Visit to Almaty Kazakhstan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Visit to Almaty Kazakhstan

I was sent by my employer to work with a team in a field office near the Zhibek Zholy Metro station in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Overall, my experiences were positive during my stay in Almaty. I met several kind people and found the variety and quality of food remarkable. One downside that would prevent me from ever living in Almaty is the fog of pollution that weighs heavily on the city. There is a lack of pollution controls that gives way to the bad air quality (especially from the buses). Coming back home to the States, I was relieved to breathe again! Thank goodness for the enforcement of emission laws in the US!

I arrived solo on this trip, so for the most part, I was on my own until I met some friendly Kazakh locals who spoke English during the middle part of my stay. To learn more about the city, I used every form of transportation available: walking, taking the bus, riding the Metro, and occasionally hiring gypsy taxis. I used Google Maps and Google Translate applications on my phone to navigate the city and the Russian language. Google Translate employs the device’s camera to recognize Russian words/phrases and instantly translates them into English. So much easier to be living in the 21st century!

When I first arrived at the airport, several Kazakhs aggressively approached me for my business. I started my pricing negotiations and went with the gentleman who was the most direct and could speak English. He gave me a ballpark figure that was higher than I wanted along with the story that inflation has gotten the best of him and his family. I agreed to his proposed amount under the condition that he would need to help me as my translator to purchase a SIM card with a phone and data plan. And these services needed to be activated and working before I arrived at my hotel. The gentleman agreed. With his help, I had purchased the SIM card and loaded money into the account. On the way out, he couldn’t figure out how to activate my phone, given the instructions in Russian. He then called a friend that he picked up on the way to help with activation. The friend helped, and I paid as promised. We had a fun time in that taxi ride talking about life in the States and Kazakhstan. After they asked what my name was and learned it was Neo, they insisted on calling me, the Matrix Man. Once we arrived at the hotel, we all got out of the car, shook hands, and gave each other hugs. It was a heartfelt connected moment of shared humanity.

The field office was in a large building with multiple floors. The floor that I worked on had an open floor layout with several groups of tables headed by a series of management desks that are in a position to keep an eye on things and provide support to the team when needed. I was very interested in the integration of women with men in the workplace and pleasantly surprised to learn that they worked and collaborated well together. For seating arrangements, the men and women clustered in segregated groups. During the workday, I had observed sisterhood in play. On one occasion, a woman had offered her chair to another woman and then started braiding her hair, which took around 30 minutes to complete. During the lunch period, I had observed several office workers snoozing in their chairs. Naps in Kazakhstan are just as vital as they are in Mexico. It was in the office where I learned how customary handshakes are in the Kazakhstan culture. I shook hands several times a day at various times when colleagues arrived at the office and later in the day when they departed for home. People who I didn’t know nor worked with came at my desk to shake my hand. I always responded with a firm handshake and a smile. Given the level of trust and respect, Kazakhs may have for you; they may give you a two-handed handshake as a grateful gesture. I also heard a different explanation for using two hands; As a sign of trust, both are revealed, indicating they do not intend to hurt you with their concealed weapon.

The Metro stations are beautiful, well kept, and reminded me of some of the stations I had visited in Moscow. Here is where I’ve seen the most security compared to other countries I’ve visited. The officers wear uniforms that are reminiscent of the Russian military with the large “Zhukov” caps. They always appear vigilant with truncheons in hand.

On Sunday morning, it was misty, and there was rain in the forecast. I needed to get out of the hotel, get some fresh air and exercise, so I took a taxi to Medeo [above the city in the mountains where there is a huge ice skating rink, the highest in the world]. I heard that one could get to the Shymbulak from Medeo, but once I arrived and scanned the area, I didn’t know how to advance up further, and I was worried about how I would return to the hotel. The clerks selling passes for the skating rink had trouble understanding me. I took a chance and bought a 2-hour pass and went skating. I had so much fun and bumped into a guy who asked me a question in Russian. I told him that I spoke English and he replied, “me too”! I was so pleased to meet this Kazakh man and his son, who he was taking skating for the day. We ran into a group of his friends who were wearing NHL jerseys from various teams. I felt like I was at home again. My new friend offered to take a drive up to the Shymbulak, and in exchange, I bought him, his brother (who gave us a ride), and his son lunch at the restaurant. There wasn’t much of a view with the rain, and it was too early in the season to ski, but having lunch and spending time with my new friends brought me a lot of enjoyment.

There is the possibility I may return to work in Kazakhstan. I’m delighted that I now have connections with friends in Almaty that I can reach out to if I do revisit. Now I have a place in my heart for Kazakhstan!


Submitted: December 05, 2019

© Copyright 2021 neo machina. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Myanmar

Kazakhstan and the other -stans are all countries still trying to find their identity. Nice article, i recommend Norway for vacations. Here you get clean air, most people speak english and perhaps you might meet a viking or two.

Fri, December 6th, 2019 7:38pm

Author
Reply

Love to meet a Viking :) Thank you for the compliment.

Wed, December 11th, 2019 8:25am

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