Greetings all and a happy New Year to you! I hope that this update finds you all well. I had quite an interesting week back in Semey and I'm rather sorry to see it over. First things first--Stalinism is NOT dead. But I'll get to that in a little bit!
I arrived in Semey, again staying with Murat's family. This time I was fortunate because the whole family was there--Murat's father (Marat--after the Revolutionary) who works as a turner (I think) for the nearby coal mines. He also produces the cutlery that the family uses, when not using his machine for work.
Murat's dad is a very cool guy--he's the short, skinny man in the pictures with the mustache. He also has a large number of gold teeth, but since he's usually got a big grin on his face it's endearing instead of intimidating. Gold fillings are a heck of a lot more common here and so don't really have that "Gangsta" or "ghetto" feel I normally associate with them.
I had a chance to really get to know the old man the first day I was there, because even though I had left later than Murat, Murat had taken a train while Victor and I took the bus and trains are slower than dirt and like to bypass Semey and go to through Russia, instead of a straight shot. At any rate, I was just hanging out alone at Murat's home with his Dad, since he was also on holiday, but the mother of the house wasn't.
To start with, we kind of kept to our separate areas--I settled into the living room while Mr. "Zharmukhametov" (that's Murat's last name, so from now on, his dad'll just be Marat and his Mother is Mrs. Murat) stayed in the bedroom (where they all sleep) which has the TV (the living room has a couch, a cabinet with dishes, and the computer). After a little while, Marat decided to come out and invited me to share a drink of vodka with him.
I accepted his offer, despite the fact that neither of us could understand each other. However, we did our best to hobble a conversation together while we shared a small bottle of Vodka. I learned that Marat had served in the Soviet Army in the 70s. We tried to talk about some other things, but I wasn’t really sure what he was meaning—for about twenty minutes we were talking about Cossacks and I thought he was telling me they weren’t Nazis (Ne-Nazi), but when Murat came back it turned out he was saying “Ne-Natsi” as in not a nationality. So, despite living here for almost a month (I think it may be exactly a month by the time this post goes up!) I am not yet fluent in Kazakh or Russian. However, Murat was usually around and so he could help us clear up most of the confusion.
This time the weather was not so harsh in Semey and so I didn’t spend my whole vacation huddling in the living room, trying to avoid freezing to death. Instead, a good portion was me sitting comfortably in the living room messing around online, being frustrated with the Wifi at Murat’s house that was rather inconsistent—but reminding myself I had no right to complain about wifi in Kazakhstan, since it is a wonderful luxury I have not been able to enjoy before!
At any rate, my stay was exceedingly pleasant at Murat’s home, with the family going out of their way to ensure that I was comfortable. Murat’s mother again too fantastic care of our nutritional needs, despite the fact that she was working and also taking care of three men now, instead of just two bums. She always made sure that we had a wonderful meal every night, even if that meant we were eating dinner at about 11 PM…which meant that our bed times were usually quite early in the morning.
After Murat arrived, we were able to communicate more with each other. You’ll probably be glad to hear that I’ve been adopted by another family abroad. I seem to be good at getting myself adopted by families abroad—-I was taken in by Elly’s family in Korea, I’ve got Haixiao’s family in China, the Maliks have given me an open invitation to Pakistan, and now I’ve got one in Kazakhstan. So, Mom, you can sleep soundly, I’ve got support and help here—including their cat Maquis.
Throughout the week that I was there, I spent much of it hanging out at home, but I also was able to meet with some of my old friends in Semey. Sometimes I was able to plan ahead and meet with people during the day, but at least two times, it was completely by accident, when Murat, Victor, and I were out picking up tickets or were checking for tech devices they needed. I was very fortunate in this, because despite our efforts, sometimes I wasn’t able to make appointments with people or the plans unfortunately fell through.
I'll try to get a post about actual New Year's up and also talk about something very important--STALINISM LIVES!