Ryan’s First Impressions of Kazakhstan (Part II)

Ryan’s story and his impressions of Kazakhstan lets me relax on posting on my blog. A vast, unchartered land that must be understood and taken seriously as a viable 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, 2010

Have a seat and join me in one of the major stops of the Silk Road. This place and its people are beautiful and wonderful. This is a place of contradictions…a land that time forgot and yet today I was across the street from a place called Megacenter (it’s a very Western style mail). There are Mercedes Benzes next to Soviet era cars and buses. It’s fascinating as a lover of cultures.

Every person is a new story. The people here are extraordinarily nice to everyone but especially so to guests. One of many things I love about this place is that they’re not in a hurry…ever. It forces you (sometimes frustratingly) to stop and smell the tea. You must slow down here and if you’re lucky it will go from frustrating to very welcome. If you rush they still won’t so just slow down, come inside, take off your shoes (it’s required although when I came home last night I forgot and my little sis Nastya reminded me), and tell us about your day.

The Kazakh and Kazakhstanis just don’t rush anything but especially the developing and maintaining of relationships. That is above everything. There are no “hi how are you? I’m good” and that’s all conversations here. They want your story good, bad, or indifferent. They want the story of your day and if it was bad they want to know why not just that it was bad. This intentionality is amazingly refreshing because it’s expected. They want to know about me and in return they want to tell their stories. I love it. We could use a lot of that in the States. We really need to work on the slowing down and listening part. I have it down to a science because I have to force myself to talk at home because my Russian is so horrible. I listen two or three times more than I talk. I do talk though…a lot…they make me. It’s not like they’re forcing me but they must enjoy hearing their mother tongue butchered.

I love the fact that I’ve met so many foreigners here that aren’t Americans. I’ve met people from Australia, England, Holland, South Korea, Germany, and other places I probably don’t even remember now. It brings out the anthropologist and twenty questions nerd in me. Most of the Americans I’ve met and there are a fair number are great and I won’t lie it’s nice to let my ear rest because with everyone else and I mean EVERYONE else my ear and brain are working over time especially when I have to speak Russian.

Speaking of things that take time…meals…meals are an event here… snacks are event here…with all the trimmings. They bring everything out from meat to bread…salad…and whatever the main dish is. Tonight, it’s Monti (steamed big pelmeni, which are smaller meat dumplings). Oh, and the cheese and fruit or chocolate. My host parents wonder why I don’t eat much and I don’t compared to the locals. I’m trying to embrace the eat small and often approach that the other foreigners espouse but it’s so hard when they expect you to eat hearty all the time and they eat 4 or 5 times a day total. I only have so much room.

I’ve had horse…interesting…not bad a bit gamey but not bad. Also, the pelmeni, one of my favs…so good. Oh, and of course, the tea. Hot tea is the way to the heart of every person in Kazakhstan. They drink it like…and more than water. They are in love with their tea and they must have it. Most time spent with each other talking is over tea. I usually have three cups before lunch. I’m coming to share their addiction. Although some of them like coffee too. Maybe you’ll drink it with me, yeah?

So yesterday Cindy, my British physical therapist friend that I work with, gave me a challenge. I had to buy bread and come to a local park without Seryozha’s (my host dad)’s help. Sergei and Lena own a car (which is something you see plenty of but considering the number of people not so much. Also, cars are used as private taxis more on that in a sec) it’s a Honda which I love and because I had no idea what I was doing Seryozha has been chauffeuring me but not wanting to tread on his kindness and needing to learn I took my map and set out to tackle the bus system here in Shymkent.

I got instructions about the bus to the park (only one bus so it was relatively easy but I had to make sure to get off at the right place). I did it though. I bought the bread and made it to the park. I spent the day talking with Cindy and Elizabeth and after a sandwich lunch about my life and we made a ppt presentation out of the pics I brought for a talk I’m giving tomorrow to the kids moms.

(to be continued)

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