We have been here in Kazakhstan now for about three weeks. Both Chris and I are feeling more comfortable getting around and although our Russian is minimal and down right terrible, we’re both jumping right in and trying our best to communicate with people. The kids at camp love when we try to speak with them in Russian. They laugh at us when we try but are always so helpful in correcting our mistakes. As June comes to an end, the Drive spring camp is ending and we have just about a week before things get crazy with daily basketball camp all day, everyday. July is going to be a crazy busy month, so it is been nice to have a little free time this week. The calm before the storm.
Tuesday, June 22, 2014
For the next two Tuesdays and Thursdays we will be going to work with kids at a summer English camp. It is an all day, 1-month camp, focused on teaching the kids how to speak English. We will be running our own English camp at the end of July called English in Action. Our participation in the camp this week was an advertisement for our own camp and another way for us to connect with the community. We played games with the kids, such as kickball, freeze tag, basketball, soccer, all while encouraging them to speak English while playing. Using games and sport is a great way for us to connect with kids and teach them easy phrases that they can hold on to.
For example, we discussed the word “team” with the kids, the words definition, what it meant while playing sports, and gave them easy ways to remember the word like, “Together Every Achieves More” and “Together Every Athlete Matters”. They are all like little sponges and just are full of questions for us about America. The kids also love to teach us Russian words and phrases.
Thursday, June 24, 2014
Today at practice, a boy brought a kitten he happened to find on the street. Lots of stray cats and dogs here. The Russian for cat is “koshka”. Anyone who knows Chris knows how he feels about kittens. The little thing stole his attention for sure.
Saturday, June 26, 2014
Today was the last day of Drive Street, the spring camp for kids that we have been doing three days a week. It was a game and competition day, so we played basketball games like dribble tag, knock out, and hot shot. Chris and I, as well as the other coaches jumped in a played too so that was a lot of fun. Basketball is not on the level that it is in the United States here in Kazakhstan but the kids that come to camp just love it and you can tell how much they just want to play. There are some gym rats here for sure. It has been pretty awesome to share in our love of this sport with kids in a place where basketball is just developing and become a tool for reaching kids and communities in a positive, fun environment. They are all so thankful to have us here and it is very humbling.
It has been cool for me as well to get a chance to play with the girls that come to camp. On average, there are about 25-30 kids that show up each day for camp and of those kids, there are usually 1-3 girls. Having been one of the only girls playing pick up with the boys when I was growing up, it’s been great for me to play and talk with these girls (they happen to speak English!) and encourage them to keep doing what they are going, as it will only make them better basketball players.
Sunday, June 29 2014
Today, Chris and four other Drive coaches were invited to play flag football at nearby school. It was about 20 minutes outside the city of Almaty. It rained on us a bit but the view was beautiful. It was nice to get out of the city and see more of Kazakhstan and see a different view of the mountains.
Monday, June 30
Another American joined us this weekend for the summer. Rico played basketball at the University of South Carolina Aiken and this is actually his second trip to Kazakhstan. He is a great player and coach and it’s been great to add another young person to our group. Rico, Chris, and a few other guy coaches started Drive Pro this week. This camp is a 3-week camp, 3 days a week, for guys who want personal coaching and training. It’s targeted at high school/college-age guys. It is more focused and intense than the camps for the young kids. Unfortunately, there is not a strong enough interest to have girls involved, but hopefully that will change.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
We had our second to last day of English camp today. The last 20 minutes of our time with the kids are free play. We give them the choice of playing basketball or soccer. A small group of girls asked if they could play with me on one of the side hoops. They wanted to just shoot and talk with me. One of the girls who is 11 years old recently visited Texas. I asked her what she thought about the United States. She thought for a moment and then said, “Everyone is so happy there. They don’t fight and have nothing to worry about.” It surprised me and I didn’t expect her to say something like that. It made really stop and think about not only where I come from, but also the girl’s perspective. There is always something to be thankful for.
Thursday, July 2, 2014
I have been staying with a lovely family outside the city, but this week I was able to move into an apartment right in Almaty with one of the female coaches. Her name is Luda and she Drive Chief Administrator. She played basketball at the both the university and professional level in Kazakhstan and has worked with underprivileged kids in orphanages and villages throughout Almaty. We are the same age and it has been awesome to get to know her. And she speaks better English than I do, so that is very helpful!
As most people know, I am a nurse. It takes a lot to bother me when it comes to bodily functions and as anyone who has a nurse in their lives knows, I am not afraid to talk about it. I thought I would share some differences in bathroom etiquette here in Kazakhstan. Here it goes.
This is a “squatty potty”. Not all public places have public bathroom here. In some cases, you may even have to pay not only to use the potty, but for some toilet paper. It is not always provide. Just because there may be a toilet or a squatty potty, does not mean there is toilet paper. Also, no flushing that paper! It goes in the trash.
This squatty potty is at the gym where we have had practices for the last two weeks. Some of us found out the bathroom differences the hard way. I won’t name names, but we all carry some TP in our bags now.
More to come soon!