I now live in a large village that’s across the river from Oral. Now, I’m in Asia. It’s different from either of the other villages where I lived, but it also has many cows and more employed women than employed men. But the cows here don’t clog all the empty space in the village in the evenings, as they did in Budarina. It’s hardly even noticeable when they come home. And the unemployment and the location make Podstyopnaya less safe and therefore less friendly than the other two places I’ve lived. The streets here are much narrower than in Budarina, and there are clearly marked yards. There is a sewer system here (Budarina and Sovet didn’t have any such thing), and they even steam in the mornings, just like Chicago sewers. The mud is amazing. It would take Herman Melville to fully expound on the mudiness of West Kazakhstan Oblast, but suffice it to say that everything is slippery, and it’s best to watch other people walk around first so that you can tell where it’s ankle-deep, and where you’ll go fully under.
My house is part of a duplex. Our window-frames are Kelly green, and our neighbors’ are the usual bright blue. We share music, unintentionally, and I always jump when a guest knocks on their door.
The houses here are small, and nothing in the whole country is designed with heat or cold efficiency in mind. The ceilings are high, the central rooms are the kitchen and the hallway, which are often too warm, while the living room and two bedrooms are cold. Also, the windows leak. In the monsoons of autumn (yes, we're a bit north for monsoons, but it really is incredible) water leaks through the cracks in the walls and around the windows. So that my room smells of mildew.
Yards here, both front and back, are simply gardens. Right now, they are furrows of sopping mud with a few ruined vegetables scattered around. When I arrived, at the beginning of October, there were flowers everywhere. I think the flower to vegetable ratio is about 2 to 3. It will probably be quite pretty in spring (May, I’ve heard). So each house is a long, narrow property with a garden and a garbage heap in the front yard, a house in the middle, and the garden, outhouse, laundry, and stables/sheds in back. There is a house, however, with a gazebo made out of recycled goods, like Coke bottles. I’d really like to know the story for that one.
My house is on a street that dead-ends near the road to the airport, and on the other side is overcome with mud (shin-deep) and opens onto a field. Apparently the field is not used for grazing. On its far side, young couples are building new houses. There are wooden frames, and then they seem to have stuccoed/manured the walls. I don’t see any that are still working on the roof, so I’ll have to find out how they do that later. They begin with two rooms: a kitchen and a bed/living/TV room. There is an entrance that is sheltered on three sides. This is where you leave your shoes when you come in.