Archive for June 17, 2008

Kazakhstan’s “Odds and Ends”

animals on hideMy husband bought this art piece with the artist’s name emblazoned on the back also titled “Composition in Leather.”  It would not be MY first choice of art for our decor but each to his own.  It has a rustic feel to it that belongs in our 100 year old granary back in NW Minnesota.  About two feet in diameter with leather threads holding the double iron wires together.  With rough raw hide on the back but smooth like bark on the front where the artist etched in animal figures showing one hunter with a bow and arrow, another hunter with a hachet.  Must have been the glory days when there was plenty of game to hunt.

I was told yesterday the adventure we took up to Big Almaty Lake on Sunday is risky especially in June because of washouts of roads.  Better to go in July or August when it is dry and no threat of rain.  I can actually imagine in several places where the road was washed away, so narrow was the road at times over huge culverts and makeshift bridges where only ONE car could possibly pass.  I can’t even picture tour busses going up to the manmade lake which was created by exploding a hole in the mountain and then building up a mudslide dike so that the city of Almaty below would not have an avalanche of falling rocks when real gushing rains would bring the sides of the mountain down.  The barricades were probably built fifty years ago and a huge pipe the diameter of about a meter carries the lake water down to the city of Almaty.  I was amazed that people were walking down this pipe but it was perhaps easier to do than being in a car taking all the twisting, dysfunctional roads.

Yesterday I told one of my Kazakh administrators about our adventure in the mountains.  She invited me for tea in her office, she and her colleague were just waiting for a guest to treat.  Such is the hospitality of the Kazakhs.  Then the truth came out, she admitted that she was jealous of my passion and love for Ukraine, so much do I talk about my former country of employment.  She smiled when I told her that it is about even now, that I am finding that I LOVE Kazakhstan.  I didn’t love it fifteen years ago (because I had a Peace Corps training job, the hardest job I ever had) even though this is the place where my romance started with my husband.  I told her that my friend Yelena has done a great thing in taking both of us out of the city into the country.  Almaty is NOT Kazakhstan and I want to see other places and parts of it.  I had travelled all over Ukraine and got a feel for the terrain but to stay cloistered in a city like Almaty and feeling trapped in a working environment, well, one cannot make a fair assessment of any country under those conditions.

More Odds and Ends:  My Kazakh friend told me also about the history of her parents just in passing.  She said that her father had been a victim during the Stalinist period but despite that, her mother adored Stalin.  She was such a devotee of his and only blamed the underlings in Kazakhstan for the demise of her husband.  I need to find out more about her parents’ story.  There are MANY stories here in Kazakhstan that need to be unearthed.  In fact, I met a woman at church on Sunday who works with babushkas by feeding about 100 of them.  She assured me that she indeed has stories from these older people who invested so much into the communist system and now are paid pennies in their pensions while the food prices continue to skyrocket in the former capital of Almaty.

Yes, there are many odds and ends to put together about this very dynamic country which is full of history, sad history, but with GREAT potential looking into the future. 

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