Archive for August 31, 2007

Problems and Praises after Week ONE!

 I haven’t written a “Foreign Report” for awhile, but one is due, as of this morning I will have been one week in Almaty – a busy week, in which a lot of problems have been solved.  I’ve been thinking of the scripture that says, “He will not give you more than you can bear, and when tempted to sin (read “blow up,” cry out in pain, quit, etc.) He will provide a way out.  Some “ways out”: 

Problem #1 I have replaced the original SIM card I bought here; something happened to block it, I think the result of my first call being a roaming call to Paul on his cell here; Paul’s phone number is a Kiev number.  After that I could not call/receive from local Almaty numbers.   Praise also that I have a local cell phone.  The old number got corrupted I think, when I called Paul’s number in Kiev.  I think when I called it, it hung up my account.  It was cheap to switch to a new phone number and not too many people had the old one.  It did create problems of communication with Paul, our sharing an apartment and one key.   

Problem #2  Praise that I now have ” half a key.”  “Half: in that I can lock the door from the outside when I leave. That’s good. What is not good is that should Paul leave first and I’m inside, and he locks the door from the outside, well, I get the day off, because I’d be locked in It’s a complicated lock and apparently not just anyone can copy the key accurately. I’ve had three made now for a yield of 3: 1/2 !  But, we are so much better off than we were. And this has forced me to keep my nose to the grindstone in the office.  I am storing one suitcase and the projector in carry on case, inside that (large Samsonite) There is more room here in the office than at Paul’s and I will soon bring the other Samsonite here. 

Problem #3 There is a security problem in the offices, and I may read what I can on the locks, take pictures of  the suitcases and see if we can get Keys sent by Samsonite before you leave.  Also, I have apparently lost my reading glasses. I think at the hotel, in the bedsheets. They say they didn’t find them, but the case they were in was “too good”  I suspect, and when found by housekeeping they were not turned in. But, perhaps they will still show up. 

Praise 1) A tolerable passage, over 24 hours, of twelve time zones.  This was aided by experience of making the two overnight flights 3 times a year during the time I was with USDA here, and back with you in DC during your vacations.  Solutions: Sleep on the plane, drugged if necessary and not feeling like you have to stay up for the “free Movies” or food.  Melotonin at about bed time in the destination place.  Stay up between flights, and KEEP going once in Almaty although it is time to go to bed at home. This pretty much worked. 

Praise 2) I arrived after my classes had already met once or twice. There are 4 of them, and I meet all of them on Monday and Wednesdays, but only 2 on Friday.  I taught this past Monday and Wednesday: in total about 300 students.  I took their pictures, established a LOT of office hours, and am beginning to understand them, and they me.  It is tough duty. Experience in Ukraine will help. They seem to be “good kids.” My Russian helps. 

Praise 3)  A friend, Paul C., whom I met in church in Kiev when he is a “bachelor,” is sharing his apartment here, free. I buy meals out and groceries.  Kristina and I befriended Paul and his wife and two kids when they came to Kiev.  He is assigned her for three months, which covers the period until Kris comes on Oct. 12, TLW.   This meant I did not have to spend money, or more importantly, time finding a place to live, when I needed to adjust to teaching.

Paul is from New Zealand, married to a Philipino woman who has worked with Price Waterhouse  around the world.  We met in Kiev a year ago, and when he was transferred temporarily to Almaty, he invited me to stay with him.  It is a bit cramped, but a life (and money) saver, as it allows me time to concentrate on teaching and not house hunting.  I have a month to find a place for Kris and I. Again, what a blessing for Paul; without that provision, I would break. I think I am also good for him, someone to talk to, and I keep reminding him of the priority of his wife Cathy and communication with her. 

Praise 4) The school where I’m teaching did put me up for three days in the nearby Hotel Kazakhstan. This is where I was put up by the U.S.D.A. when I first arrived in 1992.  The U.S. Embassy was new then, and headquartered here. The “signals officer” stood on a balcony, pointed a disk at a passing satellite, and transmitted cables.  I can now use the hotel lobby’s wireless internet to send these messages. That is where I am now. Our university has a clinic for staff and family; also state insurance which we can pay for you, about $80 /year. That is good news. But my back is good and the feet tolerable, given the use of them. Praise! 

Praise 5) It is very warm which means that not having time to find sheets or covers does not bother me, sleeping at night on an air mattress. The mattress was priced at 10,000 tenge (about $80) but without really asking, readily provided at a 50% discount at $40. This is Central Asia, where bargaining is normal.  

Praise 6) We, more specifically Kristina, have many friends here. They have presented themselves for information on the community, help with finding future housing, needs to buy Tenge for dollars sent by their agents to our hometown bank, helping us both.  In the intermediate run, we hope to cooperate with them in doing “movies” like we did in Kiev. TLW.  We await the release of “Amazing Grace” the film released in theaters in America in early March. It is about John Wilburforce, the Parliamaentarian who worked so hard to end slavery in England and its trade in its colonies. 

 7) and the last I’ll list. It is a blessing to have this long weekend.  Constitution Day was yesterday, and this was extended for some into a 4 day weekend.   

Much has been accomplished, much yet to do. 

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