Archive for September, 2007

Downtown = South; Uptown = North

It is cooler and a good day to take a break about town which I did.  Almaty has mountains to the east and the south, so it is a city on a slope.  “Down town means “South”.  Uptown is north, towards the mountains.  There’s a big difference from up to down, in altitude and in pollutants. 

When I lived here in 1992-1995, I sublet an apartment  where I lived on Derzhinsky Street, named for the first head of the Soviet KGB.  Now, all those Soviet names have been replaced by Kazakh national heroes.  Though, the locals still refer to the old names.   In some period of time soon I will move, probably “uptown” 20-30 minutes walk from our university depending upon whether I’m coming to work – a brisk down hill trot, or returning home, a slower trudge sometimes, I’m guessing. 

Right now, I am luxuriating in campus faculty housing, a stone’s throw from a very modern campus with a wonderful collection of books and periodicals.  Last night I browsed Foreign Affairs, the Journal of Transitional Economies, and some others. There are also Russian journals.  Next door, is the National Agrarian University, and hopefully persons I can meet and periodicals I can use as I intend to begin post – Soviet agricultural studies, abandoned 10 years ago when I began a career in higher education management and business course teaching. 

Our university is a premier institution of its type in Central Asia, one ridden with problems, but the only one like it.  It has 4,500 students and looks a lot like an American college, from the library, to the cafeteria trays, to the stationary store.  Most of the students are Kazakh, a Mongolian people (round faces, dark hair and eyes) who speak a Turkish language.  Turkish started in the east and went west to present day Turkey, with a swath of similarly related dialects. 

A Turk I knew here in 1993 said he understood “40%” of Kazakh, and more of the languages (Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Turkmen, Azeri) as he went west.  There are some, maybe 15% Caucasians here, Russians mainly, and a certain percent of Koreans, thrust here by Stalin in the mid 1950s. (Stalin enjoyed relocating people against their will.)   All are urbanized and all speak Russian. 

I use a bit of Russian in class, pretending to be learning it, I ask them what a word is in Russian.  The kids with better English know, tell me the Russian, I repeat it, and it helps the newer kids on this all – English speaking program. (Well, mostly all.) 

Yesterday, Friday, when I have only 2, not 4, classes, I rushed into the class to be told by a Kazakh woman historian that it was her time slot. I’d come an hour early to my room.  I learned from this historian, that there are classes here on “collectivization” the 1930s phenomenon of civil war against independent peasant farmers, which in Kazkahstan probably resulted in the death (mostly by starvation) of 1 million, perhaps one forth of the population.  Others fled the country, many to China or Mongolia. 

The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, writes about collectivization in his autobiography, a translated edition of which I checked out of the next door library last night.  I’d read excerpts of it in a newspaper in 1993.  Probably much of the book is “ghosted” but I’m sure the part about his grandfather and father and mother is true and heartfelt. Nazarbaev grew up as a boy speaking the languages of other children, of various ethnic groups.  His father had refused to take over management of a flour mill where he had worked, when it was expropriated from a hardworking Russian middle class family (who were deported) but took to the hills to herd sheep. Nazarbayev writes about all those who died when their property was collectivized.  I am still reading about his later life, running into independence in 1991 and a few years beyond.

Leave a comment »

Inside: samovar tiles Outside: lawn, gravel and fields

gravel, lawn and fields20 samovar tilesI took this photo yesterday morning from our old home in NW MN.  We bought the samovar tiles in Ukraine several years ago but have not decided where to put them, maybe in our old granary.  We haven’t made a FINAL decision on the placement of these 20 tiles yet, but we shall see.

Leave a comment »

Inside: samovar tiles Outside: mountains, buildings and cars

looking NEbath samovarKen took photos of what might be our new home together in Almaty.  He has not made the FINAL decision yet but liked what he saw, see post below.  Perhaps this will be our place for the next 8-9 months, we shall see.

Leave a comment »

Two entries about the two balcony apartment

I got back to my office from the apartment and it took 25 minutes with me taking a wrong turn.  It is probably 20 minutes DOWNHILL and a little more up hill. This makes it about like the walk to Paul’s. It is a large apartment.  I took pictures to send you.  The landlady said it is 76 square meters.  It is clean with Asian carpets, and does not have the Euro “remont” that I expected. 

There are two balconies, but one is unenclosed, and ugly. I suppose a bike or two could be stored there under a tarp.   This looks to the northern mountains.  The living room is pretty bare and had a TV (I forgot to see if it was Universal.) with bare minimum cable that is about $11/month. The young man said it has some English channels.  76 channels are possible.  There is also High Speed internet in the building already.  There is a table for 6 in the living room, a small table for 2 in the kitchen. She said there are 6 chairs for the living room table.  

The master bedroom has separate foam mattresses which are not as good as the single mattress on a solid bed in the smaller bedroom, which has a nice office arrangement.  It looks DOWN, to the south.  (Views are to the North – to the Mountains, and to the South – to the museum and New Square.)  There are a lot of windows. 

The kitchen has a rather small refrigerator, but a microwave, and adequate storage.  (There is a LOT of storage cabinet in the master bedroom.) The toilet is separate, I did not take a picture of it. I thought it amusing that the ceramic Samovar in the bath area is similar to ours at home. 

I liked the landlady. Her name is R. and she is a doctor. Her husband is a professor at the medical institute.  They have one son, who was there, who is proficient in English. He has a job in the Hague, Holland with Shell oil.  He has just graduated in Petroleum Engineering at the Kazakh British University, of 2,000 students, which is in the old Government buildings down towards TsSUM. 

I liked the situation and the price is $1,300 and we would be responsible for the utilities, internet, and TV.  I was reflecting as I walked briskly back to my hostel room but took a wrong turn. The area is VERY cosmopolitan. I felt as if sometimes I was in NYC.  The streets I walked on (Furmanova and Septaeva) are newly asphalted.  Septaeva at the intersection is very broad. There was a Tiffany’s and Company, and lots of fancy stores and restaurants.  At one point there were a BUNCH of students on the sidewalk, and I realized that the Agrarian University which is beside our university, extends from Abaya to Septaeva.  I walked past Gros and Techno mart into the back entrance of our university and thought I might as well upload the pictures and go back to the Kazakhstan H. and send them to you. ********************


I’m back in the office at 3/4 pm/am. I feel incredibly relaxed as I had a hot shower and changed clothes in the “hostel.”  I was pretty sweaty, as I’d just returned from a visit with a suitcase to Paul’s apartment to extract the last things. As it turned out, Paul was coming home, too. I called him and learned this, and he arrived just after I arrived and we had lunch together. He seemed to wait and want for me to pray, as had become our custom.I think it was Providential that my return to the apartment for the last time, timed out with his going there too, and our talk.  All my remaining stuff fit wonderfully into the one suitcase.
Change of topic.  I can stay in the hostel for ten days, and then for 16 more days until a week before you come, for $50/night.  I would like to do that, and move to an apartment on Saturday, Oct. 6.  Fortunately, the apartment that K. saw is still available for $1,300 and I will see it tonight with Mohammed’s assistant. (He is head of housing services here.)  I said I would meet her at the Lobby of H. Kazakhstan and we’d go by taxi to this place. I’ll walk back. Apparently, the university prof offered a lower price $1,100 (strange
after he said his wife couldn’t navigate the stairs) and the landlady did not offer to lower below $1,300.  So, I think that is the price, and it may well be worth it. I’ll see, take some pictures and send them to you.—
N. in HR asked me when I went in with form for your insurance, how many years experience in ADMINISTRATION, did I have, and how many years teaching.  I think it added up to 19 teaching and 9 administration.  Why did she want to know this?

The woman who is head of HR was smiley and said my tax number will be taken care of (and bank account) with my new address at the university.  They like to speak Russian with me. I think HR here are my friends.

I washed clothes, but that guest area is so new that they don’t have a rack to dry them on (or trashbags). I could hang on hangers and over suitcases.  If you brought a few wire hangers with you, they could be very useful. They don’t weigh much.

Student stopped me in the “yard”  to talk. He is Korean, said grandfather was born in
S. Korea
; brought here with ONE Million Koreans in 1950s.  We need to know the history on that. This could be fertile field.

The Dean of Students is sponsoring contest for mascot. Owl was chose.  Now they are voting on student art work for the future; winning student gets $500.

I have purchased “Brita-like”  filter pitcher and put it in the fridge at Hostel, with a sign that others are welcome to use it. So far, I’ve seen only one other guy, S., a political scientist.

The dollar is falling now, and may fall 5 oe 10% more in a few months.  That is good for us, since my salary is fixed in Tenge.

A student interviewed me on tape for a journalism class, about the exchange rate.  Two students from student paper did an interview with me and a few days later came back to take my picture.  I’d shown them pictures on laptop of you and told your/our story. I think Man Meets Woman at our university is kind of a nice story here. When you get here, you should tell “about how it was back then.”
I’ll load up the newest pictures and scoot over to H. Kazakhstan by 6/7.  This is a nice time, “after the hump of Wednesday” but it is forever busy.

Leave a comment »

Where K.Nomad is staying for 10 days

guest house

Leave a comment »

Nomadic Moving – God’s in Control!!!

The thing with the apartment is under God’s control and He acts suddenly.I will be ON CAMPUS and thus associating with people — I just now came from faculty club, watching part of NYC 9/11 commemorations, and talking with another prof.  I think I will gain from this period, and it is free, and off the floor.

My Canadian friend from the first day, K, was supposed to move into the free room tomorrow, but he says it is fine, he has something going.  The room has a shower and bath separate, a kitchen, and a study, and eating area, for about six men.  I think I’m meant to meet some of them.

K says that the apartment he saw for ONLY $1,300 is nearby and excellent. Three rooms, carpet, and a block from where I used to work at the Ministry. That would make it a block from the British Council. I will check into it.  It was not taken because it is a five floor walk up, that’s great, so 5 floors up without a lift?  I figure we can handle that, and I think we did in Kiev! This apartment is a half hour away walking, necessary because of Almaty’s horrible traffic (they are building a metro).  It is near the British Council library and a swimming pool.As I said, it was going to get cold on Paul’s floor, and was already. 


THE ROOM [ON CAMPUS] IS SMALL BUT THERE ARE VERY MODERN APPLIANCES AND A ROOMY COMMON AREA. It has an AIR CONDITIONER!!! It is almost like living off campus in Pearson Hall at KU, being so close to the library and everything.I think this is a real good way to spend the next ten days.  It is now 11 pm and I will return to take a shower and go to bed.  I brought my granola and will have breakfast with that and Starbucks.I will take my camera and send you some pictures of the nice layout. I think you’ll be surprised how much this university has improved. So, when it is cold I don’t have to catch cold on the floor, but right now it is HOT, and there is an air conditioner in the room. The landlord made the person who registers visas so emotional that she kind of forced me into the guest room so she wouldn’t have to hear from him again.  I guess she made a mistake in registering me for the whole year, at his address, instead of just until early October. Potentially, the tax people could come after him for rent for the whole year.

So, it worked out well.

I am beginning to learn more fully the meaning of “Praise God in all things!”  I’ve been staying with a friend who is stationed here in Almaty along from his family. His invitation to stay with him until Kristina arrived allowed me to concentrate on classes, having arrived jet lagged and AFTER they had started.
Two days ago, the landlord sneaked a look at my passport and discovered the U. had registered me at his flat (normal) but for an entire year (an oversight, as I would leave before Kris came) and wanting money raised a stink.  I left, the U. put me up free in AIRCONDITIONING for 10 days free.  


Kazakh students are more respectful in class than our former hooligans. They don’t talk in class, at least not in mine. I spice the lecture with requests for translations into Russian, claiming I am learning it (I am) It think these “ESP”  tricks help.  I am enjoying teaching, and must get back to it! Psalm 37, Romans 13 and 14 were my meditations this morning in the half light of the “library” porch of the guest quarters. Starbucks coffee, cereal, and old Thompson chain reference with all its underlinings.  That was here with me in K. when I met you. That proves, on reflection, that God provides, more than I could ever imagine!In psalm I was struck by the old “delight in Him”  He will provide the desires of our hearts. Amen.In Romans I was struck by the idea of eating in faith, that the apartment on fifth floor that K. saw is for us, and he saw a lot of apartments. The other thought I had is that it is a GOOD apartment and He will provide, possibly with the right work for you.

Leave a comment »

Cousins at the Bazaar


Cousin Jack and Ken at an open flea market in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Leave a comment »