Monday, June 6, 2011


Lights are a problem here in Kazakhstan, as I found out a few months after my first arrival. The light in the bathroom had gone out. A co-worker had recently bought some extra bulbs, so she gave me some. I tried them, and nothing happened. So I figured maybe faulty wiring. But the hallway light was good enough, and so I did nothing more.

Then the hallway light went out, so I talked to the principal, who had the secretary call the electrician. He came by, looked at the lightbulb, shook his head and spoke to me in Russian, then left and came back in 5 minutes with lightbulbs that worked. Apparently, my co-worker's lightbulbs were either so old they didn't work, or they were the wrong kind. The electrician seemed to think I was crazy.

So I've been wary ever since. If a lightbulb goes out, I carry around the exact kind with me until I find a store that sells that bulb.

Because, almost every light here uses a different kind of bulb. Very few use the standard-type bulb that most lights in the US use. Most lights here are "fancy" to some degree or another, making it a pain to find lightbulbs. (Every apartment seems to have at least one chandelier. Mine has 3. Plus "track lighting.")

Most large stores here sell some lightbulbs, but very few and not a great selection. So, yeah, if you need lightbulbs, it can be a hassle.

I went most this year without having to worry. I have 5 lights (4 bulbs and one fluorescent) in my bathroom and slowly, one by one, they went out, until right before Christmas I was starting to worry. But during Christmas vacation my landlords came by and replaced them, so I was happy.

Then, again, they started to go out. I carried a lightbulb from the bathroom with me for weeks, hoping to find a replacement. I brought it into school and showed my assistant and a student, who didn't think I'd be able to find it at the nearest supermarket. Ugh.

Then, I went to Artyom--which is about 40 - 60 minutes away by bus or walking, maybe 10 minutes by driving--and I was in a store with the largest selection of lightbulbs I'd seen here (maybe a dozen different kinds, if that many). I searched my purse--uh-oh! I'd left the lightbulb at school.

Finally, I went to the school secretary, with 3 or 4 different lightbulbs from different lights that needed replacing. Please, could she have someone go out and buy these bulbs for me, and could she possibly have someone replace some of them for me? (I couldn't figure out how to get the bathroom lightbulbs out.)

She said no problem.

Within two days every burnt-out lightbulb in my house had been replaced. And the guy who went to my place also went to the other teachers' apartments, checking and replacing their bulbs. So everyone was quite happy.

That's what my school does--helps us poor teachers who sometimes feel at our wits' ends dealing with things in a foreign country. It's the minor things that bug you, and the minor kindnesses that make your day so much better.

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