Mark and I at a local wedding.
The Aktobe mosque.
Inside a yurt at the beach.
Inside my main bus.
French meatloaf at a cafe - not sure what makes it French, though.
"Kurt" balls: sour milk dried up into balls; a nasty bar snack.
Samsa - yummy, flaky, triangular grilled cheese sandwiches sold on the street.
Me and Melissa playing in the woods near my crib.


Touching the handprint of Kazakhstan's prez, the cowboy themed party in Aktobe, Halloween Day at an American holiday-themed summer camp with other buds in Balkash, Baiterek tower in Astana (capital), frisbee at a city park, hangin at the embassy on July 4th, and playin at the beach in Balkash (that's Johnny).

Summer here is so fun. It's gorgeous here - hot summers , like Michigan, but with less rain and humidity. Across the street there are tons of gardens and a river thats sweet to swim in during the day. When I'm sweaty after playing frisbee in the city, and return at night, I just flop in the river and wash up. It's peaceful. I've got some buds that I hang with some nights. I've been gettin really into 17-19th century American history (and, eek, the TV show, Glee).


I love these songs:
Altynbek's "Akkuymsyn ansgan"
Yerbolat's "Men kazakhpyn"





Rascal boys that climb trees around my apartment and yell my name out the window while I'm sleeping.

Some 5th grade girls.

My good friend, Melissa, and my favorite spot in my town.


the "moonsha" (bathing sauna).


my new building: i live on the second floor.
new bedroom: pretty simple and cozy.
new market that just opened: total chaos at the grand opening - old grannies stampeding thru the door, babies crying.... this market is a big deal for our village.
my new bike!: kinda a clunker, but cool. usually only old men and little boys ride bikes, but..i couldnt resist.
other stuff in my village: a student at my school and his lil pup, some cottages across the street, and a lil fish from the river nearby.
a mausoleum i visited in turkistan: went on vacation to shymkent.


I finally experienced the much anticipated branch-wacking ritual during my weekly sauna bath. Two Russian dudes appeared while I was bathing and the older one actually spoke kazakh, which was super convenient. After a few questions in the dry sauna, he told me to lay on my stomach. I did as he was told and got whipped with a thick branch full of dry leaves. He whipped me head-to-toe, told me to turn around and repeated it on the front of my body. It was cool, for obvious reasons. Then he made me follow him to the bathing quarter where he dumped a bucket of cold water over me. Minutes later, he gave me one of his beers and the three of us sat naked, talking and sipping on beer and tea.
Then he invited me over for dinner. I had tea with his family that night and some of his children spoke some kazakh because they grew up in a predominantly kazakh village. It was crazy to hear them speak it. The son invited me to go fishing with him this summer.