On Saturday, Irene's parents took us to the English-language library. It is called Eagilik, and is very nondescript--it looks like just any other ground-floor business that is located in any building. It is next to a travel agency.
Irene's mother drove, and I sat in the back with Irene, Sophia, and Irene's dad's assistant, a Kazakh man from Shmykent (southern Kazakhstan) who speaks Turkish, English, Kazakh and Russian (and maybe more! I didn't ask.)
We went into the library, which was small and cozy, and divided into two sections: the library, and the coffee shop. The coffee shop reminded both Sophia and me of coffee shops in downtown Greenville, and Sophia had chocolate cake and hot chocolate while I had broccoli-and-cheese quiche and tea. The chocolate cake was American-style and Sophia wolfed hers down. The workers had trouble making the hot chocolate, and the American owner had to explain it to them and then apologize to us. It was their first time making hot chocolate. I know I've seen it sold in the stores, so it shouldn't be that confusing!
There is a bookshelf in the coffee shop with books free for the taking, and a sign explaining this and requesting that books be donated if you have finished any. All the signs in the store were in English and Russian.
There also were some books, calendars, and shirts out for sale.
Irene and Sophia went to look at books. The selection is minimal, but far greater than the school library's! You must take off your shoes to be in this area, and there are some armchairs for relaxed reading. Sophia quickly found 2 animal books and a Scooby Doo DVD. I registered--registration fee is 800 Tenge for teachers. The owner came over and talked to me some. She is from the Washington, DC, area, but has plenty of relatives in South Carolina. Her brother went to Clemson.
She hadn't heard of my school, but mentioned another international school, and said that she had heard that they weren't really English-language, as they claimed to be, at least not in the early grades. Ours isn't either. In a way, that's good to know, I often think, what if I had applied for a job at one of the other international schools here? So it's good to know that that one might not be much better in terms of finding English-speaking friends for Sophia.
(Apart from my school and the one mentioned by the library owner, there is only one other international school. Later, I learned that this one is truly international, but not national--pretty much doesn't have any locals. It is also very small, inside a house. And they were hiring when I was applying, I remember seeing the school mentioned and thinking, "No, I'm not moving to Kazakhstan!" I saw my current school's ad in July, by then I had expanded my definition of what constituted "too far" away.)
The adults drank tea and read English-language newspapers while Irene and Sophia attempted to play. I had brought her Polly Pocket, and this intrigued Irene, and for a long time they sat side by side, dressing their dolls. Neither was fully ready to play at the same time as the other--and finally, when they started to play, they couldn't agree whether the dolls were under the sea or on land, and so they stopped playing!
Then Irene's parents drove us home.
It was wonderful to be in an English-language library, and to know where one is (I asked for and received bus directions). This is definitely a good find!
And hopefully Sophia and Irene will learn how to be friends!