A wise man once said....

"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new." Dalai Lama

Friday, 7 June 2013

Friday Thoughts

You know I’ve written a couple of blog postings on my being in Atyrau but in them I’ve not really mentioned anything about the people.  Reason being, like anywhere else, people are different, no one is the same so like elsewhere, they are difficult to describe. That’s not a criticism just me lack of writing ability and skills. I’m no Ernest Hemmingway.  They Kazaks, mostly look European with similar physical size etc, majority have clear Asian features.  Skin colour, they vary across from milky white to dark tanned. Most have straight black hair. Few have I seen with very dark skin. Their attitudes are also difficult to understand as well, until explained.  They tend not to smile a lot unless they get to know you. Girls serving in supermarkets have the same bored faces you see in UK. Perhaps that is where they trained….?     Don’t tell me Tesco’s are coming here……!
Then again it maybe is a hangover from the Soviet days of not trusting each other so keeping to oneself or close family. No overt smiling or closeness with outsides etc. Clearly that’s changing rapidly as the Country develops.  Just takes time.  I’ve always thought immigration booths at airports a good judge of how unhappy/uninterested people can be with strangers. Best place to observe worst case mentalities in this regard.  Here as in loads of other places, no different, no smile, almost no acknowledgement as I stood in front of her. Very professional and functional, not even a good bye when I left the booth. My visa in the passport was very closely examined.  Held up to the light, bent and twisted it and then took a final look at it to see if there could be anything possibly wrong with it. Clearly it did not look authentic or genuine in anyway. Almost as if she had not seen a Kazakhstan visa before. This examination followed by a knowing frown and grunt….  No smile. Just a stamp on a page with a resounding thump. Passport was closed and held out, at which point I grabbed and off I went…. Me to, I reacted in a similar manner, I turned and walked away, I did not look back or did I smile nor did I mention the magic word “Thanks”……
I’ll digress to give an example of how different things can be. My Mother visited us in Thailand about 7 years ago. She travelled out on her own. Landed, and ten arrived at Thai Immigration. Usual in line, stamping process. Her turn came. On completion of the stamping etc, the Officer looked up at her with a big smile and wished her a Happy Birthday during her stay. She was going to be 80 years old a few days later. Quite an amazingly different approach!!  And it left everybody happy.  As I say different approach altogether.
Here men greet each other politely with smiles and handshakes and often it’s a covered hand shake (not Masonic) and a pat on the shoulder or back. We were advised to shake hands with men and just nod to the ladies. Custom. The country is the 9th biggest in the world just under half the size of Australia.  It’s big, and with only about 15 million people there is a lot of space to move around. Religion internet states about  40%+ Muslims and 405+ are Russian orthodox.  You would not know about any of this. Seems each to h is own. Bery healthy. Religious intolerance is not accepted either by law of socially. Tough people having come out the Russian system they get on with life. In fact the most common language is Russian and then most speak English.Thank God ! 
Its amazing to me where ever I go someone speaks English, market traders, shop keepers, restaurant staff etc. The Kazak language is now being taught in all schools and it will soon be mandatory to be used officially in all aspects of life. Probably in the next generation there will be major changes.  They love music and socializing particularly dancing and drinking. All like a good time.  Here we are a bunch of transient expatriate workers pumping  a lot of money into the system. The local businesses are doing well. You hear stories of the local lads not so happy with the girls being ‘poached’..  You hear stories of muggings but they seem distant. That said few of us walk around on our own at night. Even short distance, not advisable. Wiser to just grab a cab. I for one do not want ot become a Kazakhstan statistic.
I mention shops. There is everything you require, but in fairness Atyray is a small town (150,000 people) so will not support all the big modern shopping malls. But there are several good markets and shop complexes with all you require. Even down to a lot of imported stuff. Hydroponic fruit and veg form Holland, Computers etc.  So no complaints.  All good.
You know I’ve just read through what I’ve written. Does not paint the best picture which I know is unfair. But I can’t face doing a rewrite!!!!  People I meet at work and play are fine. Food is good, beer is cold.  What more do I want. I get paid and I get two weeks leave every 6 weeks. So best of everything.  I’m hoping later, Wanna will get a chance to come over and enjoy it with me. Time will tell. Now I’m on a business visa and need to get that changed over to a work permit then sort her visa out… 
I’ve added a separate page to the Blog on Kazakhstan.  Got it from one of our ‘on boarding’ course when I arrived. Has some more details and interesting facts about the place. In fact many ways Kazakhstan is an amazing place. Just hope I get to see some more of it.  Enough.
Have a good weekend.
A friend writes a blog about NE Thailand and always ends his posts with an appraisal of where he’s been, rating hotels, restaurants etc.   (If your reading this Thanks “Chang Noi   !!)  So adopting his approach in relation to this posting:-
Do I like it here?  Yes I do,  
Will I stay,  Yes I will.
For how long?  Who knows 
Any problems/down sides………Can’t speak Russian…  No chilies. No hot spices.

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