Archive for March 16, 2008

Yesterday’s Conversations in Multi-Ethnic Almaty

 Not everyday do you get to talk to a New Zealander, Russian-Kazakhstani, Korean-Kazakhstani, Iranian, New Zealand-Iranian, Hawaiian American people but it is normal in Kazakhstan.  At least , becoming more so for me in this very multi-ethnic city of Almaty.  My favorite talk was with a little 5 year old whose first language is English, but he is learning three other languages.  He is Iranian extraction since his father came from Iran but now is from New Zealand and his mother is Chinese (I think?)  Anyway, little Rawlan’s non-verbals were great to watch and he had a beautiful smile with perfect white teeth.  Apparently he has a little two year old sister who is “more cute” than he is, according to my Iranian friend A.Z. 
 I went to A.Z.’s place where she is staying temporarily with Rawlan’s family to see what things she wanted to sell to me, what she had left after selling all her other worldly goods.  Now she just needs to sell her little optical shop close to the Green Market, she told me there are 400 of them in Almaty alone.  She told me that she has already gotten through “Bribe month” which is every March when the taxman and others descend upon all shopkeepers to get their yearly dues.  So, her place has all the paperwork in order and even though she is a foreigner, she has done well with her little business that her husband and she set up about seven years ago.  A.Z. has lived in Almaty for about ten years, her husband and she had suffered repression because of their religion when they lived in Iran.
 A.Z. is ready to leave for Vancouver and be a nanny there, her two grown children are in Washington D.C. area.  After I purchased an entryway carpet, a set of 20 dishes, a Cuisineart blender and some Chinese bowls, I set to work with cleaning our three room flat. She came in a cab with me to carry up my purchases to our fifth floor flat.  We are having company tonight, our cook by the name of K., a teaching colleague of Ken’s who is from Vancouver, British Columbia but Syrian background will be head chef in my kitchen stirring up a Thai meal for three other Americans besides Ken and me and an Australian woman.
 My friend Dayna was eager to find where all the Second Hand stores are close to the Green Market, so after breakfast at the American Bar and Grill we hoofed it downhill to check out the seven I know of.  Probably there are more that I just don’t know about yet.  BUSY!!! All of Almaty seemed to be out on this fine spring day and shopping, shopping in all the little tight fitting S.H. stores.  I met up with Ken and we did our own grocery shopping at the Green Market before I met up with A.Z.
 Finally, my day started out with meeting five other women from church at the American Bar and Grill.  That is where I asked the two resident Kazakhstani women what they remembered of the Dec. 16, 1986 event.  The one Korean said it was a very scary time for all of them.  The other Russian said she remembered that only three people were killed and I found out that students were given drugs to get them fired up to be riotous.  They were breaking windows and pulling out radiators.  They both recalled that it had been a warm winter so the temperatures had not been so cold as this winter.  Seems I am getting different versions of this Independence day event.  All agree that it was the Kazakh people wondering why the Moscow elite was giving them a new leader who didn’t have any idea about what Kazakhstan was about.  Surefire way to incite a revolt.  I’ll have to find out more about what really happened from someone who was actually on the square that day 22 years ago.

Leave a comment »