Thursday, May 1, 2008

Last Days in Shymkent

The last couple days in Shymkent...

Sunday we started the day with a brief meeting with Nurshia and Zhenia to discuss our court appointment. Later that day we finally made it to lunch at a place called AN, we can’t get there during the week because they close at 3:00p.m. They serve a dish called ‘plovf’. It’s a rice dish with carrots, raisins, chick peas and mutton / lamb meat. (I have eaten more lamb in the past month than I have my whole life!) Plovf is delicious and get this… a huge bowl of plovf is $1.25. One of the best lunches we’ve had and it only cost $2.50, amazing!

Sunday afternoon we were invited to a picnic. The invitation to the picnic came in the oddest of ways. We were invited by complete strangers. Saturday evening about 9:30 at night there is a knock on our hotel door and I open the door to find two smiling girls. They quickly say “hello”. They tell me they had heard about the American couple staying in the hotel and they wanted us to come to the picnic so they could practice speaking English with us. It goes against all things normal in the States: one the hotel staff gave them our room number, two they don’t know us at all and three they were so nice and sincere with their offer. The picnic time was pushed back so we were unable to attend… much to the disappointment to the girls. They came back to the hotel Monday night to say good-bye. Complete strangers coming to say good-bye. I honestly don’t even know their names.

The reason we were unable to attend the later picnic time was because we had plans with another stranger who wanted to speak English and ask questions about America. I know it’s very odd, but hey what else do we have to do?… might as well take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Kazakhstan. We met this very intriguing young Russian girl while trying to figure out how to add minutes to our KZ cell phone. She over-heard us struggling with the Russian directions on the phone card and nicely asked if she can help us. After a few minutes of conversation and many thanks, she asked if we’d have coffee with her on Sunday.

The coffee conversation on Sunday was fascinating. She is desperate to get to the US or Europe to go to college. She’s trying to find a college that offers scholarships to International Students. She doesn't have the money to fund a US education by herself.

The fascinating part of the conversation revolved around her current education. She has an associate’s degree from a university in Shymkent, but the degree is considered worthless. Most of the college degrees earned in Shymkent have little merit in other cities in Kazakhstan and are not honored in other countries. She will have to start her education over in Russia, Europe or the US. How can that be??? In her words, “Corruption and bribes”. She describes an environment where students can pay professors for good grades. This practice is so common that it degrades the integrity of the entire higher education system. The students who get professional jobs after college get the jobs because of family connections or bribes. She completely understands this system is terrible for Shymkent and for the whole country and she’s wants out. If anyone out there knows of scholarships or internships for international students please let us know.

On Monday, the 28th, morning we prepared for court. We made a quick visit to the Baby House to see Griffin one last time before leaving but he was sleeping so we were told to come back later. We had our court appointment and everything went fine. The judge granted our adoption but it does not become official until the end of the 15 day appeal period. It’s hard to feel true excitement at this point.

After court we went for a quick visit with Griffin. He was in a good mood and didn’t understand the extra hugs and tearful good-bye. It’s so hard to leave him! We just keep telling ourselves it’s only one more month and he’ll be home.

We ended the last day with a quick dinner at Istanbul and an evening of joyful packing.