We're heading to Kokshetau. You can just see it on the map, the upper north, slightly west of the capital city of Astana.
"Golly," you say. "That looks an awful lot like Siberia."
Well, my friends, you say correctly. And it's going to be worth it, minus 18-degree temperatures and all!
The Kazaks are a long-traditioned people with a proud history. Omrali Kopabaev, Director of the Kunaev Institute for the Humanities in Kazakstan, writes this about them:
"The Kazak people came into existence gradually over many centuries. Tribes that had roamed far and wide across the steppes from prehistoric times became joined together through match-making and intermarriage, and eventually evolved into an indivisible, united nation... In this way, the Kazak people created close relational ties and became brothers to each other...
"...They accept each other as friends, and always serve their guests as if they were gods. The Kazak proverb, 'We all are the guests in this life,' expresses the traditional respect that the Kazak people have had for each other. These views have led to the development of a culture of gift-giving, which like a smooth mirror reflects the peacefulness and mutual respect of the Kazak people."
This culture of giving is just one o f the reasons we chose to adopt from Kazakhstan (spelled both with and without the "h"). In addition, we researched the orphanages and found that the Kazaks are known for taking very special care of the children entrusted to them. Talking to families who've returned from adopting there, we learned it is quite common for the babies to enjoy daily massages as part of their "physical therapy!"
While Almaty, our first stop, is quite metropolitan; Kokshetau, where we'll be spending the majority of our stay, is somewhat smaller. With only about 120,000 residents, the city has fewer amenities. The heat in the buildings is government supplied and the water is best boiled before tasted. Still, the countryside is reputed to be quite beautiful and the nearby lake makes Kokshetau a favorite summer vacation spot for Kazak politicians.
The other fun thing we learned about the Kazak people was in regards to their marriage ceremonies. The following came from Director Kopabaev:
"Marriage was not only the joining of a bride and groom in one family; it was the joining of different families in one 'El,' or society."
Those of you who know Donn know he knows his "El..." That's as in the House of El, or, more specifically, favorite House of El sons Jor-El and Kal-El. "El" is, of course, the familial name of