Archive for September 13, 2010

Third year anniversary blogging about Kazakhstan

Hard to believe I started this kazakhnomad blog in the fall of 2007 when we lived in Almaty.  Indeed, my husband and I have come a long way from our Almaty courtship in 1993, the former capital of Kazakhstan once known as Alma Ata.  That’s what we called it back then.

To keep up with the steady changes in Kazakhstan, now the current capital city is in the north,  Astana.  It’s original name was Akmola which means “White Tomb.”  (There has to be a good story behind THAT name!) Around 1954 it was changed to the Russian sounding name of Tselinagrad (means Virgin Lands during the campaign to put all turf under the plow and farm on this boggy soil). Then the name of this fair city was changed back to Akmola again 20 years ago when Kazakhstan became its own country.  Now to be even more precise the Kazakh name for “capital” is Astana, thus the current name.  If there is another name change they should have a moratorium of at least 10 more years because it takes a lot to change signs and maps and people’s mentality.

So, name changes happen everywhere throughout the former Soviet Union. Perhaps that is why street names are a bit perplexing for people, the names could change again.  Thus, the intriguing architecture of the buildings in Astana serve as landmarks.

Today I had an interesting discussion with a recently returned Bolashak scholar (Bolashak means “future” in Kazakh).  He had studied in Indiana and as I was looking out my window I asked him which direction I was facing in my new, temporary office.  He immediately said east because his office down the long corridor faces the same direction.

This young Kazakh man commented that his impression of Americans was that they ALL knew their directions. I said that that might be a Midwest trait stemming from our agrarian background.  Out East with winding roads and the Appalachian mountains, people might not have such a good sense of direction.  Back at the farm, you always had to know where you are in order to tell people where things were located.  I told him that back at our farm place in Minnesota, we often say things like “west of the shop,” or “south of the granary” or “on the east side of the house.”  In a planned city such as Astana, it is easy to give those kind of directions to people, we are south of town and the airport is south of our university.

At least some things remain constant, the welcome morning orb will always climb out of the eastern horizon and this same sun, which we see out of our west window will always set in the west.  If you really wanted to get turned around just be in charge of changing the direction of sunrises and sunsets.  However, I’m glad our Creator is constant. They can do what they want with street and city names according to the whims of whomever is in control of certain land at a given time.

I took a photo the other night from our west window (the screen window shows through a bit).  Ken called this blaze of glory to my attention and I’m glad he did though it took me some time to find my camera and by then it was not as brilliant as when I first saw it. I’ll keep blogging until the sun starts setting in the north.

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