Well my friends, it seems that my time here has come to an end. What originally began as a three month assignment stretched into four and a half months, but in reality it seems much shorter than that. While it will be nice to return home to the States, I also have mixed feelings about leaving. The people and culture of Kazakhstan have left an indelible mark on my life. I feel so fortunate to have come here and been able to spend enough time to really immerse myself in the place and get a small sense of what life is like here in Almaty.
While Kazakhstan and Central Asia in general have long remained an isolated part of the world, things are slowly changing in this regard. Many social and political problems remain, but through careful decisions and planning, the vast potential of this country and region can be fully realized. I hope that Kazakhstan can follow many of the good governance examples in the West but at the same time not repeat our many mistakes. If so, this place has a very bright future and I look forward to seeing it rise to the challenge.
On a personal level, the hospitality I have experienced here has been unparalleled. While growing up as a rural Southerner in the U.S., I thought I knew the meaning of hospitality, but the people here have not only reminded me of those days but their generosity of spirit has been truly inspiring. I feel privileged to have worked with and gotten to know so many wonderful people. In all honesty, my time here has only given back a fraction of what I have received in kind.
It is my hope that the musings and pictures on this blog have opened a window to this part of the world. I have enjoyed working on it and perhaps future visitors will find it useful as well. As I return to the States to spend the holidays with friends and family, I wish everyone both here and there a wonderful holiday season!