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Meet the Orazimbetovs My Kazakh Host Family

Orshakta Baisara - My Kazakh Host Family's Clan.

My first Kazakh host family was in Kapchagay during the Peace Corps Pre-Service Training. Their job was to teach me Kazakh and learn about Kazakh food and culture. They were a unique family but nothing like my Kazakh host family in Karatau.

Kazakhs in the south are very different from their counterparts in the Almaty area. When I met the Orazimbetovs for the first, they had prepared an apartment for me. But by the late afternoon, I had moved in with the Orazimbetovs. Azan, the School Director, thought it would be easier for me to live with a family. He was right. I could not cook any meals from scratch.

The first night was memorable. I can still remember the palau (pilaf) my host sisters made. It was very delicious. I had eight host sisters and one host brother. You can guess it the youngest was the son aptly named Shurik or "Thank God" in Kazakh.

It was just like a real family. I miss the meals we had together. I miss Kazakh culture.

My first Kazakh Host Family in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan
My first Kazakh host family was in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan. They tried to convince the Peace Corps to let me stay in Kapchagay. The Peace Corps said no. I have no regrets.
Gulzhan, my Kazakh host sister on the right, in Karatau, Kazakhstan.
Here is Gulzhan, my Kazakh host sister, on the right. It was the anniversary of the Karatau Lyceum. It was nice and warm during the day. Then it froze and snowed the next day.
Talas Region event at the Palace of Culture in Karatau
Karatau hosted a Talas Region event at the Palace of Culture. The competition was between schools in the local region. My host mother (Adigul), two host sisters (Aizhan and Gulzhan), host brother (Shurek), and host father (Asan) are in the picture.
My Kazakh host family in Karatau, Kazakhstan
I took this photo of my Kazakh host family photo with four of my Kazakh host sisters. I took this photo the day I left Karatau in June 1999.
I am with Kazakh host family in June, 1999
One of my last photos with my Kazakh host family in June, 1999.
My Kazakh farewell speech to the people of Karatau, Kazakhstan
One of my last photos with my Kazakh host family was in June 1999. I wrote a farewell speech to the people of Karatau. Aizhan helped me write this speech.
Kazakh host family in November, 1999
When I was working for ACCELS in Kyrgyzstan, I was able to make a side trip to Karatau in November 1999. On our way to Talas, I spent a night in Karatau. It was the last time I got to see my host father, Asan. We did get to speak again in May 2015, when I visited Gulzhan and Aizhan in Aktau. Unfortunately he passed away in 2019.
Meeting my Kazakh host family in Aktau, Kazakhstan (May, 2015)
With Gulzhan's help, I visited her and Aizhan in May 2015. They lived in Aktau, a seaside city on the Caspian Sea. Aizhan and Gulzhan picked me up at the airport. It had been nearly 16 years since we last met. In this photo, we are all at the Caspian Sea.

Amazing! Look how 16 years makes in photo quality. My old Fuji camera took the last photo in November 1999. My iPhone 6S+ took these photos.
Gulzhan's lagman in Aktau, Kazakhstan
In the sixteen years since I last saw Gulzhan, she learned to cook. I still remember the last meal she made for me in Karatau back in 1999. She made some great lagman.
With my Kazakh host sisters and their children in Aktau, Kazakhstan
I am with my Kazakh host sisters after 16 years.
With three of my Kazakh host sisters in Aktau, Kazakhstan
I am with my Kazakh host sisters.

Reflection

I miss Kazakhstan and my Kazakh host family.