Friday, 28 October 2011

Kazakhstan - The first clown show

October 3-9

Hello everyone!

We have had a rather sporty weekend here in the backwaters of Central Asia. In school we play football every Friday afternoon after the children have departed for the weekend. It’s great fun and a thoroughly enjoyable release after a busy final day of the week. We also played on a brisk Sunday morning but, knowing what happens on Saturday night that will not be a regular occurrence.

Watching sport is also a popular pastime for the Kazakhs. Football and hockey (it’s not called ice hockey out here) are the most popular, but if you search hard enough you can find just about any sport. It seems a long time ago that we had to rely on the wonders of Skype to watch the Rugby World Cup now that we have found a bar near our new house that shows the games. Wales played Ireland on the Saturday. It started at 11am Kazakh time. The bar opens at 11.30am. Having a rugby-mad Russian-speaking friend we play football with has never been more important. Especially as Wales scored in the first five minutes. Even though we were late so missed that.

Kazakh fun fact: The Kazakh rugby team is 31st in the world, and were only two games away from qualifying for the World Cup.

That result put me in a good mood, but also made me wonder about home. I rarely miss home, and this isn’t one of those times, but having home comforts. One such comfort is a Sunday roast, and one of the teachers very kindly offered to make it for us. Roast beef, all the trimmings, gravy…and Yorkshire puddings. We were in heaven.

School is as entertaining and wonderful as ever. Over the last two weeks we have moved onto poetry, and made our children write & perform alternative versions of two poems: The Magic of the Brain by Jenny Joseph, and Vegan Delight by Benjamin Zephaniah. Their work on the former has made a great display outside the classroom, and the latter has educated me on yet more Kazakh food that I have to try. Their Kazakh interpretation of the verse goes like this, to a very fast beat:

Amazing chak-chak,
Saucy samsa,
Fantastic kazi
and lovely laghman,
Marvellous manti,
Yummy shuzhuk,
Juicy beshbarmak
and salty kurt.

The school had a surprise for the kids on the Thursday. Murat the Clown was going to perform a short set for us all at lunchtime before heading off to perform for President Nazarbayev. It was a bigger surprise when the clown, after being surrounded by female dancers in clothes that didn’t seem entirely appropriate for the target audience, asked for male adult members of the audience to assist in his next act. It wasn’t much of a surprise that I was coerced onto the stage.

It’s quite fortunate that I don’t seem to possess much in the way of dignity. The first thing the four volunteers had to do was perform a dance stated by the clown. The two teaching assistants did very funny and impressive local routines, whilst one of the older teachers – the one who made us Sunday lunch – performed a unique rumba. I was last. The dance I had to do? ‘Follow me’, whispers the crazy clown as I am motioned from backstage.

The dance I had to perform is called the lezginka, a traditional dance from this region of the world. It looks good on the video, but I think my version would have got more hits, simply because of how hilariously bad it was. Not to worry, though. Onto task two, where we are all sat facing in different directions on chairs that form a square. I’d seen this before. It is when the chairs are removed and you manage to balance using each other. I almost slipped, so it almost collapsed straight away. My kids are taking great joy in reminding me how red my face was from being unable to breathe and struggling to hold the weight. Never try this trick whilst wearing a tie. Ever.

After this we were taken to the front, assuming we would bow, take our applause and sit sheepily back in our seats. Oh no. Lots of Russian shouting from the clown, of which I recognised one part – ‘can-can’. Oh dear. We knew exactly what was going to happen. The music starts…3…2…1…ai-ai-ippy-ippy-ai-ai and all that. It was atrocious, and my class remind me about that on a daily basis. Still, it’s nice to show them that I’m not perfect, right?

So another week of working hard and clowning around in Kazakhstan. Part of me still feels like I have just arrived; part feels that I have been here for months. But every time I think this, a surprise makes me remember where I am in the world. Even if that surprise forces me to act like an idiot on stage.

Love you all


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