Ryan’s First Impressions of Kazakhstan

I met Ryan through this blog, I’ve never met him in person but would like to eventually. He is a 23 year old graduate student who knows a lot about physical therapy.  I appreciate his first impressions of a land I love, Kazakhstan. Fortunately, he has allowed me to blog his words (with very little editing).  Some of what you read from Ryan’s writing, as veteran Peace Corps volunteers or others who are heavily invested in this country, you will nod your head in agreement.  Other westerners who are mildly intrigued by this unknown land may want to come to see for yourself what Ryan sees from HIS perspective. The third group of people who read this blog are Kazakh or Kazakhstani and instead of getting MY impressions about education, you will learn what a young graduate student who has cerebral palsy and has learned to overcome it, what he experienced in Kazakhstan.  All positive things, mostly…Read on:

June 26, 2010

Hey everybody!

For a guy who seems to be tethered to his computer and who must be informed of all that’s going on around him….I haven’t been. This is the first time I’ve been on the computer since Monday and to be honest I really don’t miss it. I always feel like I’m missing out on something… ya know? I want you to know what I’m up to.

I took the train here and got here on Tuesday morning. Truly, in a lot of ways trains here are better than back home in the U.S. I was glad that I didn’t have to go it alone though. I was picked up and taken to breakfast (which was so good!) Then I went to the Center and met Cindy and a few of my other co-workers. Then I got to work with my kids (possessive aren’t I?). I cannot express in an email how fast the kids took my heart. They’re all smiles and smart and full of potential. Watching them do physical therapy brings back so many not so pleasant and yet happy memories. The workers know that the PT has to be done but it breaks my heart when there’s nothing I can say in any language to make it better. The only thing that would make it better is to stop and in the end that won’t make it better.  These are special and amazing kids. We had a camp for them and their moms in the last couple of days and it was so much fun.

I’m in awe, overwhelmed, and humbled that I’m here in Kazakhstan to do this. I can talk to these moms and explain that their kids have amazing potential because I was where they are and now look at me. The sad thing is that I’m afraid that potential may never be realized because they’re here and in a culture that doesn’t know what to do with them much less how to help them advance in anyway. I know for a fact though that with help, persistence and proper supervision some of these kids will walk. They will do amazing things with their lives. There’s one girl, she’s so smart, she’s like five and like everyone here she speaks/is learning Russian and Kazakh and she knows who speaks what and switches between us without missing a beat and she’s so sweet. Today she spent about 30 minutes playing keep away with my ring.

I got to experience on one hand the coldest water I have EVER been in and a sauna. I love the sauna. My legs had never been so relaxed on the other hand they were like rubber which made walking interesting. I LOVED it. I got to explain to some of the moms a little bit about me and my life and I think and hope I gave them some hope for what their own kids can do.

There are certainly a couple kids I’ve seen especially one named Bota who has the potential to walk for sure. She knows which of us speak which language and can go back and forth. All these kids have amazing potential all they need is a little push and support. I’m overwhelmed by the work that is done here and the fact that I’m able to be a part of it. I’m in awe of the love with which the work is done. I have such a unique perspective on this work and what the kids are going through. Any doubt I might have had about being here was absolutely gone when I talked to the moms and saw the hope that they took from what I said. I’m so glad I’m here!


My host family is amazing. I want to bring them home as souvenirs. They have an 8 year old daughter that I just met today because she was at camp herself. She’s learning English so our language is an interesting mixture. Actually all the language is an interesting mixture here. It’s fascinating. Russian, English, and the local language are heard all the time at any time. All the locals I’ve met speak both Russian and the local language plus a couple more. It puts me to shame with my halting Russian.

My host parents are golden. They’re so sweet and patient and my host mom loves to “mother” me. When I’m here, it’s hard not to follow them around and talk constantly because they are as interested in me as I am in them. I have to make myself sleep because they’d stay up with me. I love them.

Also, the food here is amazing. Lots of rice, salad, bread, meat of various sorts….All the meals and snacks are huge and they’re events. To say tea is drunk a lot is an understatement. I usually have two or three cups before breakfast. I mentioned to my host mom that I love pelmeni (small dumpling) and after I got up from a nap today I had pelmeni waiting for me.

My Russian is improving drastically. I don’t know if I mentioned but my host family doesn’t speak English. So..we’re learning together. Patience with myself is key. Languages aren’t learned in a day. We’re learning together. I’m going to have to figure out when to write because I’ve been so busy, but I love being busy…that’s what I’m here for. The more I’m here the more I realize I was meant to be here. I was made to be here .

(to be continued)

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    […] nation. Great history, amazing people, beautiful landscape, I guess Ryan likes the food too.  Read yesterday’s blog to find out what he is doing for “fun” this summer… July 2, […]

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