Saturday, June 23, 2012

ACCESSing Bashkortostan

A bit about my work in the ACCESS camp in Salavat, Bashkortostan...

Last week, I took my final trip on that familiar Chelyabinsk-Ufa train route to go to work at the summer camp in the nearby city of Salavat. A friend, Bulat, met me in Ufa and his friends drove me there, free of charge.
Salavat is a city named after the Bashkir hero, Salavat Yulaev. He had fought in the Pugachev rebellions when he was younger than I am. Some years ago, the city of Salavat had not much there to speak of, in terms of money or attractions (this was what I was told). Then, GAZPROM came. Now everything is state-of-the-art... all the schools, athletic centers, you name it, it has been repaired and/or rebuilt or completely created from scratched, and GAZPROMized with new generous investments from the company into the Bashkir Republic.... whether you like this company or not, the city does look pretty awesome.

More awesome than the city itself was the hospitality of the people I met there. The head teacher and leader of the ACCESS program, Guliya Shaykhutdinova, took me with her family around town and out to eat in a nearby city, and basically took me under her wing for the whole week with making things as smooth and easy for me as possible. The day after we arrived, we met with all her students and attended the Bashkir festival of Sabantui... a large gathering with singing, dancing, wooden pole climbing, horse riding, and kumyz drinking (see first Bashkortostan post about kumyz)

Oh... what is ACCESS? It's an advanced English program for underprivileged high school students. I regularly work with the ACCESS groups in Chelyabinsk... the main one is the group I have had since September. This camp, with all due respect to the Chelyabinsk program... was a lot more well organized with regular attendance. The students were attentive, enthusiastic, and very sweet. Each day we had our lesson and our meals, and then in the evenings we would take a walk around the city and just share each others' experience and learn from each other about inter-cultural connections and differences.... but it would be mostly in Russian. (Fine with me, I wouldn't forget the language, and the children would understand more).

On the weekend before my departure, I went out to a club with a friend of Guliya's named Olesya, who was obsessed with the color green. She happened to have not only green eyes, but green sandals, a green car, green fingernails, a green handbag, green sunglasses... and I forgot what else. We met with some of her friends for chocolate and champagne (which, unfortunately, did not really agree with my stomach).
Bashkir night clubs play the best music of anywhere I have been.

The ACCESS week in Salavat unfortunately ended as fast as it began, and I took the very last beautiful Ufa-Chelyabinsk train ride (shared in a compartment with five Kazakh soldiers. Interesting time that was.) to return to our own (rather inconsistent) ACCESS camp schedule... and preparation for the Great Journey Home. More about that later.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Helen,
    We miss you! Have a nice time with your family!Guliya