Location: Uralsk, Kazakhstan

My address! Rachael Schmidt 106 Dimitrieva St. P.O Box 56 Uralsk 417 000 Kazakhstan

Friday, March 31, 2006

Found in Kazakhstan

It’s been almost one year since I left Kazakhstan. Looking back now, I can only say that my time in Kazakhstan (especially Uralsk) was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I admit life was often very difficult and trying there, but the beauty far exceeds any bad memories. And by beauty, I’m referring to the people. Namely, my students. Its’ such a blessing to still be in contact with some of them. Their emails (especially Zhannet!) bring tears of joy. These women, and Rafhkat and Alibek, will soon be making great contributions to their country, to their families, and to the families they will soon be starting (like Danagul!) I wish you all the best of luck! And remember that someone in America is thinking of you and is very proud of each and every one of you! Thank you for all that you taught me!
Next, I must thank and acknowledge my host families. In Ecik; Syuliman, Sonya, Farida, and Aslan. They were the warmest, loving and generous people I’ve ever met. And I was most fortunate to have been a part of their family for 2 months. In Uralsk; I was blessed with another incredible family. Ghimran, Maoora, Azamat, Armat (Pushkin!), Askar, Babushka, and Gulzhan. Once again, they made me feel part of the family and truly introduced me to the richness of Kazakh culture.
I must also thank my counterpart, Maryam, and the wonderful teachers of West Kazakhstan University. Especially Lyazzat. She went well out of her way to welcome me and helped me in many ways. And also included me in many family events as well. Thank you Lyazzat! I hope you read this and email me! I lost your email. And Maryam, thank you so much for all your help and patience. I hope we meet again someday.
My neighbors; Ludmila, Oleg, Lena, and sweet little Nikita. I fear you have to put up with me more than anyone else! Ludmila, I miss your beautiful, Ukrainian voice. I hope you’re still singing and happily married. Lena, you were simply the best! Every time I see a vodka bottle I think of you! I pray you and your family are doing well.
And, to the best landlady and friend in the world, Elena. I don’t know what I would have down without you. I miss your friendship and pray you and your daughter are doing well!
The teachers of Eurasia Institute. You guys, especially Jazhalan, are simply crazy! And I love you for that! Albina, Zarima, Jay, Elena, I miss you all and hope your careers are very successful and rewarding. Especially Elena, thank you for the Russian lessons, including me in your family and for your warm friendship. And then there’s Tommy, You’re insane man! We better meet up again someday. Until then, put your damn shoes on!
And finally Ranida. How you ever put up with Tommy I’ll never know. But I’m glad you did, otherwise we wouldn’t have become such good friends. Please keep in touch.
Oh, and of course Askar. I’m so very, VERY proud of you! Congratulations on your scholarship to America. I hope you had a wonderful experience and learned a lot. I wish you the best of success. Please thank your family for me for all their amazing hospitality. You have a beautiful family! Please email me your address (in English) so I can send them some photos.
Oh wait! Tolkyn! God bless you girl! I can’t believe you’ve been in my country all this time and we still haven’t met up yet. I promise to change that soon. I hope married life is treating you well.
Although I may have been “lost in Kazakhstan,” here are a few things I found: life long friends, an appreciation for bisbarmak, how to drink vodka the Kazakh way, the experience of what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, another foreign language, how to hitch-hike, and most importantly, an experience that changed my life forever. Thank you Kazakhstan!
your friend, Rachael