The memorial statue to pay tribute to students who fought for independence of Kazakhstan in 1986 near Independence Square at Almaty, Kazakhstan
It was the freest day in Almaty, and it was the most fulfilling day in Kazakhstan.
Living in the “Young Scientist” student hall for a week, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University made me feel home. Along with my experience from being a guest lecturer to a visiting student at the department of journalism, I felt valued and loved, and I was wondering if I could stay here forever. Guided by a Kazakh who attended the MUN conference with me, we visited various places from Independence Square to Arbat Street, from Parliament of Kazakhstan to Kazakh British Technical University.
The department of journalism at the National University wasn’t as less advanced as I expected. Without a doubt, studios and interview rooms are essential along with a backdrop for broadcast. While students were editing videos during my visit, I found that they were hardworking–perhaps Kazakhs are not as lazy as outsiders expected.
After having farewell with the lecturer who showed me around, I met up the Kazakh “tour guide” who studies physics as she wishes to be a physics teacher. We had a rough lunch at the park, sharing our thoughts on education and how Hong Kong students compete for their university seats and degrees.
Our first stop was in the Independence Square, the place sharing similar traumatic memory like Tiananmen Square which had countless young lives being crushed by People’s Liberation Army and tanks. In 1986, exactly 3 years before the Beijing massacre, there were hundreds of university students gathering at the Independence Square in Almaty to fight for freedom and democracy as the country was ruled by the former USSR. The result wasn’t as brutal as in Beijing, yet some 100 students were sent into jail and 2 were shot. The history always reminds us that our world is more connected than what we imagine.
Ironically, the national parliament was built exactly opposite to the Square, so we attempted to get in by showing my student press card as a Hong Kong journalist, but the security guard kindly refused to let us in as today was the following holiday after Defender’s Day, only press listed and invited were able to get in. I wasn’t disappointed but was amazed by the fact that even the security guards were well-mannered, unlike those staging outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.
Later, it started to rain again. We went into the shelter of Kazakh British Technical University and waited until it stopped. Then we went to Arbat Street, a place sharing the same name of a street in Moscow. Without a surprise I saw an insane diversity of Asian food including Chinese food and Korean food, but none of them were really authentic. We grabbed some bread and took a seat at a park, sharing our thoughts towards the culture of Muslims.
Getting back to the student hall, 2 Kazakh volunteers sent me to Almaty International Airport. We joked at our different languages, playfully messing up our way of communication by using Google Translate. It’s time to farewell and the female volunteer hugged me for so long as I felt that she didn’t want me to leave. I got it. She’s an ordinary girl who wishes to fly around the world as a flight attendant, and I sincerely hope that I could help her somedays as I will never forget her hospitality for the first day I arrived.
I waited at the airport for 3 hours, randomly finding 2 Air Astana flight attendants to share my ubiquitous Kazakh journey. They looked familiar as if they were someone I met during the week.
As the Hong Kong flight waived at me, I left Almaty with my heart broken, my soul taken.