Saturday, June 29, 2024

1st trip to Kazakhstan

It's been 30 years since I made my first trip to Kazakhstan. I went with David G. and Eldon G. as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer program with Winrock International. We flew into Almaty (Alma-Ata; the capitol at the time), but didn't stay long. We went to Shymkent and Dzhambul (in southern Kazakhstan) to do our work. Our job was to work with sheep farmers. 

Kazakhstan is a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic. It is the world's 9th largest country by area and largest land-locked country. Kazakhstan was colonized by Russia and later ruled by the Soviet Union. It was the last republic to gain independence from the Soviet Union (in 1991).  The population was about 50:50 when we were there: 50% Russian and 50% Kazakh. The Kazakhs have their own language (similar to Turkish) and are Muslim (moderate, no head cover).

Kazakhstan possesses abundant natural resources, which were greatly exploited by the Soviets. In the old Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was a major sheep producing area. Only Australia is said to have had more sheep than the USSR.  At the time of our visit, there were supposedly 37 million sheep in Kazakhstan. Numbers plummeted to 12 million head by 2003, but have since rebuilt to 23 million head, as of September 2023.  Wool was the emphasis during the Soviet era, but meat production has become more important.

Traditionally, Kazakhs were nomads who raised livestock. Yurts were the traditional housing of the nomads and remain a symbol of Kazakhstan today. In 1995, the Kazakh Embassy (in Washington DC) brought a yurt to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. It was a fancy one. We had a "gathering" inside it. On my trip to Alaska (in 2018), I stayed in a yurt. It was very nice inside (but no bathroom).

David, me, and Eldon

Two-way traffic

David coming out of a yurt.

Card trick

David teaching about wool

Kazakh cowboy
First time on a camel

Group photo

David was gifted a horse.

The obligatory sheep head

Kazakh currency is a Tenge.

The pictures in this post aren't the best because they were scanned from old slides.  Not only old slides, but probably Seattle Filmworks film (a lower cost slide film).  Some of the pictures are scanned from photos from the same film (colors are better with the photo scans).

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