Ryan’s First Impressions of Kazakhstan (Part V)

We are in the home stretch with impressions from Ryan’s e-mail home to friends and family. Even though I don’t know Ryan, I have really enjoyed seeing his perspective.  I hope you have too.  The main reason I have used his writings is because I want to entice other westerners to experience this great land of Kazakhstan for themselves.  Thanks Ryan for permitting me to use your words:

August 1, 2010 Hey everybody!

I hope this update finds you all very well and enjoying your summer. Hope it’s not too hot wherever you are. One of the great things about relocating to Astana for two weeks is that it is much cooler than Shymkent. It’s actually been cold here at some points…it’s windy here so that’s where the cold comes from mostly. I like it though because I can walk around and not end up feeling like I can’t breathe because the heat is so oppressive which is often what Shymkent is like. So now, sit back and enjoy as I paint a picture of what our days here in the Capital of the Great Republic of Kazakhstan have been like.

On Saturday, I spent my morning packing and saying goodbye to my host family that I won’t be able to stay with when I get back. I will see them when I get back but I won’t stay with them. I focused on packing so that hopefully I wouldn’t have time to focus on the leaving part. I know I haven’t been here long but having a host family for however long is an intense experience…you are part of their lives and they part of yours. It was even more intense because they only spoke Russian which made for some funny moments when I said something wrong and some aggravated moments when I couldn’t get the point across no matter how hard I tried. I wished a few times that they spoke English just because it would be easier for me. That’s not what staying with them was about though.

Kazakhstan has taught me that one of the most important way to get to know people and to gain their trust is to know their language and that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I’m not just learning Russian for the sake of my degree or to know another language. I’m learning Russian because your native language is always close to your heart and it’s important if you want to get to know people you must learn their language.  It’s much more than any of that even. Being here in this environment, the place where you live and lay your head at night is one of your safe places. You can relax and let your hair down as it were. I had enjoyed the chance for the last three weeks to talk to my host dad, mom, and sister and get to know them in some wonderful ways and now we were being separated.

I think almost everyone that has a host family thinks that their’s is the best …but I know that mine are the best. They are such wonderfully sweet people and they took me in and truly made me one of the family. It’s one of the most important things you can ask for when you’re in a place you’ve never been before. They didn’t mind the fact that I often butchered their mother tongue they were just glad to have me and I was glad to be part of their family. You truly do become family. I can’t imagine being my friends here that have had to say good bye to their host families after months or years. It was rough but I will carry them with me now wherever I go and when I come back here…I have a family waiting for me.

Cindy, Elizabeth and I were taken to the airport and I think we were all a little nervous about flying up to Astana, but everything went really smoothly. We checked in, went through security (which was loads easier than any security I’ve been through in the States…most important…the shoes stayed on…), and then we waited. It’s interesting here because it makes no sense to show up really early to the airport because they won’t be ready to process you at all until about an hour before hand. We took a bus out to the plane(it was one of the puddle jumper planes that I’ve flown in a million times and it was a Soviet plane I think) and we boarded it through the tail which was something I’ve never done before.  As you can imagine it was really hard to hear while we boarded. The plane was pretty nice and they fed us a bit of lunch which included tea. I was surprised by the tea though I don’t why because they serve it for every occasion and no occasion at all.

When we got here Nick picked us up from the airport and I knew immediately that these were going to be a couple weeks to remember. Nick has such an outgoing personality, He’s one of those people we all know…you know…the people that it’s impossible to be in a bad mood around. Part of that has to with the fact that he is ALWAYS playing music…and it’s hard to unhappy with music around.He has been a big part of the reason we’ve been constantly laughing since we got here. He has Kazakh hospitality down to an art. We have been staying in his apartment for the last two weeks while we work here and he’s been a very gracious host.

(to be continued)

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