Thursday, November 13, 2008

And then there were Three...

What a difference a few weeks makes.
Picture on left from early October. On right from early November.

It's hard to believe that we only have three days left here in Kokshetau before heading to Almaty to finish out our paperwork and medical evaluation for Kathryn. This place has become as much a part of us as Kathryn has. I guess you could say that we not only bonded with her, but her place of birth as well. We had seen so many blogs from families travelling here that when we walked into the cottage it was already a familiar place, as were some of the people here that appeared in pictures. We have enjoyed our time here and have met other wonderful adoptive parents whose trips have overlapped with ours (six other families) and will leave with many wonderful memories. It's much different when your here, someplace that is new and the places to be discovered like the small shops and markets. The people here have been gracious, especially someone that has had no obligation to us...Makhabbat. She is a translator that almost always works with families that travel to the baby house about an hour away from Kokshetau. She has literally gone out of her way to show us as much of the culture here as possible.

Picture below is Makhabbat in front of Kokshetau Museum

Yesterday, Makhabbat took me and another adoptive family to the Kokshetau regional Museum for a little history while Karie was enjoying some time with Kathryn. The city of Kokshetau was settled in the early 19th Century as a Soviet administrative outpost. One of the early Soviet administrators from the early 20th century actually lived in the house that now serves as the museum. Under Soviet rule the country was used not only as farm lands for cotton and wheat (including the catastrophic failure of the wheat program under Khrushchev in the 1960's) but also as a place where Stalin deported whomever he felt like. Not just individuals but entire races from many countries in which the communist party had control. It was also the place for the Soviets to detonate more than 700 nuclear test bombs over 40 years. The population of this region consists of Kazakh (mostly), Russian, Ukrainian, and German. The cotton fields were supplied water from the Aral Sea via man made canals to Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the south. As a direct result, the Aral Sea has been drained and what was once a source for a booming fishing industry for the region is now one of the biggest environmental disasters in history. Towns that thrived on fishing and ports such as Aral City on the northern shore now sit 45 miles from the nearest shoreline of the Aral Sea. The Aral, once the fourth largest lake in the world, has actually divided into two seas and the water has been reduced by two thirds or an area about the size of Ireland.

Below is a picture and replicated armor and weapons of Ablai Khan, a Kazakh leader in the 18th century. He sought to protect and unify the country.

The Kazakh people have suffered tremendous brutality but have shown themselves to be survivors. By the beginning of the 19th century, Russian tsarism had taken hold and eliminated the power of the Khan. Interestingly, the sister city of Kokshetau is Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Below are various items of Kazakh history including minted gold Tenge bills (currency) and the Golden Man, a symbol of the country's strength and independence.

Our guide explains the history of Kokshetau and Kazakhstan.

The Kazakhstan story is one of tragedy, struggle, and recent triumph with the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. They will host the Asian games in 2011 and make a bid for the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

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