Ryan’s FINAL Impressions of Kazakhstan

I hesitate to write that these are Ryan’s final words on this great subject of Kazakhstan.  I have a feeling that we might be finding out more about his future adventures, at least I hope so. I believe he writes well and makes his experiences easily understandable to those who don’t have a clue where to begin about embracing such a different culture as Kazakhstan.

This place isn’t as complex as China, but it still is very complicated the longer you live in it.  As an outsider, I am hoping to learn more about Kazakhstan and I can do that by reading others’ first impressions (which I’ve already lived through) or I can talk to the native Kazakhs and Kazakshtanis.  However, I am handicapped with getting only a superficial view of this land, I don’t know the languages of Kazakh or Russian and have to trust what I am told or what I read is accurate.

The reason for this blog is to inform, it is better than nothing.  So few people are blogging about this country, seems there are other languages like the French and German who write.  I know of two other westerners who blog regularly from Astana, many more bloggers in Almaty.  Peace Corps volunteers, I believe, are prohibited from blogging their impressions of Kazakhstan. Of all the people, they might benefit the most from what Ryan has written. I urge any first timers to read the last six days to catch Ryan’s first impressions of Shymkent and Astana.

Here is the last of what he wrote to his family and friends, it has been a privilege to be let in on his thoughts and feelings.

“Rafhat and I went searching for food one day and no one seemed to be able to tell us where to find food. We found this restaurant though and I was so excited because I’d been craving Camca (a meat or potato filled pocket) and I had 3 of them!!! I’ve had some great food here. I’ve had gazpacho, spaghetti(with huge noodles that are used to make lagman), lagman is a dish that looks a lot like stir fry…it’s so good, I’ve had lots of pelmeni. I need to find some piroshky while I’m here. Yeah…I know… Russian food in Kazakhstan but I’ve got to get it while I can.

On Saturday I gave a talk to a group of moms here. I talked about my birth, learning how to walk, school and my achievements there, all my physical and occupational therapy, the support I’ve recieved from family and friends, and the importance of these parents being the change  they want to see for their kids. Kazakhstan is a developing country and there are so many things that can be changed here to make life better for disabled people but people have to speak up and out for change to happen. It will be slow going and achievement may only be by inches but small achievements change the world. It was really special to give the talk and to answer their questions about my life. I sometimes have a hard time remembering my place amongst all these therapists…I have a lot of “why am I here?” moments…it’s in those moments of talking to parents and giving them hope that I remember that this is one of the reasons.

In the afternoon one of the ladies here took Nick and me to ALZHIR Gulag(a Soviet prison camp) for women outside of town. It was a humbling and overwhelming experience to say the least. I couldn’t believe it when I watched this video and heard the interviews from those who had been there…I was just shocked and overwhelmed that I was in this place where so many unspeakable things had happened. I’ve never been to Europe so I’ve never had the experience of seeing a Concentration Camp so this was all new for me. The fact that I was seeing a Gulag here…in Kazakhstan… the fact that not many people would ever see what I was seeing reinforced the feeling that I’ve had since I got here that I have to tell the story of this place.

On that note, I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and I just want to leave you with a few things to think about. Kyrgyzstan (one of Kazakhstan’s neighboring countries to the south). As many of you have undoubtedly seen there has been a lot of ethnic violence(amidst the governmental shakeup in Bishkek) in parts of the country that have left parts of Kyrgyzstan absolutely devastated. The persecuted people group finds no safety in the country they’ve come to know as home. It’s such a sad story that so many know so little about which is in itself sad.

Всего хорошего! – All the best!

Любовь,

Райан, Ryan”

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