I finished reading the new book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt.” I found it fascinating that this little book has so many good themes to keep it together, but that is what Kazakhstan is all about. A huge, expansive country with intricately woven topics of human drama throughout, from Almaty to Astana to Atyrau.
One of my favorites to read was the very first chapter titled “First Snow” by Jacyntha England, it was the only one that made me cry. The generosity of the Kazakhs and their kindnesses that are so unexpected at times is what makes this huge country so enigmatic. There were a few other Kazakhs that were too shrewd for their own good, in other words, they were NOT kind.
Yes, I also liked the chapter titled “Dromophobia” about the gypsy cabs. I took this form of transportation all the time when I lived in not only Kazakhstan but also in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was like sneaking in hitchhiking which we would NEVER do these days in the U.S. Taking cab rides from total strangers was the natural way to go, very efficient rather than using the city bus system. Admittedly, I had seen noticeable improvements in bus transport over the years in Kazakhstan since when I first arrived in 1993 compared to 2010. Still, either walking or hailing cabs was the way to navigate in the big cities of Almaty and Astana.
The one final chapter titled “The Long Horse Ride” by two people was also a favorite for me and I read a part of it to two of my classes today. The reason was I have many equine science students and they could easily relate to how these two horse riders traversed the Kazakhstan deserts to reach a goal, a personal goal. During their long ride, they went to Aralsk and saw the dried up Aral sea. Also, they came close to Baikonur, the space station where Uri Gagarin had shot up as a cosmonaut 50 years before their arrival. They experienced the kindnesses of the Kazakh nomad and the loneliness of the open spaces, being protected from howling wolves and offered camel’s milk for nourishment.
I don’t have the book in front of me because I lent it to my mom to read. In any case, I liked the chapter about the American woman who went to Kazakhstan to adopt children or at least helped with those children who were in orphanages. That was touching also.
I sent an extra copy of the new book about Kazakhstan to my Minnesota friend Kim living out in California. She enjoyed reading the chapter about our conversation on the top of Kok Tobe. She claimed I wrote down accurately what we had discussed those several hours spent up on the “Blue Ceiling” of Almaty back in June of 2008. Of course, it helped that I went directly home and blogged about our talk soon afterwards. Actually, I wished I had taken more notes while up on Kok Tobe during our picnic lunch because we talked a LOT more about different things concerning Kazakhstan and their illustrious people than what I actually documented.
Lesson I learned from that experience is to carry a notepad with you at ALL times. You never know when a well-informed interview might take place that will eventually find its way into a print edition of a future book. I had no idea that THAT particular noon day picnic what we talked on would become a chapter with other informative chapters in the book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt.” Check it out on Amazon.com yourself, especially if you are interested in other cultures, especially this little known, tucked away one in the middle of Central Asia. May there be many more books such as these for future inquisitive souls.