Kapchagay, Kazakhstan (Summer, 1997)US Peace Corps Kazakhstan

Before serving in Karatau for two years, I had to do my Peace Corps Pre-Service Training in Kapchagay located north of Almaty.

My journey to Kazakhstan started while I was still a student at the University of Washington in Seattle. I knew I was going to be medically discharged from the US Marine Corps in 1996 so I needed to find something to do after I graduated. I chose the US Peace Corps and do not remember why. During the interview process, they asked me what country I wanted to visit. I said Ukraine but there were no slots then. I knew about Kazakhstan from my Near Eastern Studies class in 1993, so I asked about Kazakhstan. Four months later I would be given my invitation to serve with the US Peace Corps in Kazakhstan.

I flew to Washington, DC, in May, 1997, to join the KAZ-5 group.

Read the captions for my story about these images. None of these pictures were edited.

Seattle Tacoma International Airport in May, 1997, with my parents and siblings.
These were the days when family could see you off at the gate. Yes, I was a Atlanta Braves fan at the time and I was wearing my favorite Eddie Bauer winter coat as well. On the flight, I actually flew with another Peace Corps Trainee, who had a friend pick us up in DC.
Sandy Kapchagai in June, 1997.
Our flight departed from DC for Almaty, Kazakhstan. We stopped over in Amsterdam before the final flight to Almaty. We spent about a week in Almaty then relocated to sandy Kapchagai.
My Kazakh host family in Kapchagay.
This was my first Kazakh host family. Murat, my host father, was an engineer. Zaure, if I remember right, was a teacher. Aika was my little Kazakh host sister. I had two other host sisters but I forgot their names. I would call this home until August, 1997.
My bedroom in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan.
This was my bedroom during my stay in Kapchagay. People ask how I learned to speak Kazakh, well just look at that desk. That was where I studied Kazakh every night. I still remember the battery charger on my bed. Boy did I need that my two years in Kazakhstan.
Lake Kapchagay with Aika, my host sister.
Lake Kapchagay, a reservoir on the Ili River, is in the background. I think this is where my host father worked at. Aika is with me. I feel bad that I got out of contact with her after I left in August.
Lake Kapchagay with another Peace Corps Trainee.
Another view of Lake Kapchagay with a fellow Peace Corps Trainee. I never actually swam in the lake during that time. This was my post-Marine Corps days where I still hated water. [Photo by Leo Baligad - KAZ-5 RPCV].
Microregion where I lived at with a yurt in Kapchagay.
Yep, my microregion was just as sandy as the rest of Kapchagay. You actually get used to the sand after awhile. I miss it sometimes.
Kazakh yurt in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan.
This is a Kazakh yurt that was part of a funeral.
Kazakh students in Kapchagay, Kazakhstan.
These were my students during my Pre-Service Training in Kazakhstan. We were trained to teach English as a Foreign Language to these kids while being monitored by Peace Corps Volunteers. [Photo by Leo Baligad - KAZ-5 RPCV].
My students singing the US national anthemn in Kapchagay.
We had our students singing the US national anthem for their last performance. They surprised us by making the US flag at home.

Post Training

After the swearing in ceremony, all the newly minted Peace Corps Volunteers headed to the Almaty train station the next day. I took the train with the Taraz PCV group and then headed to Karatau with Sharizat.

Unfortunately I got very sick after a month in Karatau. The Head of the English Department, Gulzhamal, and her husband took me back to Almaty where I spent nearly a month recovering. I really appreciated the help of the Peace Corps Medical Officers and PC Staff at the time.

Galina Petrovna - the Peace Corps Kazakhstan Librarian.
One of the favorite Peace Corps staff in Almaty amongst volunteers is Galina Petrovna. She was not only the libraian, she also sent our mail to our sites and was the persons to approved of our in-country travel. She was also one of the ACTFL Russian Language Testers. I remember when she was shocked that I tested at Novice-High in Russian. Nobody knew I could speak Russian. Galina was the "Face of Peace Corps Kazakhstan".
With the Peace Corps Medical Officer at the Japanese Embasssy in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
I realized I did have one picture of Tatiana, one of the Peace Corps Medical Officers. We are at a reception with the Japanese Embassy in Almaty (At time time all the embassies were still in Almaty). Somehow I had traveled to Almaty with Monique, to the right of me, and we got invited to this reception. [Photo by US Peace Corps Kazakhstan].

Departure of the Peace Corps from Kazakhstan

In late 2011, the Peace Corps departed Kazakhstan. I will not discuss the reasoning for the departure. You can read it all online but I do not necessarily agree with them. In 2008, Kazakhstan launched their Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools. The NIS schools were quite successful, though with some headaches. The influence the Peace Corps can be seen in the NIS. Just look at the local staff and teachers that now work there. Many had worked or were taught by Peace Corps Volunteers in Kazakhstan.