Sunday, June 29, 2014

The goodbyes begin

Several people from my A-100 class left for post this past week. Several others have finished their time at FSI and are doing their other stuff (leave, consultations, outside-of-FSI-training) and will hit the road within the next few weeks. It's funny how going from post to post is bittersweet and nostalgic, but this is the first time I really feel like I am leaving something. My language training is the last FSI training I get and I'm in it right now. There are several people I'm making plans to see and I know this time will be the last time for a while. My mom is coming this week to spend time with the kids - unless she comes to Astana, when Terry drives her to the airport at the end of her week here it will be the last time we see her until R&R.

On the upside, we found our Rockville version of shashlik in the park. There's a wonderful water ice place across the street from a playground. Sugar the kids all up with a frozen treat then work it off. Meet up with friends and it's a party. We'll be there once a week until we leave!

Monday, June 23, 2014


Last week I began my six little weeks of Russian language training that is supposed to get me to the level I need to be to be allowed to go to post and talk to people in their (likely but not 100% certainly) native tongue. I will have enough knowledge not to accidentally start an international incident, but not enough to really have a deep, meaningful conversation. My hope is that by going out there and talking to people frequently enough the ability will deepen and eventually I will speak well enough to hold my own in the kind of conversation Terry and I have over the dinner table - in Russian. This may take longer than my two year posting!

But I digress.

Language training at FSI is a unique and interesting experience. Because we are learning language for our jobs, we discuss current events and political theory rather than the price of apples in the market or where one can find an English speaking hockey instructor (However, if anyone knows where to find an English speaking hockey instructor in Astana, please let me know!). Yes I can say "according to experts, earthquakes may be caused by drilling for gas" (aka fracking, but I don't know how to say fracking), but not "Oh look my child is hitting yours with a shovel. Let's stop that."

When I went to Tver for my two week intensive study, I had four hours one-on-one with an instructor. Including rewriting my notes and doing assigned homework, I spent another 2-3 hours at least on instructive learning. I napped every day. At FSI we have 5 hours of classroom instruction - just me and one other student with our instructor - and an hour in the language lab doing online exercises. We have homework every night. Our teacher told us to spend no more than 2 hours on the homework, if it took longer just don't worry about it. At the end of every class hour we have a quick break and each time the teacher says "pereorif" I look up surprised that so much time has already passed. However, there's no napping.

My commute is between 45-75 minutes and I have to drive because of the schedule - the last shuttle to the metro is 10 minutes after my last class and it's a long walk or expensive cab ride if I miss it. I barely participate in family activities anymore such as dinner, doing laundry or running errands. I desperately miss taking naps. I have resigned myself to a six week daily coffee habit and hope my clothes still fit at the end of it.

This may seen like complaining but I only mean to paint the picture of what the day looks like. Well, the commute part was complaining. If it weren't for my nervousness about the exam at the end of all this I would be celebrating - my only complaint is that I don't have more time!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Inching closer

I have Travel Orders!And a housing assignment! And flight reservations, sort of!  Last week I was able to apply for my and Zoltan's passports. I scheduled my packout. I am trying to find time to meet with the ever-popular Ash at CWT to make our flight arrangements - hoping it will be next week. I went to get the first round of shots this week. (ick!)

I met my Desk Officer and got an initial briefing on what's up in Kazakhstan. I started my job-specific training and am learning how to do my job.

We have a bunch of construction and smaller house projects to complete in the next two weeks. Terry will be assisted by a professional for some of it, and his father (also a professional, but much cheaper) for other parts of it.

We are totally moving the ball forward.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Memorial Day Part 2

The only reason I'm making a second post is Terry has antiquated views of how many photos one can attach to a single blog posting and I am trying to honor his request. So, where we were? Ah yes, the fun we had on Memorial Day weekend.

Our friends' kids shoot bows and our friend has brought all the necessary equipment, including a smaller "starter" bow and arrow set. Both of the kids loved it, prompting us to purchase a set of our own. Check out the look on Alex's face after she shot.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Memorial Day Part 1

For Memorial Day we ended up going to a Pennsylvania cabin ... but not ours. Our friends have a cottage so we went to spend the weekend there. Now we are slightly regretting our cabin doesn't have a stream running through the property, because although Zoltan does not love the "quiet woods" he took to the stream like a duck to water (couldn't resist).

The kids played by the water or in the field around the cottage almost unsupervised for hours. Of course, they resurfaced every hour or so to devour a good portion of the fruit we'd all brought. At night we roasted marshmallows and our friends had glowstick bracelets for the kids to wear like little portable nightlights.

One important lesson we learned this weekend: Alex is not quite up to the foreign service threshold. The cottage's pump went so to wash our hands in the bathroom we had a couple of buckets of water from the stream. To flush the toilet we then poured water from those buckets into the bowl. She expressed her displeasure.