Right going to try and update you on the last 10 days in the 46 mins I have left to use this computer so please excuse any mistakes as I probably won't have time to read this through or maybe even finish it!
Friday 20th March
GX began yesterday. I was really nervous and threw a couple of tantrums about packing, but once I was on the train and arrived at the youth hostel in Stratford-Upon-Avon with all the other UK volunteers the nerves melted away. Though I can't tell you why we are training in Stratford when we will be based in Stanstead!? It didn't seem real that the Kazakh (technically I should day Kazakhstani as this refers to people from the country where as Kazakh refers to the ethnic group so I'm told but Kazakh is quicker to type!) volunteers would be arriving the next day, but they did. They took us by surprise arriving an hour eariler than expected while we were giving our presentations. The speedy arrivial probably saved most people a good deal of nerves. We immediately noticed a cultural difference as the Kazakh men only shook hands with the UK men and the Kazakh women were greatly surprised when the UK girls pitched in to help them carry their bags up the stairs. Although when I was on my way to Stratford I had four separate men help me with my bag, I guess it looked as heavy as it was! We hastily planned a welcome to the UK which consisted of a short intro into where all the UK volunteers live, a short history of Britain, British foods (Kendal mint cake, Cadburys Chocolate and Shortbread) and English country dancing. I'm still nervous about meeting the host home but Sunday does have that faraway unreal feel to it at the moment.
Saturday 21st March
Already feeling the need to spend just 5 minutes alone. This programme is intense! Today we developed the rules of the training and gave everyone roles. A task I stupidly volunteered to chair. It took over an hour to decide who would make tea! We ended with all the guys making tea and washing up, a decision that surprised some of the Kazakh boys and led to the UK humourously being described as a feminist country. We then discussed Culture and Identity most interesting each group chose 5 words to describe their culture. The UK volunteers chose Individual, Proud, Stubborn, Sensible and Hard working. The Kazakhs chose Hospitable, Hard working, Traditional, Respectful and Proud. We then found out our host homes and volunteer placements. My host home counterpart will be Gulnara and we will be living with a lady named Ilma in Harlow. My volunteer placement is with an organisation called catch 22 (http://www.catch-22.org.uk/) which offers undersupported young people a range of services designed to give them emotional and practical support to lead secure and fulfilled lives. I will be volunteering there with Olga. I'm a bit hesitant about the entry to employment programme that we will be invovled in. I'm not a great role model. A graduate no where near to starting her career and without even a clear idea of what it might be, other than 'the civil service'. Finally we were treated to a Kazakh New Year celebration where we had chocolate thrown at us, ate some horrible dried cows milk, listened to the national anthem and watched a traditional Kazakh dance. Which is much more graceful than English country dancing!
Sunday 22nd March
Today we talked about cross cultural working which involved a demonstration of a typical London tube journey and Shymkent bus ride, and a discussion about what makes us uncomfortable. I was surprised when the UK guys chose gossip as anyone who knows me will know how I love to gossip! We were briefed on sexual harrassment, the individual code of contact (bascially don't get drunk, don't take drugs, don't flash money around, don't have sex, don't use the host homes computer and don't ride a motercycle) and child protection policy where the Kazakh were astounded by our strict child protection laws. Finally the HIV and AIDS policy where the trainer held up a huge bag of condoms (even though we are not meant to form 'exculsive relationships') and some of the Kazkhs and even the Uk volunteers looked embarrassed. This was followed by a three hour bus journey to Bishops Stortford and Harlow where we slept and sang Queen songs alongside Old McDonald. Gulnara and I met Ilma. She seems very nice but there was alot of information to take in that night as she looks after her Grandson in London 3 days a week and was going the next day. All I really remember is that the heating can be 21.5 when we are up and about during the day but must be turned down to 18.5 at night and when we are out.
Global Xchange Team 93
At our training in Stratford-upon-Avon
I'm outa time will have to update on Monday through Saturday another time! Finger crossed I will be able to use the computer at my placement.