Posts tagged Close to Eden

How fluid are Kazakhstan’s borders with China?

While I lived in Harbin, Heilongjiang in the late 1980s, I had always heard about Urumqi in the western part of China.  Northeast China is a LOOOOnnnggg ways away. Just compare the distance of East Coast of the U.S. with the West Coast.  I lived closer to Urumqi while I lived in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.  Missed my chance to see what used to be considered Uyghurstan or whatever spelling you choose for an ethnic group that was Muslim and did not look Oriental.  I remember when I was visiting in Shanghai or Guangzhou, we would be bombarded outside of our hotel with “change money, change money…” by the Uyghurs.  I wonder if they still do that or if they have become more sophisticated in making money off of the clueless foreigners.

Anyway, I know friends of mine who did cross the Kazakhstan border into China and it was an arduous task.  Long waits and no service mentality to come to the aid of hapless travelers who didn’t know what they were in for except an adventure to China.  I’m including a map of Kazakhstan and China’s border from a Chinese perspective.  I would like to know more about this region of the world.  I’ve suggested many times to my husband that we could always go to Mongolia to teach, another place I’d like to visit.  We shall see.  For now, maybe I should just rent out the movie “Close to Eden.”  Besides wonderful cinematography, it shows a clash of Chinese and Mongolian and Russian cultures all in one mix.

I’m also wondering about human trafficking between the borders of China and Kazakhstan (or Kyrgyzstan for that matter), how easy is it to cross illegally over the Tien Shan mountains?  I need to find someone who knows the geography of this little known area in Central Asia.  Of course, the traffickers know where the leaky places are and perhaps they have also greased the palms of those who are in charge of law enforcement at the borders. So much corruption on both sides, too many victims will sadly fall prey to the traffickers deceitful lies.

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“Close to Eden” in Kazakhstan

“Close to Eden” is a gem of a foreign movie which came out a year or two before 1992, however, that was the year when it was nominated to be Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards.  It should have won, it is hilarious if you love seeing the big, open steppes of Mongolia which borders China.  The plot starts with a Russian man named Sergei stuck in the middle of a nowhere outback. You see, Mongolia is Asia’s version of Montana’s BIG SKY Country!

 

Three cultures are at odds with each other because of language barriers yet it all comes together in this 109 minute movie to make it a true delight. (In other words, a must-see for those who want to know what life was like outside of any Central Asian city.)

Gombo, the Mongolian shepherd and his family, help Sergei to get his old, blue Russian style truck out of the lake and are hospitable to him until he can get back on the road again. A poignant scene shows up with Sergei remembering his sad past under the Soviet system.  This happens in a bar when he is drunk, a way to cope with his maladies. The funniest part is when Gombo crosses the border to China to buy a TV set at his wife’s request so they can watch it in their yurt.  As I recall, all they see in the picture is the reflection of waving grass while the TV sits outside the yurt.  Gumbo also comes back with something else in an effort to modernize and keep pace with globalization.

 

I remember when I first saw this film back in 1990 or ’91, it was soon after I had returned from teaching in China for two years.  This movie went by a different foreign name, something like the long lasso or whip that a shepherd uses.  Maybe the producers changed it to “Close to Eden” because it is easier for westerners to remember.  I sat with my brother and sister in a darkened, sparsely attended theater howling with laughter, really no virtual LOL the whole way through.  Several years ago I had to special order the VHS tape and bought it even before I knew I was going back to the steppes region of Kazakhstan.  I always tell my husband when we run out of places to adventure to, that we could always go to Mongolia.

 

At some point in our teaching careers, we just might go to Mongolia.  Then we would see if we are any closer to Eden.  As it is, this weekend I’m going to Almaty’s version of Eden at Alatau Sanatorium for a Central Asia Teaching of English Conference (CATEC).   I hope to meet some other like-minded educators from all over Central Asia.  It should be a fun time, especially once my presentation is over.  It is titled:  “Orality vs. InfoLiteracy in Central Asia:  What’s a Teacher to Do?” 

 

All that to warn my dear readers that I might not be posting for a couple of days, “What’s a Blogthor to do?”

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