Kazakh, meaning wild, and free

Next year I will be eating horse meat and speaking Russian. At least this is what I tell my students about my next big move: Kazakhstan.

This year I applied for jobs all over: Spain, Hong Kong, Morocco, Brazil, Tibet, Norway and more. I had quite a few interviews and very few offers. Wondering if I was a bit crazy, I took the job in Kazakhstan.

I will be teaching high school English at an exclusive school for Kazakhs. I will be living in Shymkent, the 3rd largest city in Kazakhstan, whatever that means. The country is the 9th largest country in the world, which means it’s big! The next largest city, Almaty, is a 10 hour car drive away, and they don’t look that far apart on the map. According to the internet, it’s full of beautiful landscapes, which is part of the draw.

Part of the former U.S.S.R, and famous for Borat, I am picturing Soviet Era apartment blocks in my town. People speak Kazakh, but Russian is the lingua franca of the region. There are over 100 ethnicities peacefully cohabiting. Almaty is known to be quite European-cosmopolitan and Kazakhstan is the most stable and prosperous ‘stan’ of the former U.S.S.R. I’m very curious to learn more.

There is no strong desire to say, “well I’m done with this whole international teaching thing”, pack up and head to the States. But moving to Kazakhstan, more than Dubai, seems like a much bigger decision. This will be the fourth country I’ve lived in and my fourth year away.

I floundered around a lot in my twenties. The whole, modern, existential crisis of what am I supposed to do with my life? First world problems. Was it easier when we lived in huts? Had only to hunt. Gather the nuts. Sing around a fire. We knew our roles and our place in society. Now there are so many life options and so much stress over picking the “right one”. A perfect, forever life purpose, like a perfect, forever soulmate.

I looked around for years. Did many things I enjoyed and plenty I didn’t. I once read that the real difference between Communist Russia and America, was that in America there are so many brands of toothpaste, so many shampoos. And the toothpastes, they are all the same, all the choices can make an immigrants head spin, while really there is no choice better than others. Is life like the toothpaste? Is there a “right choice”.

Obviously this is simplistic and I wouldn’t want to wait in a Moscow winter bread line. But maybe all paths lead to the same thing: life and more life.

Just buy one. Just make a choice. Roots or rootlessness.

For now I choose Kazakhstan. I want to hike their mountains, ride the Trans-Siberian railway, visit the people who hunt with eagles, see the other ‘stans’, drink yak milk in a Mongolian yurt.

The other day I woke up worried. I’m getting sad, saying goodbye: to friends, my favorite cafes, palm trees and the beaches of the ever super salty gulf. Have I made the right choice? I don’t know.

I’ll need a winter coat. I never have much of a plan for more than a year. AmeriCorps for a year. Korea for a year, grad school for a year. The one time I thought I had it all figured out, in love, getting married, becoming a teacher, moving to the forest to raise goats and chickens, the future disappeared and I had to make new plans. I had to mourn the future. And I think it’s a resurgence of this mourning, along with these new goodbyes, while stepping into an unknown again, that has me on edge.

This next contract is for one year and then I will have a chance to ask again, should I stay or should I go now. It is not a forever choice.

So, despite my recent doubts, I took the job in Kazakhstan, because the idea of going alone to a place I have never been, won’t know anyone and won’t speak the language, makes me inexplicably excited. The word Kazakh means wild and free, or an independent free spirit. I’ll take this as a good sign.


9 thoughts on “Kazakh, meaning wild, and free

  1. It’s always scary when you make a choice to move to an entirely new place. I haven’t been to Kazakhstan, but I know a couple of people who lived there. It will be a completely different experience than Dubai and Korea. The mentality is similar to that of Eastern Europe…it will take some getting used to, dear. 🙂 The people I know also said that the wilderness is astounding. This is what has kept them there. Looking forward to reading your posts about it. I’m intrigued with this part of the world, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to visit there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m looking forward to the green nature. Trees are what I miss most from Oregon. I will be working with many locals, which will offer challenges and opportunities I’m sure! Thanks for reading and the encouragement 🙂


  3. You my dear, are an adventurer. I am envious. You have had alot more adventure and experiences in your young life than most people do in a lifetime. Trust your judgement and do what feels “right…” Don’t waste a bit of energy second-guessing yourself. You lost your soul-mate husband at a tender young age. You grieved but moved on, carrying along with you all of your wonderful memories and adventures…I admire your strength. Your husband would be very proud of the woman he married!


  4. I’m coming along with Russian slowly. It is a lingua franca for the region and it would be pretty cool to eventually read some Russian lit and poetry in the original tongue. Thank you for stopping by ! 🙂


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