WEEK 17: Kazakhstan, giver of gifts

IMG_0554Sam and I have lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan for almost two yearsMemorial Day weekend officially marks our two-year anniversary. If at one time I thought my move from Central Illinois to Washington, DC made me harder-faster-stronger, my move to a remote, isolated, post-Soviet, Russian-speaking country laughs at this former self.

In two years time, Kazakhstan has given me many things. Most of them, I think, will be useful this summer when we’re back in America:

More red blood cells. Which we’ll need for…um, uh. Well, we’ll be sure to get rid of ALL OF THEM while lying on the beach, or licking hamburger grease off of our fingers on the 4th of July.

Resignation to bureaucracy. Living under Chief of Mission Authority requires sacrificing some degree of freedom, autonomy, and privacy. And Kazakhstan certainly has its own brand of bureaucracy. But Sam and I believe the compromises are worth it—life in the Foreign Service ultimately gives us the type of life we want.

Tolerance for the unexpected. But simultaneously a lack of tolerance for bullshit.

Toad face. This is the default, public face of most people in Kazakhstan—unlike Americans, Kazakhs save their smiling for people they care about. I plan to employ Toad Face while in the delivery room so I get my way.

The reassuring knowledge that yes, you can survive without an iphone. I would be lying to say that my Nokia has been completely sufficient—I mean, I can CALL people with it—but I do wonder how the last two years of my life would have been different with a map function, or a translator app…

A fantastic pooch. Alright, so Mishka won’t exactly be useful this summer, but it will be nice to have her along. Yup—our little Kazakh street mutt is coming to America.

A rock-solid marriage. Sam and I celebrated our three-year anniversary on Tuesday. We’ve spent more of our marriage in Kazakhstan than not in Kazakhstan. What doesn’t kill you…right?

{Above: Glacier station above Chymbulak, at approximately 12,000 feet above sea level. After five months in America, it’ll be some time before I’m back in fighting form—and back in this neck of the woods.}

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