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Thursday, 24 February 2005
Back from India
I am back from India and I had a wonderful three week vacation. It was truly an amazing vacation. In this update, I am going to talk a bit less about Kazakhstan and more about my recent trip to India.

Arriving in India:

I arrived in New Delhi, India on January 22 and arrived at the Imperial Hotel in the early morning (around 5AM). Let me say that the Imperial Hotel is incredible and it is a great choice for a stay in New Delhi. As you can imagine Delhi is full of hustle and bustle but I found it to be a nice place. It is filled with people, cars, tourists, and merchants. In general, India touches and ignites all of your senses - the smell of the spices and pollution, the noise in the streets, the fast moving and traffic ridden streets, and the constant bumping into your neighbor (on foot and by car). Our tour was filled with visits to many of the local attractions including several Mosques, Mughal palaces and architecture from different maharajas.

On day two we had a two hour train ride to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and several sites around the city. The Taj Mahal is amazing with intricate detail and workmanship. The maharaja was definitely a man in love to build a tomb that amazing. The Taj Mahal was well worth the trip however it was fairly cold (around 40 degrees).

Trivandrum, Poovar, Ayurvedic and the Backwaters:

After Delhi and Agra, we flew to the South of India and landed in Trivandum. Our resort was in a small village called Poovar. It is located about 1 hour outside of Trivandum on the backwaters. It is a 45 minute car ride from Trivandrum, then 15 minutes by boat on the backwaters. Our floating cottage was located on the backwaters and had the view of the beach/Indian Ocean (across the backwaters). This resort was only a few hundred miles from the recent Tsunami disaster.

Well, I guess I will first tell you about the ayurvedic experience. First of all, I really had no idea about the history of ayurvedic. I thought it was mostly a special form of Indian massage but really it is ancient Indian medicine. Ayurvedic was born in Kerala (the region where Poovar is located) and it takes 4 years to become an Ayurvedic Doctor. The doctor provides a daily consultation in order to determine your body type. Based on your body type, you are provided a specific diet and series of treatments. It is an amazing alternative to traditional Western Medicine. It works like Chinese Medicine.

A few final reflections on India

Ayurvedic - better than I expected. It is not about massage but finding a balance in your diet and life. If you are having serious health problems and Western medicine hasn't found the cure then this is definitely worth exploring.

Food - Indian food is excellent and I love the spices. However per my Ayurvedic doctor my dosha is Pitha (fire) and I should avoid large quantities of hot and spicey. It is not good to mix fire with fire.

Intensity - I think this is the best way to describe India. It is an intense place to visit. I would not recommend it as your first destination outside of the US.

Taj Mahal - from a distance not what I expected but up close more than I imagined. The detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal is remarkable. It is a must see destination.

Yoga - I like Yoga but they practice the heavy spiritual yoga which isn't my speed. I bought the Yoga DVD and I think I will fast forward through the prayer to Vyshnu.

Hinduism, Jainism, Seeks, Christianity and Islam - I was amazed by the diversity of religion in India. In some parts of Kerala nearly half of the population is Christian. In India, religion plays a major role in molding the culture which is in sharp contract to Kazakhstan where religion plays a minor role. I actually read a book on the Introduction to Hinduism. I found the book interesting and it helped me better understand what I was experiencing in India.

Wood Shop - A real highlight of the trip was a visit to a small wood shop near
Trivandum. Virginia and I befriended a waiter at Poovar and he took us to his cousins' wood shop to see some of the wood carving. I left with a carving of Ganesha (the god that removes obstacles) and Virgina left with Krishna. It was fascinating watching the workers make the pieces.

Backwaters Cruise - We took a sunset cruise on the backwaters and enjoyed every minute of it. The backwaters are amazing. Many people rent houseboats and journey from Cochin to Trivandum via houseboat. The houseboat comes fully equipped with staff and all of your modern conveniences. Everyone that did it said it was amazing.

Next Visit to India

I want to visit -

Ganges, Benares and other holy cities

Where to next?

Well as much as I liked India, I don't think I will make it my next travel destination. I am considering a cruise down the Nile to experience another wonder of world. We shall see. First however or in combination, I plan to return to the US to visit my friends and family.

The Polar Plunge on January 19 in KZ:

On January 19, I experienced the Russian Orthodox Polar Plunge - a famous holiday in Uralsk. Together with three locals and 4 volunteers we made the journey to the Chagan River where people had gathered to "cleanse their sins". A hole was cut in the ice and ladders placed on each side of the hole. Each person put on their bathing suits, walked to the hole and submerged themselves in the water. It is mandatory to plunge your entire body (head included) under the water three times, then rise from the water to quickly enjoy a salty pickle. I watched kids, grandmothers and people from every age group participate in the festivity. After dunking my body the first time, my skin felt like it had hundreds of pins sticking in it. It was fantastic! I jumped out of water and headed for my towel. It only took a few minutes for my hair to begin to freeze but oddly after 30 seconds out of the water, I wasn't really cold. It was a great experience.

I remember when I was kid, my mom ask me to go to confession to cleanse my sins and I resisted every step of the way. If I had only known that I could dunk my head in ice cold water, eat a pickle and still cleanse my sins then I would have confessed on a regular basis.

I invite everyone to Uralsk, KZ January 19, 2006 for the great, fabulous, sin cleaning polar plunge. By far, it was the most fun I ever had purging my sins.

One Year:

On March 1, I will celebrate my one year anniversary in Kazakhstan. Wow, I have almost been here for one year. I have learned many things and so far I have had an amazing experience. I hope you enjoyed my India and Polar Plunge update and I will write again soon.


Posted by youngterry at 11:30 PM CST
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Thursday, 13 January 2005
Holidays, India and Swim.
Hello Leitchfield and Dallas:

Well, it has been a while since I wrote but I have had many problems with my computer and it took me a long time to have it fixed. Anyway, I wanted to share some of my holiday experiences with you.

I just finished my first Christmas and New Years in Uralsk and I thought I would share a bit about the Kazakhstan traditions. Since Kazakhstan is 50% Muslim and 50% Russian Orthodox, I anticipated that the holidays would be very different. I thought I might see a tree here or there or lights at a few homes that followed some of the traditions from the West. However, I was surprised by what I experienced.

Christmas (December 25th) is not celebrated in Kazakhstan. It is not part of the Muslim or Russian Orthodox religions, therefore Christmas (December 25th), basically comes and goes in Kazakhstan without much fuss. My organization is "American friendly" and decided to have a small party on Christmas Eve to help me celebrate. Then on Christmas about 10 of the volunteers that live in Uralsk joined me at my apartment for food and a gift exchange. As you can imagine, I would have preferred to be at home with my family but we made the best of the situation.

After December 25 things in Uralsk begin to change. To my surprise, lights went up all over the city and trees were decorated with ornaments, lights, and tinsel. Even a large Santa Claus (called grandfather frost in Russian) was erected in the town center. What I learned is that in Kazakhstan they celebrate a version of our Christmas on New Years. They have all the same decorations, parties, presents, trees and family gatherings. I guess Christmas just comes 5 days later in Kazakhstan.

Here are some of the traditions:

Santa Claus is called Grandfather Frost and he doesn't have a Mrs. Claus but a granddaughter that accompanies him.

He delivers gifts to kids on New Years Eve

Holiday Trees are found in almost every home and they include all of the same decorations that we use in the states.

The week after our American Christmas is a shopping madhouse. Every store is packed, the shelves are empty and lines are long.

Families gather for large dinners and lunches. They drink Champagne, eat goose and sing songs.

Since all of this celebrating happens on New Years Eve, they also stay up all night and celebrate the New Year. Fireworks go off at midnight and people walk through the streets celebrating the New Year.

I really never expected to find so many of the same traditions in Kazakhstan but I am happy that I did. It makes home feel a little closer. I hope all of you had a great holiday season and I hope all of you have a great 2005.

This update is short but I will write again when I return from my trip in India. I am planning to spend 20 days on vacation in India and I will depart next week. I will travel to New Delhi, Agra, Kovallam and Combaitore. I am sure I will have many stories to share with you about my first experiences in India. I also plan to participate in the Eskimo Swim next week (January 19). This is the Russian Orthodox tradition where they cut a hole in the ice in the river and dip your entire body into the water three times. It is a symbolic tradition to cleanse your sins. It seems like an interested but cold tradition, and I plan to be there on January 19. I will tell you more about it in my next update.

Terry Young

Posted by youngterry at 12:15 AM CST
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Tuesday, 14 December 2004
Delay in posting
I know it has been a while since I posted an entry but I promise to send out my next update before I depart for India in January. My computer crashed, therefore I had to push my timeline by several months. I hope you are having a grea school year.

More to come in January.

Posted by youngterry at 12:51 AM CST
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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Welcome Back To School
A New School Year.

I know it is a new school year for you, so I decided to start fresh with introductions and an outline of the WWS Peace Corps program. For any student that wasn't a part of the program last year, my name is Terry Young and I am a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Uralsk, Kazakhstan. I grew up in Leitchfield, Kentucky and I spent most of the last 10 years living and working in Dallas, Texas.

I arrived in Kazakhstan in March 2004, spent 10 weeks in Peace Corps training and now I will spend two years volunteering at my Peace Corps assignment. Perhaps, Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Young can read to you my messages from last year, so that you can have a recap of my first several months in Kazakhstan.

Over the next two years, I plan to share my volunteer experience with my two WWS classes in Dallas, Texas and Leitchfield, Kentucky. I will write you e-mails and tell you about my experiences in Kazakhstan. You can also send me e-mails with questions about Kazakhstan, the Peace Corps or volunteering. Over the next two years, we will explore Kazakhstan together. I will be your eyes and ears in Kazakhstan while you are a new generation in the US that will develop an understanding of a new country in Central Asia, called Kazakhstan.

Welcome Back.

For those of you that participated in the WWS program last year, I hope you had wonderful summer break. Can you believe that I have been living in Kazakstan for 6 months - wow! It seems like yesterday when I was talking to your classes and telling you about Kazakhstan. At that time, I knew very little about Kazakhstan, the people, or the Peace Corps. Now, I have finished my Peace Corps training, learned basic Russian and I have started my two year assignment in Uralsk, Kazakhstan.

I am working for a Non Government Organization (Non Profit Organization in the US) called the International Business Center (IBC). IBC focuses on helping to support small and medium businesses in Uralsk. IBC was started in 1998 and operates four businesses 1) Incubator 2) Loan Fund 3) Internet Project and 4) Internet Caf?. I am working across all four businesses. In my first few months, I have helped with several interesting project, but I thought I would share one specific project with you.

IBC Orphanage Training Program:

First I think it is important to talk about volunteering. By definition, volunteering is devoting your time to help others or work for a specific cause without being paid. There are many types of volunteering. Kids may volunteer to help with a program to keep the streets clean or visit the elderly each week. The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization, sponsored by the US government and started by President Kennedy, which places volunteers in developing countries that need help. Peace Corps Volunteers work for 27 months to help the people in their assigned third world country.

One of the first projects that I started at IBC was a training program focused on helping orphanage kids. As you know there are many kids that don't have a mother and father and without the support of their family they need to find support in other ways. IBC has developed a computer training program for 15 - 17 year old orphans that will help them learn valuable computer skills and find jobs after graduation. We will hire 4 trainers and 1 project manager, and then, go to the orphanage every week for 8 months and train the students. Upon completion of the program, the students will receive a certificate that indicates that they have completed the computer course with a satisfactory grade. Hopefully, this project will help these students have a chance for a better job or better opportunity for entering a University. Over the next year, I will keep you updated on the progress of the program.

Perhaps, you can discuss volunteering in your class and talk about possible ways you could volunteer in your community. As Americans, we are very fortunate and therefore it is important to help others that are less fortunate. You don't need to join the Peace Corps or be an adult to volunteer. You can volunteer in your own community at almost any age. For example, you might help feed the homeless, learn about the environment, clean the streets, help disabled children etc. The options are endless and it only requires a devotion of your time. If you decide to start a volunteer program, then please send me a letter and tell me all about your program.

My Uralsk Host Family:

I lived with my host family in Issyk for 2 ? months and I built a special bond with them. Now, I am living with a new family in Uralsk. My Uralsk host family is also Kazakh. They are fluent in both Kazakh and Russian languages and my younger host brother speaks fluent English. I rent a room from the family and they also provide me lunch (sometimes) and dinner every night. The accommodations are good since we have heat and hot water (90% of the time). No, we don't have air conditioning, microwave or cable TV, but I barely notice it. My host mother is a doctor by education, my host father an engineer and I have three host brothers between the ages of 16-19. The great part of living with a host family is that I have the chance to experience the Kazakh culture, first hand, ranging from Kazakh food to customs.

We eat several of the standard Russian and Kazakh dishes such as plov (fried rice), manti (ravioli stuffed with meat and onions), borsh (beet root soup), and drink chai (tea). In the summer there are also many fruits - apples, cherries, plums, watermelon, bananas etc. In the winter it is more difficult to find fruit, therefore we eat more potatoes, beets, carrots and meat. Yes, I finally ate some horse meat but only one small piece. Horse meat is considered a delicacy in Kazakhstan but I cannot say that I enjoyed it, since I am practically a vegetarian.

It is my understanding that winter will begin around October and last until around April - 7 months of winter. I am not really prepared for the likely intensity of winter in Kazakhstan - daily snow and freezing temperatures.

I will live with my host family until November 15, and then I will move to my own apartment that will most likely be located in the center of the city. When I send you my next letter, I will be preparing to move into my own apartment.

IBC Colleagues and Uralsk Volunteer:

My NGO has 13 full time employees, so you may here me talk about them from time-to-time. There are also approximately 6 other Peace Corps volunteers living in Uralsk. Interestingly, one volunteer is also from Texas. She will actually return to Texas in early January.

A Possible Visitor:

I plan to try and coordinate a visit from a few returned Peace Corps volunteers to your schools. One returned volunteer will start the University of Kentucky graduate school in a few months and another works in Ohio. One of these volunteers potentially can visit Leitchfield, show you photos and discuss the Peace Corps. I also know several returned Peace Corps Volunteers that live in Dallas that will be able to visit Mrs. Walker's class. Hopefully, I can schedule the speakers prior to December.

A Little Culture: Kazakh Yurta - The Nomadic Dwelling

Enough about my day-to-day life in Uralsk, it is time for a bit of KZ culture.

Let's talk Yurta.

A Yurta is a transportable, collapsible house that came to KZ from ancient times. It consists of wooden framework covered with felt. The framework ("kerege" forms the walls of the dwelling, and are made of latticed wooden poles; long wooden poles ("uyuk") serve as a cover for the upper spherical portion of the yurta; "shanrak" is the topmost open part of the yurta, serving as an outlet for the smoke raising from the hearth, for purposes of ventilation and scanty lighting of the yurta's interior. Depending on the air temperature the yurta is covered with two if not more layers of felt. The outermost layer is covered with a special material for it to be impenetrable for rain and snow.

The spherical form makes it an exceedingly heat-consuming dwelling. Many yurts have folding; carved entrance door's made of pine or birch-tree. In fact, framework motifs reflect kazakhstani flora and fauna.

In the center of the yurta you will find a hearth with a cauldron ("kazan").The hearth is regarded as a place of honor, meant for particularly respectable, distinguished guests.

The main decoration of yurta is carpets ("tekemets") made mostly of felt. The interior looks quite bright owing to a multitude of colorful carpets manufactured from wool and or felt. Yurtas also have other homemade materials, such as weaving, embroidery, and wicker-work products, inside them.

Every little corner in the yurta has a purpose of it is own - a part for men, a part for women, a part for clothes. There is even enough room for a "shop", such as fixing harnesses or other tasks. Enough room exists for preparing meals, for bed, for horse's gear, for children, and for the son and daughter-in law. (Ok, I have been in two yurtas and I can't imagine you could fit al- of-this inside, then again Americans have a different view of space).

Simplicity and feasibility of manufacture (made from natural materials), easy and quick assembly, easy transportability turned the yurta into an ideal dwelling of a nomad. Yurtas are still a part of life on the steppe. You see yurtas in the city as a showcase of Kazakh nomadic culture, but I have heard that people still live in them on the steppe.

I have a few photos of yurtas on my Photo Assignment page. We held Bob (IBC's previous volunteers going away party in a Yurta). Perhaps your class can research Yurta's on the Internet and develop a research paper on Yurtas and Nomadic Living.

Answering a Few Questions:

1.Do I have Internet access? Yes, I have Internet access at work (in my office). However, we pay a per minute usage charge. There are also Internet cafes throughout the city. Some are even open 24 hours each day.
2.What do I do for fun? Well, I read almost everyday, I walk around the city, I swim in Ural and Chagan Rivers and sometimes I visit the Salt Lake. I also spend time hanging out with other volunteers and my new Kazakh friends. We also frequently have visitors at my host families' apartment. I also joined a gym in Uralsk.
3.Am I taking a vacation? Am I planning a trip to the US? I am planning a vacation to India in January or February of next year. I plan to visit the Taj Mahal and several other famous destinations across India. I also plan to visit the US next year, perhaps around October of 2005.
4.What movies do they have here? At the cinema they play most of the movies that are famous in the US like Spiderman 2, Harry Potter, Troy, Kill Bill2 etc.
5.Do I miss anything in the states? Of courses, I miss my morning Starbucks, my dog (her name is Jasmine), my family, TV shows, American magazines and newspapers, American food (nachos, pizza, salads, and burritos), Thai food, driving my car, watching movies in English, and conducting business in English. However, I am happy to be helping and I know that I will be able to return to everything that is wonderful about the US in 22 months.
6.Lastly, I wanted to tell you about horse game #4: This game is called KUMIS ALU ("pick up the coin"). The essence of this game is, while galloping at full speed, a young man should pick up silver coin from the ground. However, nowadays the coin is placed by a handkerchief. This contest particularly impressed Alexander the Great when he visited Central Asia.

I think that is all for this letter but I will write again in October. In the meantime, I hope you receive my package in September and enjoy the video, postcards, map, Russian alphabet and photos. Have a great year.

Terry Young

Posted by youngterry at 8:10 AM CDT
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Saturday, 8 May 2004
The end of training and move to my new home.
Mood:  celebratory
I can't believe that I have already been living in Kazakstan for 10 weeks - wow!

I have one more week of training in Issyk, and then I will move to my new home for the next two years. Before I share the location of my new home and NGO in Kazakhstan, I first wanted to update you on things in Issyk since my last e-mail.

Typical Training Schedule in Issyk:

Over the last 10 weeks, I have had training everyday. Here is a snapshot of my typical day in Kazakhstan.

Monday - Saturday (yes, I even have training on Saturday)

7:30 - Wake up and take a sponge bath (My host mother boils hot water for me - I use one small bucket of hot water to wash my body and hair)

8:00 - Eat breakfast with host family (We usually eat the left over food from the night before and it is usually good)

8:30 - Leave for language class (No buses only feet -- It takes me about 5-7 minutes to walk from my apartment to my class)

9-1:00 - Russian language class (My language class is held in an apartment with three other students)

1-2:00 - Lunch with host family (sometimes my host mother packs a lunch for me otherwise I eat at home with her and my host family)

2-5:30 - NGO/Business training at hub site (This is our technical training that prepares us to work with an NGO in KZ. The training is located in the center of Issyk).

5:30-6:30 -- Internet, talk with Peace Corps staff and other volunteers

6:30-7:00 -- Walk or take a taxi home (about a 35 minute walk from the hub site or 5-7 minute taxi ride)

7:00 - Dinner with host family (We eat around 6:30)

7:30 - ? Meet friends, go ghosting, do homework, watch movies, listen to music, update website, talk with family etc.

NGO Training and Russian:

I didn't think I would be able to learn Russian when I first arrived in Kazakhstan but now, I can actually carry on a basic conversation. The language program is really great. Now, when I meet young kids on the street and they ask me about Brittany Spears, Emimem, and Jennifer Lopez, I can actually discuss American pop culture with them.

Before I leave training, I will take my language test to measure how my language skills have progressed (yes even in the Peace Corps you have to take tests). However, I will continue studying Russian at my site.

By the way, I have also started to learn the Kazakh language. I currently have one lesson each week. I can't believe I am learning two new languages.

My Week in Shymkent (Sunny South - They call it the Texas of KZ)

Our group of 25 volunteers (yes, we were 26 but one volunteer left a few weeks ago) was split into four groups for our business practicum. I journeyed to Shymkent with 4 other volunteers). I am guessing that you are not familiar with the location of Shymkent, so I will provide you some brief information. Shymkent is in the south of KZ located several hours from Tashkent (Tashkent is the location of the recent bombings in Uzbekistan). It is a large city with about 700,000 people and has very warm weather in the summer (in the summers the temperature can reach nearly 110 degrees). The train from Issyk to Shymkent takes about 12 hours but it is rather comfortable. Each person has a bed and can sleep/rest during the night. We arrived in Shymkent on April 12 and we each stayed in apartments in the city.

We enjoyed several great restaurants while in Shymkent and ate salads, hamburgers, fries, burritos and shaslick (a meat kebab). The food was pretty good and in general and it was fairly cheap. We found a place that sold a good burger, fries and coke (KZ combo meal) for under $2.

Additionally while in Shymkent, we participated in a tree planting event at a local university (there are 38 universities in Shymkent), visited the Shymkent historical museum, visited a local factory, and attended a presentation at one of the universities. We also spent a lot of time with several of the volunteers that currently live in Shymkent.

Jimmy, John and I spent our days at the SODBI business incubator ( The incubator consists of 15 employees and two international volunteers that provide services to approximately 32 small and medium businesses plus several external clients.

Even though I enjoyed Shymkent and SODBI, it will not be my new home for the next two years.

My new home in Uralsk:

Here is the big news -- I will be going to Uralsk to work in the International Business Center. I am sooooooooooooo excited! I selected SODBI and IBC as my top choices for site assignment (I actually preferred Uralsk and IBC).

Uralsk is located in the Northwest corner of KZ near the Russian border (find the Caspian Sea on the map on go straight up). It is nearly 62 hours from Almaty by train and 3 hours by plane. I will depart around May 15th for my new home. Uralsk was settled in 1622 and I have heard that it has a beautiful historical downtown. There are approximately 300,000 people that live in Uralsk and over 50% of the population is Russian. Just writing this gets me excited about my assignment. There is only one other volunteer that will be assigned to Uralsk (there are currently 5 volunteers in the city; however 4 of them will leave in May). There are other volunteers in neighboring villages about 1-2 hours away. It is definitely an isolated city which is part of what I love about it. I feel like it will help to make my experience that much more memorable. I am ready to go tomorrow, however I will miss my host family and new friends.

Some Fun in Uralsk - According to a few current volunteers, I should expect to participate in the Eskimo swim. On January 19th each year, adjacent to the 1700's Russian Church, the river is blessed and holes are cut in the ice. You stand on the frozen river, strip to your underwear or bathing suit like 1000's of other Uralsk residents, jump in the river, dunk yourself three times, get out, drink a shot of vodka, eat a pickle, and get rid of all of your sins and earn a year of good health. This will be great and I think it sounds much better than confession. :)

In Uralsk, I will be working at the International Business Center to help them grow the Uralsk economy by developing programs to support small and medium size business. Specifically, the IBC provides small loans to small and medium businesses, provides office space and business services to clients and operates an Internet Caf?. I will help with all three areas. Once I get settled in Uralsk, I will send you more information on the IBC. As secondary projects, I plan to also work in a local orphanage and teach a business class at one of the Universities. I am sure you will be interested in the orphanage, so I will send you information once I arrive in Uralsk

I will have my new contact details in a few weeks and I plan to post it on my website.

Answering a few more questions:

1.Calli - Here is Horse Game #3 called KOKPAR - This the most famous game played on horseback. KOKPAR translates as fighting for a goat's carcass. According to ancient custom, if one wants to get rid of all evil, he should sacrifice a goat. 1,000 horsemen can participate in this game, and it unfolds on an almost infinite steppe (flat land) range. On the opposite end of an immense field, the opposing teams' goals are arranged. It is in these goals that the symbolic carcass of the goat should be thrown. As you can imagine, the two opposing teams fight desperately to get a hold of the carcass and throw it into the other team's goal. I have not had the chance to watch this game but I plan to watch one game before I leave.

2.You asked about the sports that kids play in spring - Well, kids in Kazakhstan play some of the same sports as kids in the US. In the evening, kids play basketball in front of my apartment. They also play soccer, volleyball, and run. In Almaty, I have also seen many kids on rollerblades. However, I don't think baseball is a popular sport in KZ. By the way, we met some young gymnasts on the train a few weeks ago and they invited us to watch their competition. They were between the ages of 5 and 15. It was a great experience watching these young kids tumble. As you can imagine, many have aspirations of being in the Olympics.

3.So far, I haven't eaten any goat or sheep eyes. My family knows that I don't really like meat so they have been cooking many vegetarian dishes. In restaurants, you find many meat dishes but luckily I have avoided the eyes. Yes, I would like to have a nice club sandwich with fries or hamburger from Sonic. Perhaps you guys can eat one for me.

4.Here are a few of Kazakhstan's meat dishes and foods that are unusual to Americans: 1) Horse meat - this is considered a Kazakh national delicacy. Winter is the time for butchering horses in a ritual called Soghym. The first meal prepared after the slaughter is a large soghym party. 2) Beshbarmak - a simple dish of large noodles in onion broth piled with "mountains" of meat on a shield-sized platter. It is usually the centerpiece dish at many parties. Usually, beshbarmak is eaten with the hands. The word is translated from Kazakh as "five fingers". 3) Shyzhuk - horsemeat stuffed into its own colon and smoked. It is usually included on the beshbarmak dish. 4) Kuyurdak - prepared immediately after butchering an animal (usually sheep). The ingredients hold a wealth of surprises for the American palate: liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, meat and sometimes gut. 5) Kumys - fermented, sour horse milk and shubat - fermented sour camel milk. People consider kumys and shubat to be good remedies for liver, blood or lung diseases. Keep in mind, I have only eaten behbarmak once and I drank camel and horse milk once. So in general, these are not daily dishes.

5.In regards to Mammoth Cave, I don't think kids in KZ are aware of the cave system. However, if you would send me an e-mail with details on Mammoth Cave, I can share it with the kids in the orphanage or at a few schools. I hope you guys have had the chance to visit Mammoth Cave, since it is such an amazing cave system.

6.I also had the chance to visit a few farms near Issyk. The first was a camel farm. In KZ they drink camel milk and use the wool to make different products. There were hundreds of camels on the farm including some very cute baby camels. We also visited an Ostrich farm. On the Ostrich farm, they utilize the Ostrich feathers, eggs, and meat. Additionally the skin is used for leather products. Lastly, I visited a farm that raised Falcons. Falcons are sold to hunters and are not only used in hunting but also represent prestige and status. The most prestigious KZ hunters have a falcon.

By the way, I hope you enjoyed my last update and I hope you read some of the details that I posted about the KZ government. Please send more questions if you are interested. I know that school will soon be over the year, but I will continue to send updates this summer so that your teachers can share them with you next year. Additionally, I plan to pull together a few things from KZ and mail them to your teachers (maps, photos etc). I hope you have a great summer and look forward to talking with each of you very soon.

Terry Young

Posted by youngterry at 2:57 AM CDT
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Thursday, 22 April 2004
More details about the KZ government and another horseback game.
Mood:  chillin'
After my last e-mail, I received a request for more details on the KZ government so I have pulled together some information for you.

Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union on December 16, 1991. It is a new country in transition. KZ is in process of moving toward an open democracy but this transition will take time. I have provided an overview on the KZ government below. Keep in mind, I am not an expert on this topic, so this is high-level information. As I learn more, I will continue to share it with the classes.

Here is a brief overview on the KZ government.

Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. Kazakhstan's firs post-independence constitution was adopted in 1993, replacing the Soviet era constitution that had been in force since 1978; a new constitution was approved in 1995. The 1995 constitution provided for legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government dominated by a strong executive branch. The 1995 constitution established a two house legislature consisting of an upper house (the Senate) and a lower house assembly (Majilis), though most of the power was concentrated in the Presidency. In comparison to the US system, the KZ government provides more power to the president and does not provide for an equal distribution of power. The 67-seat Majilis is popularly elected. Members of the regional assemblies indirectly elect forty member of the senate; the President appoints the remaining seven. Working jointly, the two chambers have the authority to amend the constitution, approve the budget, confirm presidential appointees, ratify treaties, declare war, and delegate legislative authority to the President for up to one year.

The constitution's main provisions declare that KZ is a democratic, modern state in which the individual, his life, rights and freedoms are considered the highest values of the society. In general, KZ has in place the important elements of participatory democracy. The government generally respects the human rights of citizens. Citizens enjoy basic rights to free speech, press and assembly; however some, rights are restricted by complicated bureaucratic requirements and an imperfect legal system. Toward the end of 1997 and in the first half of 1998, the government implemented new restrictions on press freedoms enjoyed by the media. In April 1998, the Parliament passed government proposed amendments to the election law that could be used to restrict the ability of opposition political leaders to run for public office.

The political opposition, however, does not present a challenge to the current government anyway. Political parties in KZ are generally small and nearly unknown outside the major cities. There are six political parties officially represented in the Parliament. Three of these parties: the Party of People's Utility, the Democratic Party, and People's Cooperative Party are pro-presidential. The other three are small opposition parties: the Socialist and Communist Parties, as well as the People's Congress Party. Outside of Parliament, small Kazakh ethnic and Slavic ethnic parties are active in some cities. Party affiliations play a small role in local Kazakhstani politics, where personal and family ties are more important.

The constitution also states that the highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court and there are a number of lower courts. Judges serve life terms and are appointed by the President, with those Supreme Court subject to confirmation by the legislature. The constitutional Council administrates constitutional control in Kazakhstan. The council consists of seven members appointed by the President of the Republic, the chairman of the Senate and by the chairman of the Majilis of the Parliament. The council mainly reviews constitional questions.

Most people in the global community agree that the biggest problem for KZ is the corruption in almost every aspect of society, from government to business. To combat corruption, a Higher Disciplinary Council under the President was created in 1997 to combat corruption among public officials. A new criminal code passed in 1997 contains special articles regarding penalties for giving and receiving bribes, and provisions regarding other economic crimes unheard of in the Soviet period.

Currently the President of KZ is Nursultan Nazarbayev. He was initially elected in 1991 to a five-year term as president. In April 1995, his term was extended by referendum to the year 2000. In 2000 he was reelected with 98.8% of the votes. Because a President can serve only two sentences, Mr. Nazarbayev will not be allowed to run for reelection.

Foreign Collaboration:

After KZ became an independent state it established diplomatic relationships with nearly 80 countries. Official KZ embassies were opened in 28 countries.

The US and KZ have enjoyed warm bilateral relations since KZ became an independent country in 1991. The United States is committed to supporting KZ's development as an independent, market-oriented, and democratic state.

Initial U.S.-KZ cooperation emphasized the removal of nuclear warheads, weapons-grade materials and supporting infrastructure under the U.S. Congress' Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

Since 1993, USAID has administered more than $260 million in technical assistance programs in KZ.

The Peace Corps has nearly 120 working across KZ in multiple capacities (high school and university teachers, Business Development in Non government organizations and environmental consultants).

Once you have reviewed this information please pull together additional questions and I will try to provide more information.

I thought I would also include one additional KZ horseback game that you can share with your class. In my last e-mail I described a game called Kyz Kuu (overtake the girl). This time I will share another game on horseback called Audaryspak.

Aurdaryspak (wrestling on horseback). This game requires the rider to have skills in both hand-to-hand fighting and in trick horse riding. The game involves two men fighting while on horseback. One wins if he brings he knocks his opponent off his horse. This is considered a Kazakh national sport.

Posted by youngterry at 4:50 AM CDT
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Thursday, 25 March 2004
Greetings from Kazakhstan (To Each School)
Mood:  energetic
This is my first update from Kazakhstan. I have experienced so many things in the first month that I think I could write 10 pages. However, I have attempted to keep it brief. I have divided the e-mail into sections, so that you can catch up on things that you think are of interest for your classes. Please let me know if you would like for me to elaborate on any specific topic. Just as a reminder, I have additional postings in my Pen Pal Blog on my site. Lastly, I am sending this e-mail to my World Wise School participants in Dallas, Texas and Leitchfield, Kentucky, so I will answer questions from both schools in one e-mail.

My Family:

I am living with a Kazakh host family and they are great. I have been living with them for several weeks now and they truly treat me like a part of the family. My mom calls me her second son and she truly has a heart of gold. She is a healthy Kazak woman about 45 years old. She has five kids - two daughters live with her, her son lives with his grandmother, and two other daughters are married. It is my understanding that their father died several years ago.

My mother's name: Gulzalda
My brother's name: Kuanysh
My sister's name (#1): Zhanara
My sister's name (#2): Anara

We live on the fifth floor of a Soviet Style apartment complex. The apartment has 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, entry, bathroom and toilet. Fortunately, they have a phone and TV. Unfortunately, they do not have any hot water or heat. It has been a real challenge to boil water and take a sponge bath (luckily, my "mamma" prepares the water for me each morning); however I am beginning to understand why they bath less frequently in KZ. On average, Kazakhs bath one time each week in a banya (I will explain the banya later in this e-mail).

My mother also fixes all of my meals and I think the Kazak food is very good. They eat a lot of vegetables - beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and radishes. They also have a huge variety of bread, cheese, and meats. You never complete a meal without Chai (tea), since it is an important part of the Kazakh meal and culture. I think I am drinking about 15 cups of Chai each day - I guess I am saying so long Starbucks hello Chai J.

Here are few of the interesting tidbits about Kazakhstan:

?Taxi - A taxi is any car that you can get to stop. Basically there are no official taxis; therefore you utilize anyone with a car, as a taxi. On Saturday, we loaded 6 people into a small taxi - dangerous but a great experience.
?Bazaar - this outdoor market has everything you could imagine. It is like an outside Target. Here a few of the items that you can find there - fruits, vegetables, electronics, clothing, toiletries, adapters, paintings, furniture etc. Basically, they have everything and it is cheap (and you can negotiate).
?Post Office - The post office is used to make long distance calls. You give the # at the window and wait until your # is called. It can take up to 1 hour to get a line to the US and it costs nearly $2 per minute. This means that I will not be able to make many calls while I am in KZ. I guess I will rely on e-mail for now and utilize a prepaid calling card from my host families' house.
?Banya -- I have now experienced the Kazakhstan banya. Most Kazakhs go the banya each week instead of taking a daily shower (my family has no hot water). Basically the banya that I used had three rooms - Room 1: changing and relaxing, Room 2: washing, mild steam and shower, Room 3: hot (really hot) sauna. I stayed in the banya for about thirty minutes. In KZ there are private banyas, but in general, it is more of a community experience. It is definitely a different approach to bathing; however it is a nice part of the culture. The banya costs about $1 USD J. My family has now scheduled a weekly family banya for me. Welcome to KZ!
?Ghosting - Ghosting is the KZ tradition of visiting family and friends. I usually go ghosting 2-3 times each week with my family. When you ghost, you usually drink Chai and eat cookies and candy, and then you just relax and socialize. I have been told that most Kazakh business deals are completed over a good cup of Chai. You typically drink Chai while at school and work. The culture is built around informal socializing.

Training (My School):

We begin our Russian language training at 9AM each morning and we have business training every afternoon. We have been divided into small study groups (my group has 4 students). We will study Russian everyday for the next 10 weeks (20 hours each week). Currently, I can speak about 100 Russian words. Our instructors are also our culture teachers and teach us how to acclimate to KZ in general, host family life, and business life. I definitely didn't plan to spend 9AM to 6PM in training, especially considering that I go home each night and speak Russian with my host family. So far it has been fun and exciting but tiring.

My business class is next to a Kazakh school and the kids are fascinated with the volunteers. Everyday they follow us, take our photos and ask us questions in English. It is either like being famous or an Alien. Either way, the Kazakhs are very interested in Americans.

How To Contact Me:

Snail Mail and Care Packages (I have updated the care package section on my site).

Terry Young
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 376
480001 Almaty

E-mail - (I can only check e-mail about 1 time each week and I only have 20 minutes at the computer).

Lesson from Kazakhstan:

I thought I would answer some of your questions in this section.

Questions from Dallas:
1. Eric - Yes there is cursive in Russian. It is called Russian Script. You can print the letters or write them in cursive. I am able to read the printed letters, but I have not learned the cursive letters.
2. McKenna and Rachel - I have eaten many foods while I have been with my host family. Almost everyday, I have cold salads (beet salad, cabbage salad, bean salad, pumpkin salad etc.) I have also eaten many soups (cabbage and beet soups are popular). They also eat many dishes with noodles. In particular, they stuff noodles with vegetables and meats. In regards to meat, they eat beef, pork, chicken and horse. So far, I haven't eaten any horse - or at least I don't think I have eaten horse.
3. Tucker - I arrived in Almaty at 10:30 PM on March 3. The flight took 14 hours. We departed Washington DC and flew to Frankfurt, Germany (about 7 hours). We flew from Frankfurt directly to Almaty (about 7 hours). When we arrived at Almaty, we were greeted by about 10 current volunteers and the Peace Corps staff.
4. Shontee - I am having a blast. So far, this has been an amazing experience. I am loving every minute of it.
5. Callie - I know it is hard to believe that Kazaks eat horse, however they also love horses. The most famous sports in Kazakhstan involve riding horses. One game is called Kyz Kuu (overtake the girl). Young boys and girls are participants in this game. On horseback, a girl does her best to gallop away from a young man, but as soon as he tries to pass her, she lashes him with a whip (all in fun). If the young boy fails to overtake her, she rewards him with a whipping. If he approaches the girl and passes her then he earns a kiss. I will share other horseback games in future e-mails.
6. Rachel - The weather was actually warm when I arrived. It was nearly 50 degrees for the first few days, and then we had a huge snow storm. In about 24 hours, it snowed nearly 2 feet of snow. On average, the daily temperature is about 30 degrees and it is in the 20's in the evening.

Questions from Leitchfield:
1. What language do they speak? They speak Kazak and Russian. However, Kazakhstan is the home to over 114 nationalities. Kazakhs make up the majority at 53%. Russians 50%, Ukrainians 3.7%, Uzbeks (2.5%), Germans (2.4%). The remaining are from many different nationalities.
2. What type of education system do they have? They have public and private schools. The also have technical colleges and four year universities.
3. What are some of their traditional holidays? New Years January 1, Russian Orthodox Christmas January 7, Russian Orthodox New Year January 13, Men's Day February 23, Women's Day March 8, Nauryz "New Days" (spring festival) March 22, Russian Easter ("Paskha") between March 22 and April 25, Solidarity Day May 1, Victory Day May 9, Constitution Day August 30, Republic Day October 25, Independence Day December 16th.
4. What type of government do they have? Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. Basically, KZ is moving towards a democratic government (like US) but currently the presidency is a bit more authoritative. They are working toward fair and free elections, but they do not offer their citizens the same freedoms that we have in the US.

I will continue to answer your list of question during each e-mail update. The next e-mail update will be in May. In the meantime, please send me a list of new questions.

Cheers from Kazakhstan,
Terry Young

Posted by youngterry at 8:58 PM CST
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Tuesday, 24 February 2004
First Entry in My World Wise School Program (Pen Pal) Blog
Mood:  energetic
In 5 days I will leave for my 27-month adventure in Kazakhstan. The Peace Corps application process started nearly 17-months ago, but my first consideration of joining the Peace Corps began nearly 10 years ago while in graduate school. Now, I am saying my last goodbyes and making my final preparations for my 27-month adventure. I spent most of January finalizing everything at work (Targetbase) and making all of my final preparations to leave Dallas (selling my car, making donations, finishing taxes etc.). I spent the first two weeks of February in Koh Samui, Thailand for a bit of relaxation on the beach, and I am spending the last two weeks in Kentucky with friends from college and my family.

I depart on Sunday, February 29, 2004 from Louisville, Kentucky and arrive in Washington DC around 12:30 PM. I will then spend the next two days in training and meeting the 24 other volunteers that will accompany me to Kazakhstan. We will all depart DC on March 2, 2004 and arrive in Almaty on March 4, 2004. Once I arrive in Almaty, we will meet our new KZ families (our homes for the next 12 weeks) and begin our language (Russian and Kazakh) and technical training. It is my understanding that I will attend class each day just like you. Our teachers will be native speakers and have strong skills in teaching foreign languages (I will let you know how the classes work and how much homework that I have each night :).

Here is what I know so far about my assignment -

We will be the first group of volunteers to participate in the Non Government Organization NGO) development program in Kazakhstan. The focus will be on business advising and economic stimulation within an NGO. The main objective of the NGO development program is for volunteers to provide technical support by transferring business skills to the local people, so that they will eventually be able to contribute to the economic development of their own communities. Basically, I will go to work everyday (9 to 5) and help locals learn new skills to improve their business ability. I will receive my official NGO assignment and geographic location (city) in early May. In my new city, I will spend the first 6-months living with a new KZ family (I will keep everyone updated on my family and living conditions via this blog). In November, I will have the opportunity to decide whether to continue to live with my KZ family or move to my own apartment.

If all goes well, I will be able to speak several Russian phrases and will be able to manage my way around the city, without too many problems, by the end of the 12-weeks pre-training (May 15, 2004).

I will continue to update this blog as often as possible, but keep in mind that it may be difficult to find an Internet connection (I will need to update the blog at a local Internet cafe since it is unlikely that my family will have access the Internet). My plan is to try and update the blog once each week. Take care and please send letters and questions as we begin to learn about Kazakhstan together.

Posted by youngterry at 8:31 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 February 2004 8:08 PM CST
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