Savannah to Kazakhstan is a long trip. 21 hours. We left Atlanta on Sunday, August 9 and arrived in Almaty Tuesday morning. My first thought when we came out of the baggage claim was, Holy cow. All the taxi drivers were hollering, Taxis! Taxis! And then I saw Michael and hugging him was all I could think about. It was great to see him; it had been a year.
We stayed in Almaty for a couple days. We went to the bazaar. It was so different. They sold everything from spices to meat, all out in the open. The city was very busy and crowded in some places another other places were less busy. We met some of Michael’s friends and had a beer with them. They were very nice. I was glad to put faces on names that Michael has mentioned. We visited Silk Way, a square that reminded me a little of City Market in Savannah, with paintings, shops, and vendors selling food. We went to an American café. It was nice to have a cup of coffee.
Then it was time for us to go to Taraz. I was not so sure of this train ride (11 hours) to Taraz. Michael had told us a little about the ride. I could not imagine sleeping next to a stranger. I worried for no reason. It was not bad. We shared a platscart compartment with two Russian women and a grandchild. They were so friendly and we talked about ourselves with Michael translating (he would do a lot of that on the trip.) We shared our food and talked until lights out at 11:00. I was on the top, which was better. There are four beds: two on the top and two on the bottom. The train was very hot and crowded until the sun went down. It was very enjoyable.
We arrived in Taraz around 3am Thursday and I rode in my third taxi. They drive wild. Who would have thought I would ride in cars with no backseat seat belts. It was like Thumping, stick out your hand and Bam! a car stops and you give a price and off you go. We went to Michael’s apartment, very small. It might be smaller than my den. We three slept there, Stephen on the floor and Michael and I shared his futon. I haven’t slept with Michael since he was a little boy. We went to Michael’s work and met his co-workers. We helped him teach English Club. All of them were real curious about us. Everyone we met was so friendly. It was like we had always around. We did a lot of things in Taraz, like walking in the square, having an amazing meal at one of his friend’s houses, and gosting with his ex-host families (visiting).
We went on a picnic with his co-workers and English Club. We met by a park and rode on a bus to the lake. It was fun. We played games on the way. At the lake, people swam. We had some great food and conversation in both Russian and English. It was great fun. I was happy to see, and a little surprised at how everyone socializes together, young and old had so much fun together. It was a great day. Everyone was so nice and made sure I was having fun also.
We also went gosting to his old host family’s homes. The first house was near Almaty. We ate a dish a lot like chicken and rice. The second was near Taraz. We were treated like long lost family. We had a feast and I drank cognac for the first time and used an outhouse for the first time. I like the cognac, but not the outhouse. We had the pleasure of going to a Kazakh wedding. It was a lot of fun. Food, food, and more food. We also had a lot of toasts for the wedding couple. We toasted many times with wine, vodka, and cognac. We danced the Kazakh way, had a great time. We got home around 2am, and we slept until 11:30. Monday we went out and toured more of the city. It was a good day.
My Kazakhstan trip was amazing. I have to say I was very nervous. Me, Margie, in a far far country. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I ‘d visit Michael, but a year was a long time not to see my son and hug him. Everyone I have met from his co-workers, his friends, and the youth people in English club have been so sweet and friendly. I hope I have made many friendships. As a mom, I now feel that Michael is well taken care of. Everyone really likes him, and I know he is in good hands.
I loved Taraz. It was like my home. Not so busy and not so crowded. They have beautiful parks, and family with children are out at night. Everyone accepted me with open arms. I hope to keep in touch with some of the people I’ve met. Like Michael said, he wanted me to experience a week in his life. I have, and it was amazing.