Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Want a spoon for that?"


My host mother is quite the character.  Towering at 5'4, she is a Kazakh language professor at the local university during the academic year and is a great conversationalist. She gives great feedback and always offers me food, help and guidance. She walks around the house in colorful, lightweight, sweeping dresses that are reminiscent of the 1970s. Sometimes when I come home from school, she's in her bath robe. As I described in my last post, the Kazakh conception of privacy, public goods and proper etiquette is extremely different than the American definition. Experiencing such cultural dichotomies the beauty of a foreign home stay experience.  Accordingly, I'd like to share three hysterical anecdotes from my host mother:

1.     At meals, family members eat directly from the condiments (butter, jam, cheese, etc.) – there is no serving utensil for condiments like on American dinner tables. As we were cleaning up dinner the other night, I picked up a bowl of jam and was about to put it in the fridge when she asked me, "do you want a spoon for that?" After taking a second to pause, I politely declined the offer...and then laughed.
2.     That same dinner, we ate a chicken, potato, cabbage and vegetable dish. The chicken meat was left on the bone, cut into inch-size pieces scattered throughout the dish. I attempted to use my fork and knife to cut the meat of the bone, when my mom declares, "forget utensils…just use your hands," and then proceeds to take a caveman-style bite off her chicken.
3.     As we were gathering for dinner, I indicated I needed to reach the trash can to dispose of my gum. She offers her bare hand. I initially resist and look for a napkin to first place my gum. She again offers her hand…so I hand her my gum (straight from my mouth and hand) and she throws it out. On a similar note, when she was cutting a cucumber the other day, she tasted a slice and after chewing it for a good 30 seconds, she realized the cucumber was sour, spit out the chopped-up, green, saliva mash, and handed it to her niece (a university student who stays in the house), who without hesitation, takes the wad of cucumber and throws it out.

Initially, this all seemed extremely bizarre, and it still is in many respects. But that's Kazakh family culture! J

Yesterday, Roberto and I exchanged host mom stories. I'm taking the liberty to share one of his…when his mom gave him a tour of the house when he moved in, she told him that the door to the toilet room is broken and does not shut properly, but not to worry because when you sit down on the toilet your legs block the door.

Ahhh the crazy things host moms say!

I'm going to visit Panfilov Park and Cathedral on Saturday. On Sunday, I will visit Barakholka market located on the outskirts of Almaty with my peer tutor, who is an ethnic Dungeon of the Hui tribe. She is sooo sweet and I'm so excited to get to know her, practice Russian, and gain insights into her culture and worldview!


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