Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kazakhstan Update Part 2 - First Day in Taraz

June 28, 2008 (Continued)

We pulled up to a two-story white brick building with a black wrought-iron fence around it. The ironwork in the center of the main gate had been fashioned into a heart, which is part of the Interlink Resources logo. The driver led me into the building, where I was warmly greeted by the staff. I soon met Sara and Beth, who had arranged for my visit. They gave me a brief tour of the building and led me to my guestroom upstairs. I was very impressed by how modern everything was. I could have easily been in an office in Indiana. I was especially pleased to see that my room had a very nice shower! I don't remember whether or not I had lunch first, then showered, or the other way around--but both the shower and the lunch were both much appreciated!I had been traveling for over 24 hours and was in definite need of an energy boost!

I later met with Beth and Sara and we discussed their plans for me during my stay. Interlink resources wished to produce a new promotional video and they wanted me to film examples of their various outreaches and to conduct on camera interviews with key personnel and partners. We discussed several ideas, then I took a much needed nap.

Later in the afternoon, we ran some errands with one of the staff interns, Ember, then went to Beth and Sara's place for some delicious homemade Thai food. After some enjoyable food and chat, Sara took me for a walking tour which included a visit to the main square in Taraz. As we approached the large square, flanked by large pastel colored buildings, to our surprise, we heard what sounded like gunshots. As we got closer, we found ourselves at a huge "Honor Our Police" type of celebration. Hundreds of policemen filled the square. The crowd surrounding them clapped politely as various divisions of police marched, rode on horseback, or zoomed through the square with their squad cars. Also included were a tank and some sort of anti-riot vehicle with a water cannon. There were a couple of somewhat amusing demonstrations--one of a mugger being swooped up by two policemen on horseback, and the other of the traffic cops twirling their flashlights. We remained until the end of the demonstrations and then some local singer was introduced. As we began to leave the square, Sara suggested that I ask to be photographed with a couple of policemen. I said that I was happy to give it a try and so she approached a couple of policemen and asked on my behalf. They seemed quite happy to be a part of a photo and soon I found myself surrounded by some of Kazakhstan's finest near their new squad car. We had a nice chat and they seemed genuinely happy to meet me. As a matter of fact, ever since my arrival in the country, everyone had displayed an overt friendliness and hospitality. Tomorrow I would be going to Savva orphanage and suspected that the people would be no less kind there. More importantly, I would finally get to meet the children that Interlink was working so hard to help. After returning to the guest room, I quickly fell asleep, grateful to no longer be trying to rest in a cramped airplane seat or in the back of a speeding Audi. I knew that I would need my rest--not only in order to take good video, but also in order to cope with the emotional ups and downs that surely would be a part of my visit to the orphanage.

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