My host mother is pregnant with her third child. She works in a doctors’ office that has psychiatry, gynecology, dental, and something else that doesn’t match patients. My dad drives a cherry truck. He tells all dinner guests that I’m a bad daughter because I don’t eat enough, and then he tells them that I love mare’s milk, at which time I’m expected to deny it all and puff out my cheeks to show how fat I’ve gotten off of mare’s milk. Dimir, my brother is a progressive sort of 16-year-old. He’s extremely considerate, always the one to answer the door and sees my friends all the way to the gate. He even puts water on the burner for tea. It’s fairly unheard-of for any sort of male to deal with food preparation or clean-up. He plays the guitar and is obsessed with a Kazakh version of American Idol. Dinara, my sister, is 13. She’s shy around me, but very sweet. She’s usually with 3 or 4 younger cousins, babysitting. I like my host family a lot, and I like the various relatives who pop in. They’re all very nice, all of the women come over wearing housecoats. Women here, as soon as they come home from work (if they work) or shopping, put on a housecoat, and also funny socks. There are a lot of socks with strawberries, many green striped socks, some polka-dotted socks.
I’m not quite sure how many aunts there are, but I believe the number of grandmothers has leveled out at two. My host father’s (Kanuk) mother is a very good cook. She has a long gray braid. She likes soap operas. My host mother’s (Elmira) mother lives on the other side of town. She’s fantastic. Apa was wearing about 7 layers of green things, with a shiny green velvet vest on top. She wore a white wool headscarf, several skirts, funny socks, and boots of a make not seen for many a year. She’s very short. Apa delights everyone, intentionally, I think, but spends a lot of time wandering. She says she doesn’t have anything to do, but really means that no one is talking to her. She is the only person I’ve seen pray at a meal, except the head of the mosque who prayed at poor little Dastan’s circumcision feast (Dastan didn’t attend).
On Wednesday, Apa slept over at our house on Zhandosova street. Everyone had gathered to watch La Venganza (soap opera) in the TV room, and my cousin and my sister noticed that she had burrs all over her clothing. So, Apa stood in the middle of the room laughing, with her arms out as if she was at an airport security check, while Dinara and M . . (I can’t remember my cousin’s name!) picked the burrs off of her. Later on, as I was packing my Kazakh flashcards up for the night, Apa came into my room and sat on the bed to talk to me. She asked me when I would come back to Koktube 2 (Sovet). Apparently, I answered in all the wrong ways. My Kazakh wasn’t good enough to correct the misunderstanding. She laughed and said “We are talking about two different things,” then asked the same question. Twice my host-cousin came in the room and said “Grandma! Susan wants to go to sleep!” It was midnight before she left. Who knows where she got those burrs. I think she may be going feral. If she is, I’ll join her.