Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1: Winter, AIDS, and OSCE!

Congratulations on the first day of Winter! While we are all taught that the start and close of the seasons fall on the equinoxes and solstices, Kazakhstan (and I am assuming all of the former Soviet Union) mark their seasons on the first of the month. So spring starts March 1, summer on June 1, fall on September 1, and winter on December 1. Also, people sometimes wish each other Happy First Day of Winter, or Happy First Day of Spring, but the way Russian works, they don't say "Happy ______," they say congratulations. So you often get congratulated for the new year or for having a birthday or for the start of a season you thought was still 22 days away. So for everyone out there, "Congratulations on the first day of winter!"

December 1 is also World AIDS Day, translated into Russian as World Fight Against AIDS Day and into Kazakh as lots of words I still don't know how to read. This difference in translation may be to prevent any confusion from people who thought the day was celebrating the disease and not efforts to eradicate it. Although the population of K-stan only has a small number of infected people (15,000ish by reported numbers), some characteristics of the population (heroine use, infidelity in marriage, high use of prostitutes) make it at-risk for a larger outbreak.

Finally, December 1 marks the beginning of the OSCE summit. For those of you not in Kazakhstan, this is an extremely big deal. While a lot of news coverage was devoted to things like the G20 summit or the NATO summit held over the last few months, this is the really important summit. I doubt that those other two summits had billboards all over the country dedicated to it, had a child named after it, had its very own TV channel, and shut down half a city. For those of you who may have never heard of the OSCE: "The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. Most of its 3,500-plus staff are engaged in field operations, with only around 10% in its headquarters." For Kazakhstan to hold the chairmanship the past year is a really great honor because it shows it as a leader in Central Asia. I'd post some pictures of all the billboards advertising the summit, but I don't know how to upload pictures with access to Blogspot still being restricted in Kazakhstan.

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