Alliteration Abounds in Almaty with my blogging about the end of a superb March day that would only happen in April if in Minnesota. Many events came together yesterday to make it a very authentically Central Asian day. First, I met the MBA students I will work with for the next two months, next I met up with my husband for lunch outside before I went grocery shopping for a picnic later with an American family of six. Then, we had a going-away party at the Language Center for Elaine, then the new building dedication where I finally met the president of our university. My friends and I had a picnic on the ground before we entered the Great Hall to witness the Kazakh Contest of eight non-native speakers of Kazakh compete in their introducing themselves, singing or dancing and besting each other in reciting proverbs or sayings.
Amazingly a Ukrainian beat out the other seven contestants and had the best audience appeal, as well. Maybe it is not so amazing that Nicolay, a good looking young man with Ukrainian roots won. He would understand about nationalism and the importance of learning the Kazakh language in Kazakhstan because Ukraine is struggling with some of the same issues.
As I was walking home from the evening contest, a tragedy could have happened before my very eyes. I saw presumably a father who held a soccer ball yelling at two little boys who were quickly running away from him near a highly trafficked street. It seemed he was telling them to stop but I wasn’t sure. I could have body blocked the two 5 or 6 year old boys but I didn’t know the context of why they weren’t paying attention to the shouting man. Maybe he wasn’t their father. What I also couldn’t understand was why he wasn’t running after them to the busy street.
Then I saw the reason, there was a little toddler girl walking about 10 meters behind him. The young father didn’t want to carry her AND the ball while trying to catch up to his fleet footed sons. I stayed with the little girl as she was picking up cigarette butts to put them in her mouth. I did what any mother would do, I took them out of her mouth and exclaimed “Bad” in Russian. I tried to engage her in conversation with my abysmal grasp of her language and asked to hold her hand. She resisted which I thought a good thing since I was a stranger after all. Maybe her mother tongue was Kazakh, in any case, I was acting as her “mother protector” while the father-sons chase went on.
Simultaneous to this, I heard car brakes and honks as the little boys had almost managed to cross the busy street of four lanes unhindered. The father was still shouting after them as they were going to their car which he had unlocked with his remote. I’m only guessing because I was intent on keeping my eye on the little girl so SHE wouldn’t be running after her daddy. Once the boys were safely on the other side, the relieved father came back to where I was standing next to his daughter. I think he was thanking me in Kazakh while I was apologizing to him in Russian. He was all smiles for me even though he must have felt shaken that one of the boys could have been hit by an oncoming car. I’m convinced that once the four family members were all in the confines of their car, that the father would give his two charges a good talking to about road safety. I can only guess the mother must have been on some night out while he was left with three children to tend to. Logically the father took the little family to the big soccer field to kick around a ball with them. Whew! A memorable time of fun ended on happy note afterall.
It truly was an amazingly authentic, almost April day in Almaty yesterday.