February 16, 2003 - Cornell University: Jennifer Ann Fox in Kazakhstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kazakstan : Peace Corps Kazakhstan : The Peace Corps in Kazakstan: February 16, 2003 - Cornell University: Jennifer Ann Fox in Kazakhstan

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, February 16, 2003 - 5:45 pm: Edit Post

Jennifer Ann Fox in Kazakhstan

Jennifer Ann Fox in Kazakhstan

Jennifer Ann Fox
Graduate student, ecology and evolutionary biology
Hometown: Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Peace Corps: 1995-97

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN -- Kazakhstan was not yet on most maps. There were no former Peace Corps volunteers and very few foreigners who had been there. I only knew I would not have a "typical" Peace Corps experience -- I lived in a city of more than 1.5 million, wore business clothes to work, my office had computers, a photocopier, fax and e-mail and sometimes even electricity.

But my experience was typical in other ways -- like a Peace Corps volunteer anywhere in the world I worked and lived as the people in that country did and hoped that by being there I would have some positive effect on at least a few people.

I amassed a vast catalog of stories, indexed by topic: Strange Things I Ate or Drank; Kindness of Strangers; Potentially Disastrous but Ultimately Humorous Language Gaffs; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; the KGB and Me; Postal and Visa Problems.

Most significant to me was the first day that not one single thing seemed strange or extraordinary. I woke at 6 a.m. to the tune of two women in the courtyard singing the list of dairy products they were selling. I boiled water on the stove to wash with. In the morning I met with students and faculty, answered the phone and waited for the electricity to come on. I was called down to the academy rector's office to drink vodka toasts in honor of a minor government official's visit.

I spent two hours unsuccessfully trying to renew my residence permit and spoke English for the first time when I met friends at an English club at 3 p.m.

After work I walked to the bazaar, pushing past old women selling family treasures to supplement their meager pensions and men selling meat from blankets spread in the sun to get to the truck of cabbage and the kiosks selling hot bread. I bought the only avocado for sale, because it was the first (and last) one I had seen in Kazakhstan.

I did the rest of my shopping while a techno version of the song "Hotel California" blared from a kiosk selling pirated cassette and video tapes. I fixed dinner with my Italian and Cambodian neighbors before watching the evening's installment of "Dallas" with my building's attendant. Before going to sleep, I read a brand new, three-month-old copy of Newsweek. And for the first time I realized that, for a while at least, this was home.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kazakhstan; PCVs in theField - Kazakhstan



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