Ryan’s First Impressions of Kazakhstan (Part III)

Read the two days prior to understand who Ryan is and what he is doing in Kazakshtan. As a 23 year old graduate student, he is a gem in what he writes about his first impressions:

“So…today yeah…I woke up early because I had no idea how long it would take me to get to work so I wanted to have time. As I’m having breakfast and Lena and I are talking she tells me that Seryozha is going to drive me to work because she doesn’t want me negotiating the two buses that it will take to get to work. I try to tell her that I want to and I need to learn (because for me being able to come and go as I want is the apex of independence….it’s a better high than catnip) but she was having none of it and I didn’t want to argue in Russian especially so early in the morning so I let it slide and took the ride.

I got to work and filled up my water bottle just in time for the kids to start arriving. I spent time hanging out with them and talking to them. I don’t help with exercises much I’m the distraction keeping them from focusing on the stretching. It’s so hard to watch them hurt and know they can’t tell us what hurts and there’s nothing you can say to make it better in any language. Only stopping will help and in the end that doesn’t help. I’ve been there though…I know…I watch them and my whole body cringes with aching empathy. Now I’m older and I see the PT and OT side of spectrum…ya know. They have a job to do and Cindy and Elizabeth (PT and OT British and Dutch respectively) are brilliant.

Most of the time though they’re happy kids who want to play. Their smiles will make you melt. Talking to them is hard because my Russian is limited and theirs is hard to understand at times but we make it work. I spend most of my time working with them. Another of them has moments where all that will quiet him down is me holding him. He also uses me to help him stand.

The locals, American and international doctors that work there are just amazing. They love the kids and the kids love them. I love to talk to them. They’re so sweet. We talk in English mostly so everyone understands… with this crowd it truly is a common language. Although like today…a couple people were talking in Kazakh and it turns out they were asking me to do something and then they were wondering why I was just standing there until they remembered no one translated. There are two doctors… one American and one Russian…and they’re amazing. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them about CP and they’ve been very enlightening convos.

After the kids left Cindy and I took a bus to her Kazakh teachers house to talk to her about me helping with some English conversation classes. It’s going to be great fun. This is where I found out that in the whole of KZ the pop is only 16 million. The 9th largest nation on earth has only 16 million people. The Soviet Union had a lot to do with that. Kazakhstan lost many people to famine in the 1930s and war in the 1940s but I was still shocked.

After we set the class dates, I went with Elizabeth back to work to another org that shares the building and does English lessons. I helped with one of their English convo clubs. It was cool to talk to and help the people I worked with. Their English was really good and more proper than mine I’d wager. The whole time I hadn’t eaten anything but I’d been craving Samsa (a meat pocket like a piroshky) I’d heard all about it and I wanted one …well, I still don’t have it but tomorrow for lunch yeah…the good thing about the craving is I haven’t really had much of an appetite since I got here so maybe that’s changing.

I left the convo club and went and bought a glass bottle Coke for the equivalent of 40 cents and hopped on the bus which is a quarter per bus. I took it to Tzum (pronounced Soom, across from Megacenter) and went on a quest for postcards to send out. Cindy told me that’d be about the only place they’d have them and that they were rubbish. I asked a lady where to find them and once we got straight what I wanted she had a girl take me to them. I found some really awesome ones for about $3. I was so happy.

Then I walked to what i thought was the bus stop and I was really confused when the bus stopped beyond me. The money taker explained the obvious that where I was wasn’t a bus stop. I apologized and settled in for the ride home. Oh, interesting thing. On one of the other buses the lady taking the money gave me my fare back. It’s interesting because even though you don’t see them much, Kazakhs are really respectful, helpful (they’ll give up their seat which is hard for me because it’s in my nature to stand if someone other than me needs the seat…that silly independent streak) and admiring of the disabled. Most of them take my money but two haven’t so far. Anyway the whole trip went off without a hitch and I did it all on my own. I was so happy!

There are so many things I could tell you but there’s a glimpse. I hope you enjoyed it. I do have to say it’s so interesting hearing Russian around me outside of the classroom. I have to use it at home at all times and on the streets to communicate. It’s great. It’s like a key to a lock. So much is open to me even though I don’t speak Kazakh.”

(to be continued)

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