Posts tagged Astana

Home stretch…less teaching of writing and more WRITING of my own

Not sure if this is a baseball term or where “Home Stretch” came from, I suppose I could google this and find out.  I like to admit that “I see the light at the end of the tunnel” and I am making sure my 85 students in my six composition classes know they can share that light with me too.  Once this fall semester is finished, I will miss seeing my students who all seem ardently working away.  They come as freshmen students with different skill levels depending on what high school teachers they had and how much they worked with research papers. Some understand the complexities involved, others are like deer in the headlights about what is expected of them when it comes to researching.

However, I think after three months together, my students have a good understanding in my class that this is university level and what they pulled off as “A” papers in high school doesn’t cut it in their new academic environment.  One class has proven a bit of a challenge for me. I got two students out of there who were good and it fit their schedule to attend another composition class I taught in the morning. Two others dropped out while one student hasn’t handed in much of anything.  I keep wondering why if we are up to 700 points out of 1,000, he has about 100 points and still shows up for class.  For sure he will be taking this comp class again next semester…that is if he can survive the cold.

This weekend my 45 comp students are hopefully working diligently on their Paper #4 which is a topic they were able to choose, once I gave my approval. I had a list of ten topics that I considered “Hot button” topics that did not get my approval. Initially I needed to see from them a workable thesis statement and also a working bibliography of FIVE academic, peer-reviewed articles.  Some of my students chose topics that haven’t been written about by the academics or if they have been written about, there are no opposing views.  That was also part of my assignment for this persuasive research paper, it must have an alternative argument so that they can see from another point of view.  I am getting all different types of proposals and titles for title pages from my very diverse group of classes.  I have football players that want to write about football helmets or another wants to write about whether college players should be payed or not. Then I have would be farmers who want to write on the latest in planting and harvesting.  I have soccer player girls who want to find out more about the effects of artificial turfs and then I have a dancer who is learning more about children’s motor skill development with programs in dance.

This weekend I have already corrected 50 points worth of a quiz on the textbook dealing with the APA formatting style. Now THAT was tedious and I still have to finish off with two more weeks of instruction before we take a two day break for Thanksgiving the end of November.  After that, I will have them do a ten minute powerpoint presentation on their writing assignment. Then Dec. 12th, we are DONE with instruction, classes. It is up to me, while they are taking finals the last week of the semester, to get the grades in before my husband and I head south for a two week vacation in the warmth. Can’t wait to see the grandbabies and how they have grown from last year.

What a strange day today with near white out conditions, then sunny, more wind, then it dies down.  I’m looking out now and can see two miles away, but earlier you couldn’t see 300 feet or even 50 feet in front of you out in the tundra prairie.  Oh, we DO love it here because it keeps the riff-raff out. People who are up to no good do NOT want to stick around when the really bad weather starts up.  It could happen any week or month now.  I’m thankful though that our weather is NOT as bad as what I experienced in Astana, Kazakhstan for two winters. Now THAT country experiences a real hard-core winter and Astana being the capitol of the expansive country, you can be sure they have managed to keep most of their riff-raff out due to the extreme temps but also the high prices.

Do I want to go back to Astana? Some days I think about it but I think I would prefer Almaty even with all its air pollution and slanty roads because it is south and warmer.  How did I get on this topic?  I DO want to write about all the stories I collected from my Kazakh students the 3-4 years I lived and taught in Almaty and Astana.  If only I had more time and didn’t have to currently teach writing…I could write and get this book that has been on the back burner finally published.  It took me THREE years to come up with a title for this book “Unbroken Souls:  Soviet Grandparents’ Stories from Ukraine and Kazakhstan” but it will probably take me another decade before it gets into print.  Perhaps it would be best as an e-book to reach the expat community who care about these countries and who want to order it off of Amazon.com.  We shall see…I just have to get to the end of THIS tunnel I am in right now, even if I feel like I am in the middle of a white out!

 

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People are Passing Away, Towns are Passing Away

Facebook reported the passing away of an American teaching colleague that I worked with in Almaty and Astana. I am sorry that I don’t know more information about this sad event. I was told by another colleague over FB that he died in his sleep. I’m sure there is more to this story than that. He did smoke and so it could have been some complication related to bad choices he made. He was in his late 60s I think.  Anyway, where I live, people keep passing away.  I am in an old established town where all of us in high school were encouraged to get out of town, do better by going to the big cities.

I did better than that, I went to the BIG cities elsewhere like in Harbin, China or Kyiv, Ukraine or finally Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan.  I should not forget the year and a half I spent teaching in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  I would not count Bishkek as a big city, however. It had not changed much from the time I was there in 1993-1995 to when I went to visit again in 2007 or 2008.   It is holding its own even after the startling spring revolution that happened about five years ago now.  Ukraine had its Orange revolution, I think Kyrgyzstan’s was dubbed the tulip revolution. I can’t recall.  I’m sure I have it on this blog if I went back to look at the exact date and name of the event.

Yes, people are passing away but also small town American is passing away.  They have statistics that show that by a certain date in the future, many more people will be living in the cities than in the countryside.  Why is that?  I would think that if people can live away from the metropolis, if they can sustain themselves through the winter with the right kind of heat and food, they would not have to move INTO the city.  I think it is safer and more peaceful out in the rural areas.  I would think the trend would be to move away from all the people and crime and violence and live in solitude in a small town.

However, what was true over 100 years ago where people were pushing west and getting land parcels for a very good price, now people don’t want to do the country thing. Small towns that were thriving with the railroad as their connection to the rest of the world are withering away.  If they have not created some good industry to keep up employment, then one by one, the store fronts look empty for the businesses downtown.

My hometown has a strong image from the past, we have many old brick buildings that remain. Some elegant ones have been torn down due to lack of money to keep the roof shingled, thus the decay from the inside has made the brick work that looked regal and stable become a liability.  People my age have the memory of what our downtown used to look like, bustling with people and business.  Now, the move has been away from downtown and to one of our city of 8,000 people.  We have businessmen and women who are struggling to have any kind of business downtown since the amazing old high school was torn down and moved to the one end of the city.

The people in charge, those on the city council, the city administrator, mayor and others have to make tough decisions about what to maintain due to our tax base not being as flush with money as it used to be when families had 6-10 children.  Many of those children have left for better jobs elsewhere, leaving the older parents behind in the dying town.  So we have the melancholy problem of people passing away in the towns that are passing away.  Sometimes I do yearn for the big cities where the action is…for right now though, I am happy to be in a small town that minds its own business and doesn’t have great fanfare about much of anything.  I can write that because I am teaching 85 freshmen students how to write. There is adventure and challenge enough in doing that.  LOVE it when the lights go on in their heads about what I am trying to get across to them.  I have GREAT kids, most of them want to learn.

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More Information about THEE university in Astana, Part III

I realize for those who are IN THE KNOW about Kazakhstan, they have probably already read this article and don’t think much of it. However, I think it is a window into what are potential problems that could crop up in Kazakhstan…soon. This new university in Astana is an experiment, a noble one to be sure. Keeping in mind that there were many “sound” theories the former Soviet Union promoted.

Freedom is the key and if you teach students to think outside the box, they need freedom to express that and not fear what they say or think will be used against them. I just wanted to document on this blog what is good and what might possibly go wrong. This is the third and final part of the article written by Joseph Kucera titled “Can a homegrown university in authoritarian Kazakhstan incubate reform?”

For the time being, Nazarbayev University is in little danger of creating radicals. While some students’ eyes are opened by reading critical materials, that’s not always the case. One professor who taught the History of Kazakhstan course says that in class, students presented Nazarbayev’s statements today as evidence of what happened in the 1980s. “I asked them afterward, on the class forum, about the reliability of Nazarbayev’s recollections as a historical source, and they were quite offended. ‘We have to trust the president,’ was the answer they gave me. I tried to push them to think about inherent biases, et cetera, but they were unwilling to engage,” says the professor, who asked not to be identified.

One student interviewed on condition of anonymity says that there isn’t a lot of discussion in the student body about how the country should be run. “Students are less concerned about politics than on their studies,” the student says. The country’s political system has an unfair reputation. “We discussed this with our professors, and they said that the fact that we can talk about this means that human rights are respected here,” adding that at a university-organized meeting with a human rights officer from the U.S. embassy, the diplomat told students that the reports by international human rights organizations are “often exaggerated” and that “the situation isn’t as bad as they describe.”

Most N.U. students are “acquiescent but not apathetic,” says Sam Hirst, a history professor who left N.U. in 2013, in an email interview. “A great number of the students are reliant on the stipends and the support that they receive from what they understand as either the university or the government. Many are thus scared to jeopardize what they have already earned.” And while few are blind to Kazakhstan’s problems, most “turn their eyes in other directions, usually toward their textbooks, to earn the money necessary either to secure themselves a place in the system they are dependent upon or to leave it.”

Hirst, who also taught the History of Kazakhstan course, notes that it can be difficult for students to navigate attending a school where critical thinking is encouraged while living in a country where it’s not. “When I talked to the students about their reticence, I found that many of them were struggling to code-switch as fast as we were asking them to,” he says.

School officials say they’re confident that students will be able to manage this balancing act. “I’m sure that, along the way, our students will have different views on societal organization and so on. And I do hope that they aren’t just buying propaganda, that they are thinking for themselves,” says Katsu. “But one thing that stands out to me at the same time is that our students are very patriotic. They are proud of this country.”

Katsu calls President Nazarbayev’s decision to set up the school “a calculated risk.” “If you were afraid,” he says, “you wouldn’t create Nazarbayev University.”

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More Information about THEE university in Kazakstan

The other day I started an article that was written by Joseph Kucera titled “Can a homegrown university in authoritarian Kazakhstan incubate reform?” Only time will tell but it is something to watch and I believe the rest of the world SHOULD be watching Kazakhstan. Here is the second part of the article:

The government’s original vision for the school aimed to create a new technocratic elite by focusing on science and engineering. But pressure from the foreign partners convinced Nazarbayev to include the school of humanities and social sciences, which is where things get difficult for a country that insists on controlling the public narrative.

Students are required to take a course called the History of Kazakhstan. It uses primary source documents to teach from a critical perspective rather than the government-approved version of history designed to promote patriotism more than stimulate thought. For example, one of the seminal events of the founding of modern Kazakhstan was a wave of protests in 1986, when Kazakhs opposed the Kremlin’s appointment of an ethnic Russian as first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. The event is now portrayed as the awakening of a Kazakh political identity. But at the time, Nazarbayev, then the second-ranking official in Kazakhstan, publicly condemned the protests, a fact that is glossed over in official hagiographies.

Zbigniew Wojnowski, a Polish-born, British-educated professor who teaches the course, wrote about one student’s reaction to this revelation in an academic association newsletter, “She did not altogether reject what she had believed before, and she refrained from drawing binary distinctions into ‘Western’ and ‘Kazakh’ views on the past. Still, she was visibly excited to learn something new. ‘You know, I have never worked with primary sources before, and I assumed it had all been very simple: People strove for independence, and then they won. That’s what we were taught at school, but now I’m just not sure what to think.’”

By hiring professors accustomed to academic freedom, the authorities have begun a process they can’t control, says Alima Bissenova, an anthropology professor who grew up in Kazakhstan and earned a Ph.D. at Cornell. “You can’t control people, and if you try to control them, they’ll leave. If they started to tell me what to teach, I’ll leave,” she says. While the university does not use the tenure system, the law regulating the university guarantees academic freedom, and so far, “the authorities have fully respected that,” Katsu says.

Bissenova compared Nazarbayev University to the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, the Russian imperial high school, which in the 19th century brought in French and German teachers to educate the children of the elite and ended up producing liberal rebels like Alexander Pushkin. “So academics are sowing the seeds of liberal education on foreign soil without knowing what will grow out of it,” she says. “And nobody completely controls this process — not academics themselves, not the administration of N.U., not Nazarbayev. Nobody knows what will grow and how these seeds will adapt and what kind of hybrids will emerge. Some people, from all sides, might not like what will grow.”

But this, at least in part, is the idea. “We decided to bring some Western values and see how they can work and if our population and our intellectual circles are ready to accept them,” says Yerbol Orynbayev, an assistant to President Nazarbayev who has been closely involved in the development of the university.

The government has not shown much interest in adopting liberal values, however, at least in the short term. The parliament contains no opposition members, and the country has systematically closed down independent newspapers and jailed opposition activists on spurious charges. Even small protests are quickly shut down and their participants arrested. Kazakhstan’s ratings on political and civic freedom are lower than when it gained independence, according to Washington-based human rights organization Freedom House, which labels the country “not free.”

At the same time, always mindful of its image abroad, Kazakhstan has paid millions to lobbyists, PR companies and think tanks in Washington and European capitals to promote an image of a progressive, modernizing country. Nazarbayev University — whether or not it turns out to be a truly liberalizing force — neatly dovetails with those efforts. And some critics, when the university was set up, noted that a side benefit of educating the country’s youth at home rather than overseas was that it would limit their exposure to possibly dangerously liberal ideas from abroad.

(to be continued)

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More info about Astana’s university, THEE university

The following article dated June 20, 2014 and titled “Can a homegrown university in authoritarian Kazakhstan incubate reform?” was given to me by an American friend who used to teach with me in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Of course, as westerners have all been looking at how NU in Astana has affected the enrollment of students at the “prestigious” and world class university in Almaty. Maybe things are NOT as wonderful as they seem, especially if you read this article written by Joshua Kucera. (Please consider the source and what their motives are) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/20/kazakhstan-s-audaciousnazarbayevuniversity.html
The first part reads the following:

With its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited a university system in which corruption was ubiquitous and the curriculum focused on memorization rather than critical thinking. Its first solution was to use the country’s growing oil and gas revenues to pay for promising students to study abroad, particularly in the United States, after which they were required to return to work in Kazakhstan. The program, called Bolashak (“future” in Kazakh), has given scholarships to 10,000 students, who now form the core of the country’s young elite.

But Nazarbayev wanted a homegrown university where students would be educated in a Kazakh environment. Rather than attracting an American university to open a local branch (as New York University has done in the United Arab Emirates and Yale in Singapore), Kazakhstan decided to enlist foreign partners in setting up the school but to make it a Kazakhstan-owned enterprise.

The university “will become a national brand of Kazakhstan that will combine the advantages of the national education system and the best of international research and education practice,” Nazarbayev said at the school’s 2010 opening ceremony at the campus on the outskirts of the capital, Astana.

The president is fully aware that this is a much more expensive proposition than continuing the Bolashak program,” de Tray says. “But he also understood that he didn’t want students that were clones of Western institutions. He wanted Kazakhs who could compete in a global world.”

Built around a vast atrium featuring marble floors, palm trees, fountains and a massive flag of Kazakhstan, the school admitted its first students in the fall of 2010. One of its first challenges was operating a competitive admissions process in a country rife with nepotism and corruption. “There was a lot of pressure, especially on my Kazakh colleagues, but I also had to explain why their sons or daughters couldn’t get in,” says Shigeo Katsu, the university’s president, in an interview in his office, where two portraits of Nazarbayev hang.

The school will graduate its first class of roughly 420 undergraduates in the spring of 2015. There are three schools for undergraduates — engineering, science and technology, and humanities and social sciences — and graduate programs in business, education and public policy, with plans for schools of mining and medicine. Asked what the school’s budget is, Katsu declined to comment, saying, “It’s a sensitive topic.”

(to be continued)

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June Busy-Ness and other things of note

Well, I guess we are INTO June already and I haven’t posted anything for about a week. Time to put down my thoughts as they come to me. This was a VERY busy day, I accomplished quite a bit in the morning, went home and had help with picking asparagus and then a meeting tonight with gals, talking over finger food. Yes, a good day but all the people I talked with from different areas of my life means I feel fatigued now. I know I must not overdo it.

I found out more from someone who witnessed the aftermath of my accident over a month ago. I was obviously in shock and wanting to be in control and acted as if nothing was wrong with me. Something was VERY wrong and the others as first responders knew it. Well, without going into detail, I am healing and in recovery but have to go slow physically. That is hard to do because there is SOOOOO much work to do around our place with gardening and weeding. I can mow the lawn, rake the grass clippings but that is about it. I walked a mile the other day on the treadmill, the week before I felt like I had done a marathon with walking a mile on the gravel road in search of asparagus.

The lilacs are blooming, as are all the other trees like plum, chokecherry and apple. Early June is a wonderful time to be outside to enjoy the cooler temps before summer really sets in. As we relish our life, I’m thinking of those in east Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and for their country. I think the Ukrainians from the west are making steady progress but not without cost of human life. I have friends who are helping out with the Ukrainian children who have come to stay with them during this time of chaos.

So many other places in the world do not have the solace and peace we enjoy in our corner of the world. Of course, they have not survived an utterly, horrible winter like we went through with the cold, etc. We complain about it but when June comes we seem to have a memory lapse about what we just endured for six months. I know there are colder places like Astana, Kazakhstan because I have lived there, but survived.

I don’t have much to report, especially about Kazakhstan but I wanted to keep you updated about my doings. I am glad I am alive, I’m finally hearing stories about my accident and it could have been a different ending. My husband is good to me, I’m grateful for him and his patience and understanding. Also, God is good, ALL the time!

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Difficult to watch…plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean

I haven’t posted for a while simply because it is so difficult to know what will happen next. I’m sad about the Malaysian airliner going in to the ocean, if that is what really happened, because there are so many families affected by this tragedy. However, I wish the news media would quit showing all the possible scenarios of plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean views from satellites. REALLY?! That is such yellow journalism, meaning that it is cowardly and not asking the hard questions about what is really happening in Ukraine.

What county would be next for Putin to “save!?” I am betting on Kazakhstan as a possible candidate. Although the fearless leader who is power in Astana would not let that happen. If something were to happen to him though, you can bet that Putin would be right there to save the Russians from all that is Kazakh! I do believe that there is enough information that has been disseminated to the people in both countries about their Soviet past so that they would not welcome a re-visit of those times again. That is what Putin wants, a re-establishing of the great and mighty empire of the Soviet Union. However, from what I have read there is much unrest and too many people who know what is going on in Russia to have that happen. Those who know the truth have been put down or marginalized which only makes things worse. The truth will eventually come to the top.

I read about Estonia where they might have a visit from Putin’s troops too once he is through with Ukraine. They made no bones about kicking out the Russian people and went back to their Estonian language with the fall of the Soviet Union. I think that would be a bad move on Putin’s part to try to tell the rest of the world that Estonia is next on his agenda. Maybe the West will wake up to this power-hungry dictator in the making. Maybe not.

Sochi Olympics was such a farce. Putin wanted everyone to think he was some benevolent benefactor of the games while all the time he is masterminding the invasion of Crimea. This has been in the works for years. Kazakhstan needs to pay attention and be ready. Perhaps the leaders in Astana are already awake to this fact. In the meantime, it is difficult to watch plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean.

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Sundog Days and Groundhog Day

sundogstea cupsYesterday passed by without much fanfare about Groundhog Day.  People in Minnesota already know they are going to get more snow and winter weather whether Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog, sees his shadow or not.  Watched part of the Super Bowl last night and after seeing the lopsided score and the awful half time show, I found other things to do.

Lately I have had women over for teas and conversation using my paternal grandmother’s tea set. (see photo above) These are probably post WWII plates and saucers that were hand painted by Japanese ladies after Japan lost the war. Others have shown off their plates that read on the bottom “Occupied Japan.”  With all the social media and how involved we all get with Twitter and Facebook, it is refreshing to just sit around and have scones and tea.

So far with my three parties, I have had 16 or 17 women over in the last several weeks.  I hope to have others to our old farmhouse in March when the weather is not so unpredictable. I had to cancel my first party because of a blizzard.  The other parties meant that our yard had to be snow blown out by a fancy tractor. Thanks to our wonderful neighbors who live a mile away.  It has gotten to the point where even if we don’t call them and it is 20 degrees below zero, they still show up ready to clean out our yard.  Yes, we have had blizzards a-plenty and we just finished January. We know, as Minnesotans, that there are potentially three more months of blizzard weather that could hamper our plans.  So we have become flexible and we are NOT breakable. Not as breakable as fragile tea cups and saucers.

I am glad to say that my second book is in the hopper. It was a tough semester with teaching two classes, being Program Director of our Carnegie and putting photos and text together for the book on my hometown. I look forward to how the proofs will look once May rolls around. The launch date is set for early June for our All-Schools Reunion end of June.

Not much other news to announce. I am watching the events very closely in Ukraine because I lived there for six years and have many friends and former students still there.  Some have gone to Maidan (Square in Ukrainian) plaza on Kretschatik, hopefully none have been in the middle of violence or some of the earlier altercations. I pray that is all resolved soon but there are too many bigger issues that have been under the surface for a long time. I think the same could be said about Kazakhstan.  Many things have been swept under the rug and soon there could be a dramatic change in the landscape especially in Astana.

What we can do is sit back and enjoy life and LOVE our families. At the same time we can pray for those who are missing loved ones or are struggling to survive in countries where their government does not serve the people.  Our own democracy is fragile and hanging in the balance.

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Chapters in the new book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt”

Drinking Camel's Milk coverI 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.

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“Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt” – newly released book

I’m extremely excited about this recently released book by Summertime Publishing for expat readers to learn more about Kazakshtan. I contributed a story in the second chapter of six chapters for this book. I’m awaiting my copy to come in the mail from the Italian editor, Monica Neboli. You can check it out for yourself by going to Amazon.com. In the 196 pages, there are over 20 authors who have also added their experiences to this book. The chapters are the following: 1) The Arrival 2) Kazakhstan’s History and Traditions 3) Contemporary Living in Kazakhstan 4) Cross-Cultural Exchanges 5) Travelling in Kazakshtan 6) The Silent Steppe.

After reading the first chapter’s entry by Jacyntha England about “First Snow,” I was brought to tears. Ms. England does a good job of showing how the Kazakh people are kind and giving. That’s what I want to remember about the many Kazakhs I met in Almaty and Astana the three and a half years I lived in Kazakhstan. In this case, they welcome the vulnerable visitor who doesn’t know how tough the country can be especially with the first snow of the season. The empathy shown by an old man acting as a taxi driver to a woman who has just arrived from a two week vacation in Thailand is endearing. The warming blanket is the key ingredient in this story. Please check this book out for yourself if you want to learn how other authors portray this well kept secret of a country…Kazakhstan.

Drinking Camel's Milk cover

The following is a summary about this book:
The Republic of Kazakhstan emerged from the former USSR as an independent nation in 1991. It is one of the largest countries in the world and Astana, its capital, is one of the youngest (and coldest) capital cities. In this anthology of expatriate experiences in Kazakhstan, 24 authors from 11 countries show us this Central Asian country as they know it.

In Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt, we travel to the country’s bustling, multicultural cities, to its rural homesteads steeped in rich traditions, and to the Kazakh Steppe, the vast open plain that has for centuries been home to a nomadic way of life. During the journey, we come to understand the importance of the yurt, or nomad’s tent, we are privy to a powerful reflection on Soviet-era labour camps, and we witness the build-up to a traditional Kazakh wedding.

In a variety of cross-cultural exchanges – some bewildering, some funny – we meet locals, try new cuisines, discover the work of a talented local artist, join one man’s quest for a unique piece of Kazakh furniture for his wife, and explore the steppe as it deserves to be explored – on horseback. More importantly, we are introduced to the warmth of Kazakh hospitality and we learn it is possible to survive the extreme temperatures of a Kazakh winter.

Whether you are an expat, a traveller or just curious about other cultures, Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt: Expat Stories from Kazakhstan will introduce you to the Kazakh landscape, people and cultures as experienced by its expatriates – both those who are passing through and those who have decided to stay.

‘A unique exploration of Kazakhstan through the eyes of foreigners, Drinking
Camel’s Milk in the Yurt touches upon cross-cultural exchanges, city living, history, traditions, unexpected friendships, adventure and more. With a generous mix of light-hearted expat tales and reflective stories of adaptation and discovery, this anthology enthrals the reader from beginning to end. Neboli has perfectly assembled captivating stories of uncovering a land largely unknown and often misunderstood, while simultaneously exposing a beautiful destination where selfless hospitality, overt kindness and longstanding traditions are common threads that weave this vast nation together.’
– Alison Cavatore, Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Global Living
Magazine, http://www.GlobalLivingMagazine.com

‘Twenty-four stories of impressions, memories, thoughts and emotions by expatriates in Kazakhstan – all topped with descriptions of aromas, flavours, colours and landscapes that trigger the imagination and carry one into this country straddling Europe and Asia…’
– M. Elena Spikermann, Literary Scout & Agent

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