Meet the OrazimbetovsMy Kazakh Host Family

Orshakta Baisara is the Kazakh clan I belong to.

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 very 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 actually 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 which also concerned Sharizat.

The first night was memorable. I can still remember the palau (pilaf) that my host sisters had made. It was very delicious. I had 8 host sisters and 1 host brother. You can guess it the youngest was the son aptly named Shurik or "Thank God," in Kazakh.

It was just like a family so we had our disagreements and fights. I really miss the meals we had together too. I love Kazakh culture. :-)

My first Kazakh Host Family in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan
My first Kazakh host family in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan. They actually 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.
I am with Gulzhan, my Kazakh host sister. This was on the anniversary of the Karatau Lyceum. It was nice and warm during the day. Then it froze and snowed the next day. Yeah, she is taller than me, something she liked to remind me about.
Talas Region event at the Palace of Culture in Karatau
This was 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
My Kazakh host family photo. Four of my Kazakh host sisters are in the photo. Zhanna, standing on the left, has her two daughters in the photo (Diana and Asel). I realized she and Asel were my friends on Facebook when I started migrating this site. Hamit is the baby from another Kazakh host sister, Alma. Ulzhan, standing in the back, made great lagman, a speciality of the Orazimbetov family. I took this photo the day I left Karatau in June, 1999.
Photo with my 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
This was my farewell speech that I wrote to people of Karatau. Aizhan helped me write this speech. It was written in Kazakh which I tested at Intermediate-High before I left Almaty in July, 1999.
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, we dropped my Kyrgyz assistant, Aelita, off at the Taraz bus station. Vlodiya then took me to Karatau for an overnight stay with my host family. This 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 got to visit some of my host sisters back in May, 2015. This would be my first trip to Aktau which was 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. The last photo was taken with my Fuji camera in November, 1999. This photo was taken on my, then, iPhone 6S+.
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. I will tell you, the lagman she prepared was one billion times better than that 1999 meal. Her lagman was just as good as Ulzhan's. One reason I refuse to become a vegan is because of Gulzhan's lagman.
With my Kazakh host sisters and their children in Aktau, Kazakhstan
A photo with my Kazakh host sisters and their children after 16 years of not meeting.
With three of my Kazakh host sisters in Aktau, Kazakhstan
I am with my Kazakh host sisters. Ainura (blue shirt), Aizhan (my left) and Gulzhan (my right). I never got to talk to Ainura much when I was living in Karatau. Ainura's wedding reception was the only Kazakh wedding I ever attended when I lived in Kazakhstan.

Reflection

I really miss Kazakhstan and my host family but I am not sure when I can return again.