Hello, Students at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research!

Not actually me. But close enough.

Hello, students at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research! Your teacher (whose name I do not know, but on my blog she uses the intriguing screen name of “Kazakhnomad”) asked me to write to you.

My name is John Shore. I make a living writing books. Writing is a great way to make a living, because it means you get to sit on your rear end all day. I live in the city of San Diego. If you are driving south in the American state of California, San Diego is the last city you hit before driving into the country of Mexico. The immigration point between San Diego and Mexico is the world’s busiest land border crossing. That means lots of Mexicans live in San Diego, which is wonderful. It is wrong to stereotype people, but I think Mexicans must be the kindest people in the world.

I am writing to you because your teacher said that some of you are hesitant about writing about yourself and/or your life. I would like to encourage you to overcome that hesitancy. It would be impossible for me to communicate to you how happy and eager Americans would be to learn whatever they could about you and your life. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not (though I’m guessing you just might be), but as a general rule Americans are not very knowledgeable about people and cultures in other parts of the world. It is not because we are not interested in people and cultures in other parts of the world. We totally are. It’s just that we tend to be extremely busy, mostly because we work a lot. (Say what you will about Americans, but we work like crazy.) Plus, we go to the movies quite a bit. We also play a lot of video games. And eat — Americans are huge on eating (which is why we ourselves tend to be huge — but that’s another story.) So all that takes a lot of time.

Please write about your lives, so that we can learn about you and whatever you want to write about. I personally am intensely interested in virtually anything you would have to say, because (as far as I know), I’ve never known anyone who even knew anyone who knew anyone from Kazakhstan. I am now officially fascinated by Kazakhstan. I want to know what you ate for dinner last night, and how typical a meal it was. (See? We’re always thinking about food!) I want to know what kind of house you live in. I want to know what your father and/or mother does for a living. I want to know what you do or want to do for a living. I’m very eager to learn what it is you’re learning about at the Kazakhstan Insitute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research. Do you have to pay money to study at the KIMESR? Is it free? Does the government pay for you to go there? Did you have to qualify in any way to attend the KIMESR? How far away from the school do you live? How do you get to the school? Car? Bike? Bus? Walk? Scooter?

Please start a blog, so that we can all learn about you and your life in Kazakhstan. (I personally like blogging with www.wordpress.com. It’s great — and free!) I promise you that we here in America are dying to know what life is like in a place as mysterious and foreign to us as Kazakhstan. You probably think your life is boring. But that’s normal; most people think their life is pretty boring. But it is a odd fact of human nature that even though everyone thinks their own life is pretty dull, everyone is still intensely interested in the lives of other people. And you better believe that here in America lots and lots of people will be interested in you, since you are from the exotic, distant land Kazakhstan. As far as we’re concerned, there is simply no way for you not to be interesting.

And please, please, please do not be shy about the quality of your written English. You should know, in fact, that most everyone here in America has trouble writing correctly, and I’m not kidding. English is infinitely confusing. We know that. And we all know we know that, too. So when we write, we just try to do our best, and hope that whomever reads what we wrote will at least understand the general idea of whatever we were trying to say.

Besides, it’s not like we know how to write in your language. As I say, most of us can barely handle English. If you even try to write in English, we will be so deeply impressed by you that … well, that we just might try our hand at writing something in your language.

What is your language, by the way? What do you speak, and read, and think, and dream in?

You see? We (or at least I) am totally ignorant about Kazakhstan. This is an abysmal, embarrassing fact that you can help correct. Do! Please help me, and other interested people in the world, learn what we can about you. Share with us your thoughts, your ideas, your convictions, your beliefs, understandings, perspectives, processes, habits, aspirations. Tell us what you do for fun on the weekends. Tell us about what religion you practice — or why you practice no religion, if you don’t. Tell us about the last date you went on. Tell us if you have a pet. Tell us anything.

Just start writing. Do not worry about your English grammar, or any of that nonsense. Just do your best. We’ll fill in the blanks or awkward spots. We’ll know what you mean. And if not, we’ll ask you what you meant.

They say it’s a small world. I, for one, would be grateful if you’d help make it smaller.

Your American friend,

John

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • anita

    Great word of encouragement John, and yes, students, I'm another American who knows nothing about where you live or what your lives are like, the things you love doing, what a regular day in your life includes, what you wish to do or be or have more than anything and if you've ever had Pop Rocks [which are a kind of candy] and if so, what you thought of them. You students write and we'll read!

  • Penlee

    Wow! How they need that encouragement, John. You are a true Christian in every way. Wish you were here–I’d hug you!

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    My son, 10, would like to say hello to the Kazakhstan students. One of his best friends is from Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. There are a lot of people from Kazakhstan who live near Washington D.C. as we do.

    My son likes the Kazakhstan flag that he describes as an eagle carrying the sun.

    He went on a field trip with other children from Faith Christian School in Sterling, Va, last year to our capital, Washington D.C., and met the Kazakhstan president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. My son thought President Nazarbayev was nice. My son added that Nazarbayev was “humorous” and joked with the students.

    In addition, my son wants to know what the Kazakhstan students think of Americans. He also wants to know what the students think of their president.

    -Sam

  • http://www.kayoung.info K. A. Young

    I, for one, would very much like to hear what these students want others, especially those of us in the U.S., to know and understand about their heritage, their culture, their history. How a people perceives their history and its importance in shaping their culture and beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyle is a vital way of getting to know them beyond a more casual level. Each student can only tell us how he or she perceives these things, but if several write about these subjects, I think I would begin to “know” them. To the students: I hope you will share your heart in words and trust us to handle both with care. John has weaved among his words of wisdom a call to consider others more than ourselves (give attention to the other person’s interests and ideas) when communicating with them (in written or spoken word); he has laid a good foundation for enlightening exchange. –kathleen

  • http://www.barethoughts.com/blog tam

    John – wonderful encouragement! I too would love to read and learn more about the students.

    Ardak – thanks for sharing with us all! I love your take on foreign policy of a country and the people! I wish more people were as enlightened as you (and your fellow country-people).

    To answer your questions: I think some people in other countries view us poorly based on our foreign policy and some based on American media (I promise we are not like those portrey on the media unless you happen to be watching a NASCAR race, then at least you will get an idea of me.. ;) ). I think others are like you are realize we are all different and and tend to judge us individually.

    I have never been to forugn country (unless you count an accidental trip in Canada).

    I am curious one your comment on eating horse meet… there is something I have often wondered about that. Do you just raise horses for meat? Or do you also raise them for riding/work?

  • Ardak

    Hello everybody,

    Let me introduce myself: My name is Ardak and I am 26.

    I am not a student but an alumni of the KIMEP. (the abbreviation stands for the name in russian) . Thank you very much for your genuine interest in my country. I hope that many more people from Kazakhstan will respond to your blog. First of all, there is a lot of information about Kazakhstan that you could find in the internet. Here is the website of the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP) for example: http://www.kimep.kz

    Recently I also found those videos which are quite good. (it is not a propaganda material :))

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4p-oiFOkHE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO6h18rg1sU

    Which language do we speak? The Kazakh is the state language. It belongs to the family of Turkic languages. Almost everybody could also speak Russian because Kazakhstan was a part of the Soviet Union as you probably know. I am native Kazakh but there are many other nationalities living here. So you should refer to Kazakhstani people not only to Kazakh people.

    What did I eat last night? Oh, it was really not a typical or national Kazakh food. I made a sandwich and fried two eggs :). Our national food is different. We eat horses meat, for example.

    What do we think about Americans? I think there is much less anti American sentiments in Kazakhstan than in many other countries. Our people just do not care so much about politics. I think that if one does not like the foreign policy of a country , it shouldn’t translate into some prejudices about the people living in that country. Unfortunately many people mix everything with politics.

    I also have a question to you. What do you yourself think about the image of Americans abroad? Do you have any clues? What foreign countries have you been to? What was your experience there?

  • Kazakhnomad

    Thanks John for your blog which will be used by me eventually with my students for TOEFL preparation and also while teaching at Ardak’s alma mater. Wonderful to read Ardak’s comments.

    I would respectfully direct you and your interested readers to my blog for today which is titled “Quotes from Ambitious Kazakh Students.” I just finished interviewing 53 applicants from Kazakhstan to the Muskie program with two other skilled interviewers. What is true of Kazakhstan can NOT be said of the other Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan is blessed with many natural resources such as oil and gas, mining (3rd in world to provide uranium), beautiful lakes and mountains which are good for tourism.

    I would challenge any of you dear readers to come visit Kazakhstan, I often quip that it REALLY is the “ends of the earth.” Few westeners feel “called” to this place, however, I’m happy to be back after 13 years away.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    WHAT’S THE URL OF YOUR BLOG??!!

    (And you’re going to use what I wrote here as TOEFL preparation? Don’t you want your students to PASS the TOEFL? But I jest. Sort of. No, but of course I’m thrilled to play any such role in the lives and aspirations of your students. Thanks!!)

  • Kazakhnomad
  • Ardak

    tam-horses could also be used for riding in the rural areas. In addition to eating horses meat, we have a national drink "kumiz" made of the fermented horses milk. However, what we call national does not mean that it is typical for the average citizen of Kazakhstan. The horses meat is quite expensive and not everybody could afford to buy it every day. In fact, people eat much more beef and mutton than horses meat.

    I would like to add that the other countries of the Central Asia are also very interesting to know about. For example, Uzbekistan has one of the greatest historical cities and monuments in the world. Unfortunately, their political regime is even more oppressive than the one we have here in Kazakhstan and it is not so easy to travel there. I have always wanted to go there. Kyrgyzstan has may fascinating landscapes and the beautiful Issyk-Kul lake which is very popular for tourists from Kazakhstan.

    I am sorry that I could not answer all of the questions which were posted above. I would appeal to all the other students from Kazakhstan to share their opinions here!

  • Hjordes

    I've always thought that the name Kazakhstan was one of the most beautiful words in the world. It sparkles with mystery and the promise of beauty.

    John is right. Americans love food, work too much, and are always interested in other people and cultures. We want to hear about things like horse meat, and that it is expensive. I personally enjoy learning about small things that I won't find on Wikipedia. Things like…

    What is your father like? Do mothers work in or out of the home? How many children in an average family? What type of board games to children and adults play? What are the themes of popular books? Who are the mythical or real "heroes" of the country? Do people there believe Americans are like those idiots on TV? Do most people have a dog? And, of course, anything about food!

    Please do blog and let us glimpse your world!

  • http://amtog.wordpress.com amtog

    Ardak asks: What do you yourself think about the image of Americans abroad? Do you have any clues? What foreign countries have you been to? What was your experience there?

    I've been living abroad for several years now. I think the image of Americans abroad is hard to explain. Generally, I think we are seen to be friendly but arrogant…at least, that's the vibe I get in the Mid East. In Eastern Europe, it was different. People seemed to think more kindly of us back in the mid 90's. Now, it may not be so. In fact, my general impression of world opinion about Americans is that they liked us more when there was someone that they hated even more than us.

    When I lived in Ukrain in the mid-90's, I made friends with a nice guy from Khazakstan. Now, as Khazakstan becomes more widely known, I think about him and wonder how he's doing.

  • Zed

    Hi, all! Here’s another kazakhstani. =) That’s great, John, that you encourage people to start blogging. IMHO, most of kazakhstanis have blogs on livejournal.com.

    To make it easy to understand, I’d like to say that Kazakhstan is Australia or Canada, with huge land and most cities along the borders. Half of the population lives in urban areas and another half lives in villages. =))) Of course, as usually, life in city is much more exciting and rich. Kazakhstan is struggling to become a well-developed country. I believe, that it will happen soon. May be in 10-15 years. Anyway, it also took a long time for Japan, Korea and Singapore to be well-developed.

    Just a second ago had my lunch. What was it? Just a hamburger. =)

    Not healthy at all. But in weekends I prefer to go to the chinese restaurants. Quite cheap and tasty.

    My thoughts are a bit unlinked. I wish I hadn’t that much beer yesterday. =)

  • Zhandos

    Hello John I have tried to start a blog on http://www.wordpress.com but it doesn’t work!) My name is Zhandos I am 4th year KIMEP student so I would like to share with you about kazakhstani peoples’ lifestyle!) Is there any other chance to start a blog on the other website? or i can write you an email about us) my email in a case you might want to contact me smbv.zhandos@gmail.com.


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