News from Kazakhstan – Day 2



Shymkent Kazakhstan, Thursday January 23, 2015


At the start of today there was no agenda outside of eating meals.  The hospitality here has been overwhelming in every sense of the word.  The food is so wonderful and there is so much of it, but this is a culture that puts food and family love together in a way that is obvious. Alexandra has been looking after us at our accommodation.  This morning after breakfast she told us her own story.  It was truly amazing, starting from the hard times after perestroika in 1991 when Kazakhstan gained independence from Russia.  The way her Father found work for her and her family and the way he directed her path was beyond words.  I have photos of all these lovely people and when I look at them I will remember these stories –  and if you are around me at the time I would love to encourage you with the faithfulness of the father and the courage of the children in the family.  Alexandra is a genuine hero of the faith whose name will probably not be written in a history book, but will be recorded in the hearts of the many people whose lives she has touched.


After breakfast a plan emerged.  We were to have lunch with an Uzbeki family group and were promised a traditional experience of finger food –  five fingers that is.  The traditional Uzbeki way is to take food by hand, not by fork or spoon.  We drove for a little and stopped in front of a average looking home.  When we were welcomed and went inside [NB for future visits –  purchase boots with zippers, not shoes with laces] we were taken to a stunning room with a low and long table with cushions.  I was prepared for our meal.  Uzbekis and Kazakhs turn a meal table into a gourmet work of art.  From the moment you hit the table, or should I say the floor in this case, there are things to nibble as you begin to share family fellowship.  There are fruits of various kinds and nuts and bread with dips.  When I first came I didn’t get the process and by the time the main dishes came in I was already full.


Soon the table places were filled with mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers – generations enjoying being together ….and then the Koreans and Aussies.  There were songs, more amazing stories, more songs.  In this case we had an extra language to contend with because some of those present could speak in the Uzbeki language but not Russian.  And then I shared one of our stories.  Imaging that.  I spoke, Daesop translated in Korean, Jin Young translated into Russian and then one of the ladies there translated into Uzbeki.  But I can assure you that not one bit of the feeling was lost – we were simply transfixed on the task at hand – i.e. enjoying one another’s company for all it was worth.  The meal and the sharing went on for quite a while.  I know my backside was complaining, but it just had to wait in line behind a whole lot of more important priorities.


When the meal was over we were taken to what may well be the only western style shopping mall in Shymkent.  It had everything any western style mall would have.  It even had an ice rink at the bottom of the atrium.  We had a look around.  Everything was expensive, as you would expect.  We found a reasonable source of coffee and sat around having a bit of feedback time from all the things we had experienced since we arrived.  The Koreans in the group were keen to find a place to eat that sold Korean food and we eventually found a kind of Korean fast food place [with wifi] and soon we were into the noodles with a vengeance.  While we were there we ran into a few Korean family members who were self-funded and working here in Kazakhstan.  They were delightful and it was encouraging to hear how they were doing.


Even though we had eaten, we knew that Alexandra would not be daunted by any news of us having already eaten.  Sure enough, when we arrived at our accommodation she had another tasty bowl for each of us to handle.  Such love and kindness is impossible to resist.


With a four o’clock rise waiting for us in the morning, we pretty much trundled off to bed and sleep.  The stars were out and the ground was frozen hard.  We were warned that at some time after we woke up and before we got back to Tashkent the temperature would drop to minus twenty.  With a border crossing waiting for us that meant we would be out in the elements at about the time that minimum was happening.


A family meal with an Uzbeki Family group in Shymkent, Kazakhstan
B2Family songs in the Uzbek language.  They say that Russian speaks information to their heads and Uzbek speaks life to their hearts.
B3Family leaders who gathers all of the other families together for support and encouragement.  What they have been through will never be written adequately.
Another couple of family leaders from Tashkent – where we had a big family gathering, sang lots of songs and told stories.
Myself with two family leaders in Sarmakand, 300 km to the south in Uzbekistan by fast train – one of the major towns along the famous Silk Road