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Sober from Kazakhstan

It took me a while to understand the beauty of my home town and I think I would have never got it if I didn’t leave. When you live in a place, you take things for granted, so I guess...

by Nina Sever (text and photos)
April 1st, 2016

It took me a while to understand the beauty of my home town and I think I would have never got it if I didn’t leave. When you live in a place, you take things for granted, so I guess that sometimes you need to travel, far away and for a long time, then you get back to where you belong and breathe. Getting back to Kazakhstan is like saying someone you knew for a long time “I love you”.

People don’t know much about my country, some of them don’t know the exact location on the map, others didn’t know it existed at all. I used to be upset and hurt, now it feels like taking care of a secret garden that you don’t want to get spoiled. Of course Kazakhstan has its own problems, many of them, regard the economy, oil industry and poverty. But! But… people are still warm and they will give you the last piece of bread if you’re their guest. My city, Almaty, is harsh, but on the countryside the doors still remain unlocked at night. Actually, the metropolis I grew up in the beginning of my life, offers a lot of possibilities, because you don’t only apply for jobs that already exist, you have the freedom to invent a new one!

My people love music, but the music industry is hard. They appreciate people from abroad, but they sometimes don’t have the capacity to see their inner talents. My father is a musician and a sound engineer, he lives in Almaty, and I think a talent like that would just blow people’s minds in US for example, but there’s nobody willing to pay enough in Kazakhstan. The same problem presents itself in every artistic field, and I thought it was difficult in Italy (where I lived for most of my life before moving to UK), but to become a self-sufficient singer, painter, photographer or anything like that in this ex URSS state, is more of a dream than reality.

Most of our artists are more appreciated abroad, and that doesn’t make much sense to me.

One thing that doesn’t change anytime I get back, is the Nature. Some mountains and rivers are a little bit spoiled and dirty, I guess they are too close to the city and nobody takes care enough. But if you go a little bit further through the steppe, and through the hills that flow into huge mountains, you may reach the Charyn Canyon, and that one is badass. It just stays there, gigantic and clueless of the ages passing by, and that’s what I love about it, that is wild and uncontaminated. If you have patience and you know how to get there, you may walk all the way down to the river, I assure you it feels like a redemption journey. I remember this one time when I was a child and me, my dad and his boss at the time, went to Charyn on a hot Summer day. It was so difficult for me to get down the canyon, that I just stopped and cried at some point… I still should have a picture with my dad carrying me afterwards. So, his boss was drunk, I guess too much vodka, so after that devastating walk, my dad just immersed him in the sharp cold river and he came out completely sober.

That’s what my country does! It makes sober people drunk, and drunk people sober.

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