course, I could be totally wrong. The upside is I finally kind of know who lives next door. Also, when guests come over, especially the first time, they come with gifts. We got two things of chocolate plus a fresh apple cake thing. That's on top of the awesome oatmeal rasin cookies from our upstate NY hook-up. And Jon made chocolate peanutbutter pie.

Seahawks rock. Someone's taping these games for me, right?

Also, I've been missing emails. Many are dissapearing in transit. I'm looking into getting a new account, but if you've sent me something important and I've totally destroyed our relationship by not responding, send it again please. You can also leave a note here on the site to let me know I should have gotten something from you (be specific).

Peace out.

четверг, декабря 08, 2005

Trump vs. Turkmenbashi


понедельник, декабря 05, 2005


I have defeated Darth Malak and destroyed the Star Forge once again proving the light side of the Force will always prevail.

суббота, декабря 03, 2005

Presidential Voting Guide: Kazakhstan

If you're going to vote in Kazakhstan tomorrow, I suggest choosing your canidate by his eyebrows. There's Nazarbayev (Big Poppa), the communist guy, the young guy, the old guy and the other guy. Seriously, that's how they've been introduced to me. My students are either voting for Nazarbayev, not voting or warning me not to go downtown tomorow. Many bosses are "encouraging" their employees to vote for the right canidate.

I like reading Heinlan's "Starship Troopers" during elections. It reminds me of how most of us vote for whatever we want and expect to get it without actually doing anything (like paying taxes or taking responsibility). Also, I wonder if public wippings (father next to son? hmm?) would be a more effective form of punishment than the suckage of our current juvy system.

Joel and Deb got here yesterday! Free lunches! Hooray!

I'm starting "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" tomorow.

Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to charge into battle, only when I look behind me, my dudes are all picking lint our of their bellies. Davay!