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Spotsylvania resident Jason McIntosh experiences the culture--and food--of Kazakhstan as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Jason McIntosh and other Peace Corps volunteers worked
Courtesy oF JASON McINTOSH
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McIntosh, who is single and has a home near Lake Anna, has always been the uncle who took care of nieces and nephews. He also gave financial help after one brother died of brain tumors and another suffered the same.
"Kids need shoes, so you have to work," he said.
He never forgot his dream of living in a foreign country and experiencing another culture.
He signed up for the Peace Corps as a thirtysomething, and wound up in a republic with more than 100 different nationalities. That includes ethnic Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Germans and Koreans.
Volunteers like McIntosh are uncommon but not unheard of, said Nathan Arnold, a Peace Corps spokesman in Washington.
Currently, about 9 percent of volunteers are in their 30s. Most are about a decade younger.
The Peace Corps is looking to recruit more Americans "outside the college set" as its mission changes, Arnold said.
These days, those who go to developing countries focus on technology and business development as much as food and education.
McIntosh delved into all those areas. He helped write grants for school equipment, and he taught language lessons. He showed groups how to arrange business conferences and publish educational journals.
McIntosh left after 13 months because of his parents' failing health. Most volunteers stay twice that long, but McIntosh still believes he made a difference.
Those he met certainly had an impact on him.
For most of his visit, McIntosh stayed with a Korean mother and her two daughters. They all spoke Russian, the official language since the days of Soviet domination.
There's a movement to change street and city names back to the national language of Kazakh, and McIntosh learned a few Kazakh greetings as well.
The person who got the best language lesson was his host, Elena Kim.
"She ended up speaking much better English than I did Russian," he said.
The Kim apartment was in the small city of Taldykorgan in the eastern part of the country, near the border with China.
It had most modern conveniences, but the electricity went off whenever the wind blew or it rained.
McIntosh also visited some mountainous areas of the country, where the cold wind tore through the four or five layers of clothing he wore.