What is it like being a Jamaican in Kazakhstan?

Jamaican in Kazakhstan Thumbnail

In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Denneille Luke. She is a Jamaican living in Kazakhstan.


Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Kazakhstan? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy the founder of, and today in Jamaicans to the World, I talk to Denneille Lee, a Jamaican living in Kazakhstan. Welcome, and please correct me, did I say it right?

Denneille: You got Kazakhstan. You got it correct. Yes.

Xavier: Aright. Aright. (All right. All right.) I feel better. So, tell us… Welcome. Welcome.

Denneille: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Xavier: Tell us, which paat (part) of Jamaica are you from?

Denneille: Okay. I am from the Garden Parish. I’m from Saint Ann. I grew up between, Claremont and Browns Town. I am a proud graduate, of the Saint Hilda’s Diocesan High School. You know, I have to say it like that. But, yes, my formative years were spent in Kingston, but I was born in Saint Ann and then I moved back for high school. Yeah.

Xavier: All right, representing St Hilda’s. So, tell us the story of how you got to Kazakhstan.

Denneille: Ah. I have been asked this question pretty much by every stranger, family member. Like, you know, “Why?”, those persons who were not intimately a part of the process. I don’t have a, that much of a fascinating story as to how I came to be here. I literally was just a bit, you know, disillusioned with, work in Jamaica and the opportunities and all of that. And I googled, “teaching abroad.” And I, the first hit that I got was actually for this recruitment agency, that’s based in Canada, that places teachers across the world. And I signed up. I did a preliminary interview with them. They thought I was great. And within a week or two, I think, I got a message saying that there’s a school that is interested in you. And it just so happened that it was a school here in Kazakhstan. And I’d actually only ever heard of Kazakhstan once, from a movie reference, which I think pretty much everybody will probably know which movie that is.

Xavier: No, no, no. Which movie it is (is it)?

Denneille: It’s actually Borat. So…

Xavier: Okay.

Denneille: Yeah. It’s not a topic that we discuss hear, but yes, the first time I’d ever heard of Kazakhstan. I mean, I wasn’t put off by it. I remember googling to find out and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, this place is gorgeous.” And I told my friends about the opportunity and then everybody started googling as well and they were like, “Denneille, you know this is what it’s like there, and this…” and they were also so excited. Their excitement kind of rubbed off on me as well. But I was just really, open to the opportunity of just going somewhere new. It was my first time actually leaving Jamaica. It was a big thing for me.

As a matter of fact, I… when I even went… the whole process of getting tickets, booking tickets and the flights to come here, I remember the travel agency that I went to, to purchase my ticket. It was a branch that was in Browns Town but the manager in Kingston called me and said, “Are you sure you? Yuh sure (Are you sure?), yuh sure, yuh sure about what yuh doing (Are you sure you about you are doing) are you sure about what you’re doing? Like do you know that this is a legitimate job thing? Like certain, certain?” And I was like, “Yes sir.” I don’t know. I just felt within myself that this is where I needed to be and…

Xavier: Here you are.

Denneille: And I’ve been here for a while.

Xavier: What’s a while? How long have you been there?

Denneille: I’ve been here for seven years. Yes.

Xavier: Oh.

Denneille: Seven long years.

Xavier: Oh. So, you are practically a local at this point.

Denneille: Let’s see. You mean … I’ll… you’ll hear some of my colleagues say that you know that you know this is… well I actually say this is my second home. When I’m away for summer holidays I actually really, really miss it here.

Xavier: Man, you are, you know, I’m thinking, you know, this is in, what is it? Right
Beside well, it was part of Russia at one point. Right?

Denneille: It was a part of the USSR, yes.

Lake Kaindy - Tien-Shan mountains in Kazakhstan

Xavier: And you’re you know you’re saying you love it but isn’t most of the year cowhl (cold)?

Denneille: That’s the fascinating thing. It depends on where you are because you know Kazakhstan is smack dab in the middle of you know Asia. It’s Asia, Europe, Eurasia, they call it. And so, it depends on which city you are in because there is one city called Shymkent, that is considered to be the Texas of Kazakhstan. It doesn’t snow really there because it’s so hot. So, it really depends. Yeah, it depends where you are in the country. And Kazakhstan has the Steppes of the desert, so it tends to be very, very hot in some places. However, there are other places where the temperature drops to like minus 40 (-40) degrees Celsius in winter. When I just moved here, I was living in one of those cities and I tell you it was, I was miserable. You know, it got so quickly, and it lasted for so long. Winter lasted a long time.

Xavier: How yuh manage (How did you manage)? Six layers? Ten layers? I mean you, you didn’t want to leave, probably the…

Denneille: Yeah. I was woefully unprepared when I came here, you know. I had layers but trust me, nothing prepares you for the temperature drop plus wind chill. Like it’s a whole other experience, you know, to be outside and it’s already cold but then to have the breeze, like it’s yeah. So, I seldom, for like two years, I literally did not go anywhere other than school, just work and home. If anybody said, “You know, let’s go meet up for drinks.” And I’m like, “It’s okay. I have liquor in my house. I have juice at home, you know. I’m good. I’ll see you guys on Monday; you know.” It’s like I really avoided going out in the cold. I wasn’t, yeah, I’m not one of those people that I’m even… I like the snow. I like to see it, but from the comfort of my warm apartment.

Xavier: I hear you. I like to see it from a way, way (far) distance in another place.
You talk about, you know, the people a little bit, but let me touch first on this part. What’s the language? Because, you know, you moved there, and I don’t believe it’s English. I believe it’s, you know, as a part of the former Soviet Union it probably is Russian, but maybe there’s another language there because I know it’s close to Asia, and, what are languages there and have you learned any of them?

Denneille: The national language is Kazakh. So that’s the native tongue for these people. The officials, so they also speak Russian as well, of course, officially. It is a country, like for example, the education system is trilingual, so we do have speakers of English here; speakers of English, Russian and Kazakh. But it’s primarily Kazakh and Russian that you hear and as far as learning, I know more Russian than Kazakh. I found it very difficult to learn Kazakh.

Not that it’s a difficult language to learn, but more so because of how you pronounce the words. It’s a very guttural kind of thing. Lots of, I don’t know what the correct word is, but lots of [ makes guttural sound] that kind of thing. So, I found it very difficult to actually, to learn the language because pronunciation is a challenge for me with that. But I haven’t …it’s not that much of a problem, depending on where you, which city you’re located in because you will find English speakers. But definitely I have learned Russian. I think it’s actually a pretty cool language to learn. I feel really great being able to have conversations with people. Not that I’m fluent but, you know, I can help myself.

Xavier: Speaking of that having conversations with them and so forth, you know, you’re Jamaican. You’re black. You’re in Kazakhstan, you know. What is a typical reaction when, let’s say you speak Russian and someone look at you, like you know, and then you say, “I’m Jamaican.” What typically happens?

Denneille: Like those that, the conversation… those two topics never actually ever overlap. It’s always, so somebody says something in Russian and I will respond to them in Russian and they’re like or maybe they’re not even speaking to me, and I will say something in Russian and they’re like, “You understand us?” And then they will ask, “Like you speak Russian?” And I’ll say, “You know a little bit.” But I generally understand more than I’m able to communicate. My students, for example, because you know I teach. They they’ll be in class speaking and they’re asking each other questions most times related to maybe what we’re doing or some exam or something and then I will respond to their question in English, and they’ll be shocked like, “Miss Denneille, you actually understood what we said?” I know, yeah. “Most times I actually understand you guys.” And then they will be like, “Oh!”

Xavier: Caan seh nutten, caan seh nutten ‘roun yuh. (Can’t say anything around you.)
On the Jamaican part of it now, when they learn your Jamaican, what’s the response?

Denneille: Oh my gosh! It always is such a… it’s so hilarious actually, when they realize that I’m Jamaican because, Jamaica to the world, of course. Everybody knows of Jamaica. When people hear that I’m Jamaican, one of two things happen. Either I am asked like, you know, this is like just to confirm, they’re like, “This is the same place where Usain Bolt is from, right? It’s always Usain Bolt. And then they might say Bob Marley, you know. They just, call these names and I’ll be like, “Yup. Mmmhm.” I’ve been asked like, “Can you run?” And I’m like, “Not to save my life.”

The other thing that comes up though, that comes up more often is people actually break out in song and it’s not a Jamaican song that they sing. It’s a song about Jamaica. There’s a Russian song, so whenever I tell people I’m Jamaican they’ll say something. They’ll probably ask me about Bolt first but then they automatically ask like, “Do you know the song?” And then they’ll start singing the song. And now I laugh. First time I heard it I was mortified. It was during karaoke. Like I was just in this place and this gentleman across from me asked like, “Where are you from? Are you from Africa? And I said, “You know, no.”

The other question is, “USA?” “No.” And then I say you know, “Ya-mai-ca”, ‘cause (because0 that’s how they pronounce it here. And he just, and then he asked for the song book, and he chose that song. So, the lyrics were on the screen, and I was just like, “Oh my gosh.”

Xavier: You know, in a previous interview I did, you know, this came up; a young lady in Russia. It came up also.

Denneille: The same song?


Xavier: Yes, the same song.

Denneille: There are actually two songs, but that one is the most popular one. There’s another song, that very, very old song that was done by this very young boy, a teenager, I think he’s Italian though, about Jamaica being beautiful and the women from there. But it’s not in Russian as far as I know. I think it is in Italian. But the one that generally comes up is the World Cup one. Now I will laugh along with them because it is kind of funny to me now.

Xavier: The people, you know, tell us about the people there. What are the people like where you are?

Denneille: I’ve been to a couple cities here. I’ve been around the country, and I have to say that generally, I mean, Kazakhstan is known for their hospitality. Kazakhs are known for their hospitality, and I can say definitely that that is what you get when you come here. The people regardless of where you are, on the street walking, like people are always so willing to help you they’re absolutely fascinated with the idea of, with seeing people who look like me. Let me just say black people, because of their history.

I mean with them being formerly a part of the USSR a lot of things were restricted so, you didn’t have many black people coming into the country. There are some people who when they see me, it’s the first time that they’re actually seeing a black person. And I’ve never actually ever felt unsafe in those, with those interactions. It’s just this fascination, and this desire to just learn about other people and other cultures. So, they’ll ask questions. They want to take pictures, you know. They are very warm. I can definitely say that you know. I remember the first city that I lived in, Semey, I’d never actually ever spoken to my neighbour because I’d never seen them before. You know, because of our time you know, the times that I go out to work and they would come in and stuff like that. But I remember one afternoon I came home from work and there were bottles of water outside my door apparently, they were cleaning the pipes, so they had turned off the water. People had actually you know collected water earlier in the day. And my neighbours when I got home they’re like you know, “This is for you.”

Xavier: Wow. Nice.

Denneille: And that that is something that I experience a lot. Like people just look out for you. I’ve lived in a building at that has like 20 odd residents and I’m just walking outside, and somebody says, “Hello, Miss Jamaica.” I don’t know how they know this, but people ask questions and people, you know, people want to know you.

Xavier: They know. The other neighbours tell them. The other neighbours say, “Yeah. She is from Jamaica.” So, in terms of food, what’s a food like there?

Kazakhstan people

Kazakhstan people – Photo Deposit Photos

Denneille: Kazakhstan is actually made up of a number, over 120 different nationalities, so there’s, you know, a mixture of cuisine that is available here. The native cuisine though, tends to be primarily consisting of meat and potatoes. I guess that’s probably how I could describe it. For me it has been a hit or miss in terms of the food, culinary experience here. I do find things that I like though, you know. So, the meat kind, like they eat horse meat here and I’ve always steered clear of that. I am not that adventurous to try it. It’s a no-no for me. But it’s something that people enjoy here. But beef, you can find things that you generally eat back home here, and they prepare it well enough. My only issue has always been just seasoning, you know. They don’t do too well with spicy food, you know.

Xavier: What would you say you would recommend you know. So, listen if there’s one thing you should try when you come to Kazakhstan, this is what you should try.

Denneille: That might be…so I have two choices, two things that I would recommend. One is Pilav or Pilaf depending on which country you’re from or where, you know, you’ve probably had it before. It’s like a one pot kind of thing. So, you have beef, the meat, beef whatever or I don’t know if they put horse meat in there. But I’ve never actually had it with horse meat. It’s beef, rice, some peas and depending on which kind, because you do have the Uzbek Pilav and you have the Kazakh pilav. Uzbek pilav will have probably like cranberries and stuff in there but it’s like a one pot kind of thing. And it’s really tasty.

Xavier: Cranberry sounds interesting.

Denneille: Trust me. I would never have thought cranberry and chickpeas with rice and beef would go well together, but it’s very tasty. The other thing is their actual national dish which is Beshbarmak. But it’s generally made with horse meat. Whenever I have it, I always specifically ask, because I guess not everybody eats horse meat. I always ask, “Does this have horse meat in there?” It’s just meat, potatoes, and onions, that kind of combination. But it’s just, I don’t know what they put in there, but it’s really good. I enjoy it. Yeah.

Astana - The capital of Kazakhstan

Xavier: I have a question that is kind of you know, a little different than what I typically ask, and you know. I see your hair nicely braided and nicely done and you know you are in the middle of what used to be Russia, okay, or the Soviet Union. And so how do you get your hair so nicely done and, is there any challenges in finding either someone to do the hair, again, I don’t know if there’s like a little population there that you know, or and your products, and so on how does that work?

Denneille: I actually didn’t know this until recently, but there are so many stores here that you can actually get like braiding, hair for braiding and there are salons that actually do braiding. I did my own hair. I’ve always done my own hair from high school, but I had locks. I had locks for 13 years. I actually cut them in October of last year, so the braiding thing is a new thing for me. But during this whole total transition to me just having loose hair, I actually would normally order things like from on Amazon and get them shipped here. But I discovered that there are actually shops here that actually sell the products in bulk so you can get them here.

And there is a large African population here, so people from Ghana, Kenya, they’re here and they actually have their own…they work within salons where they actually groom locks, install locks. There are people walking around like locals walking around with locks and coloured wigs. So, you can actually you know you will find them here, you just have to search because it’s not it’s not a mainstream thing. But you can find them here. And this is something I just discovered, maybe in January. Yeah.

Xavier: Before then what did you do?

Denneille: Before then it was all me. I had to do everything myself. It was so tedious, you know, like grooming my hair and all of that. Or I would just wait, you know just to do some simple styles and wait until I got home you know to get it done. But I, and I think again it also depends on the city that you’re in. Because if you are in a more metropolitan area, for example I am in the former capital of Almaty now and there is like you know just a greater mixture of people here and the cultures. You will find that. And I must say that the African American culture, the Jamaican culture as well, is very present here among even the locals. Because you will see people walking around and they’re obsessed with the Marleys.

So, they themselves actually want locks. I’ve had students come up to me and say, “Miss Denneille, like you know I have a lock around here.” And I’m like, “Really?” He’s like, “Yeah.” You know. They mentioned like Rastafarian culture and it’s fascinating to me because I’m just like, of all the places I would not have expected it here to be honest.

Xavier: Yeah. And that to me is, yeah, that was a bit surprising. So, it leads me to this one then. Because it sounds like, if they love that culture, what’s the type of music you’re hearing there? Is it western? Is it a mixture?

Denneille: It is a mixture. You hear a lot of well… I think this is probably commonplace across the world that you do hear a lot of hip-hop, R&B stuff. Even with the local songs, there is that fusion going on. They are really, really into EDM. As a matter of fact, I have heard… so I get very excited when I’m in a taxi and I hear Sean Paul. And it’s not just Sean Paul. They’ll play Bob Marley. They’ll play like lesser-known acts. As a matter of fact, recently I was saying to my sister that I did not know that Shaggy and Popcaan had a song together. It’s a very old song that I actually learned for the first time last week because I heard it on the radio. But they did a little EDM mix to it, and I was like, “What, how did I not know this song?”

Yeah. So as far as culture is concerned and the dances, it’s present here especially among the younger population. When I go into taxis, I feel like among the taxi network like if one person picks me up and I tell him I’m Jamaican he probably passes it along to other people and they know my address. Because a lot of times when a taxi driver comes to pick me up because it’s a taxi service, whatever they’re listening to on the radio, when I come into the taxi, they will change it to something Reggae or some hip-hop something. But a lot of times I’ll hear like Bob Marley, and you know of course persons will start singing in the car. Yeah.

Xavier: You’re getting some special treatment there like listen, first they’re calling you Miss Jamaica. So, they pick up Miss Jamaica and they say we have special music for Miss Jamaica.

Denneille: Or if I’m asked, “Where are you from?” That’s always the question you know. Where are you from? And I tell them and they are like, “Aw, chku!” So chku is like one minute, hold on. And they’ll find something. They’ll plug in a USB or something and of course there’s a song for me and I’m like, “All right dude.” Yeah.

Xavier: Dating. You know dating, what is it like being, you know a single woman there? Have men tried to pick you up? Tell me a little bit about that.

Denneille: Yes. I have had men show interest here. As a matter of fact, most exchanges with like the taxi drivers, for example, involves some expression of them being interested in pursuing a relationship. I’ll go into a taxi and after all the pleasantries you know them asking like where I’m from. The questions are always like, “Where are you from? What is your name?” Of course, they want to know your name. They want to know how old you are. If you’re unmarried at a certain age they’ll be like you know why? Why? Like why? Because the culture here is that people tend to get married like from their early 20s. Like you know, 20/21 people are married and they have their families you know really young, at a really young age.

So, for me, I’m in my 30s, and the question will always be like, why aren’t you married? And I’ll be like ah I don’t know you know. And then the question is always, do you have a boyfriend? No. Can I be your boyfriend? And you know I’m not the kind of person to just get up and say, no. I laugh it off or like you know, we’ll get back to this. If they understand English, I’m like yeah, I’ll tell you later.

Xavier: Has any of them like a second time pick you up you know, as a taxi driver or someone and they still persist and say, you said you’d get back to me, how come you never got back to me?

Denneille: I actually have had people call me. Because there are times when I, for example, so when the apps don’t necessarily give out your number but there are times when I might not be able to figure out where the driver has parked, so I will call the driver because I get the driver’s number. And when I go into the car, we have this conversation.
I have had people like message me to say, Hey, I was driver from this morning. And to be honest, I tend to block these people because I think it’s really inappropriate to be calling me like that, for this reason too. But I’ve had like drivers come back to pick me up. Most times I may not remember them, but they will tell me you know I picked you up like last week or from this place, you know. I’m like oh yeah zeen (okay). Okay, cool and yeah. But I’ve never had anybody like really been aggressive in pursuing you know…

Xavier: Okay.

Denneille: …anything like that. But I have had locals try to set me up with a friend of theirs. So, like I’ve had locals tell me, you know, there’s this guy here from Ghana or there’s this guy here from Kenya, I think you guys would hit it off. And next thing I know I’m getting messages from somebody you know, “Oh my friend Maxat told me about you,” and all of that thing, you know. I tend not to date here, like the locals. And it’s nothing is wrong with them I mean they’re great people they’re fun to hang out with. I’ve gone out and socialized with a lot of them. It’s just I don’t have the time for it really you know.

Kazakhstan - Almaty

Xavier: It’s where you are. It’s I mean, not the place. I’m just saying where you are in life. I’m like, and I’m being nosy. I’m being nosy. But it’s… it’s where you are in life

Denneille: It’s quite fine because like I said I think because the people here are so interested in getting to know you and the culture, getting to find out about you, these are the questions that they tend to ask. So, there’s a genuine interest from people here about you know like your personal life. Do you have kids? Do you this, that’s you know. They want to hang out with you. So, I actually do take up opportunities to like go out for dinner with people and to go to like, they have clubs here you know. But I’m not much of an EDM fan. There’s one place that I’ve been to that I tell you, like I felt like I was in Jamaica when I went there because of the songs that were playing. Like and again I don’t know if somebody said you know, she’s Jamaican s this is our segment, like dancehall segment and of course, I throw down.

Xavier: The whole floor had to stop and watch?

Denneille: People joined in with me because like I said there, I told you like you know the black culture, the Jamaican culture as well, is so much a part of the experience here especially for younger people. For people who have travelled like to Russia for example, like those people who are Russians they are the ones who I am surprised I’m like, how do you know how to do this dance? Like how do you know this song? And they’re singing it like word for word. And we will be in the club, and we are doing the same dances you know. We’re carrying on. I had somebody come walk over to me and you know did the ding fist thing you know and all of these gestures. And I was just like okay, like, how do you know this?

I mean, I’ve had, trust me. I’ve had people send me videos like I really want to come to Jamaica because I want to go to one of these parties. The most recent video I got was a clip of like what I think it was Weddy Weddy. I don’t know if that still goes on, Weddy Weddy Wednesdays or something you know. And they were like, I need to go to Jamaica so I can experience that because…

Xavier: That’s amazing how the culture has really, really spread. You know just amazing
on that. Well, I was nosy, let me move on. Next question you know. I know it’s a big country. I believe it’s landlocked, right?

Denneille: Yes, it is. Bordered by 5 other countries.

Xavier: Oh, how many countries?

Denneille: Five.

Xavier: Okay, okay. So that would be, I think Russia. I saw Russia on one side when I looked at a map…. and China.

Denneille: Uh uh. There is…

Xavier: Afghanistan.

Denneille: No, not Afghanistan we’re not that close to Afghanistan. There’s Turkistan, Tajikistan. I really, I’m terrible at this. I never actually been able to remember.

Xavier: Uzbekistan.

Denneille: Yes, that’s it. Thank you.

Xavier: I was putting you on a spot there. But the question I was gonna ask is, you know, it’s a huge country what is you know, what are some of the experiences? It could be it could be an attraction. It could be a landmark. It could be an event. It could be an experience that you would say to someone, if you visit and you have the opportunity I’d recommend visit or experience this or you know, see this event. Or you know, it could even be a wedding. You could say you know, the weddings are you know, sometimes the weddings are so different that you’re like you know, so what would that be?

Denneille: So, for sure if you… so Kazakhstan is known especially in Almaty for the mountains. Almaty is considered to be like the Switzerland of Asia, and they have beautiful mountains that are snow-capped like year-round. A lot of people actually come here to go skiing. Like people come here from other European countries that they can go skiing. That’s definitely something that I would tell people to try. I mean I’ve never actually gone skiing, but…

Xavier: That was my next question. I was going to ask if you had gone skiing.

Denneille: … and you know there are two reasons for that. And it has to do with like, just me as a person, like personality-wise. I don’t necessarily like the attention. It’s one thing to be walking on the road and somebody stops you to say, Hey, can I have a photo with you? And they move on. But like being an area that is concentrated with people and you are the one that stands out, it’s just a bit overwhelming for me. So, like skiing or like going to the slopes are not something that I have actually done. I’ve had friends who’ve done it. And also like my comment about the snow, me and the cold, I like to see it. But I’m not going to intentionally put myself in a position where I’m going to be interacting with this cold thing. So, there’s that too.

However, in all of the apartments that I’ve lived in in this city, I have had a view of the mountains and I must say even just walking around, my school is at the foot of the mountains, and it’s just a beautiful sight to behold. Like it’s just, especially in the morning or in the late evenings like when you know not many people are out, just more so in the mornings just looking up at the mountains. It’s breath taking. So definitely yeah that’s definitely something that I would tell people to do or to experience. Just come here. Just sit at a café, one of those cafes that actually has the mountain view. Just enjoy the nature. You can go hiking. A lot of people here definitely always go hiking on the weekends.

A wedding, trust me. Weddings take place in like open, sometimes in open spaces. you’ll be going through the public park and there’s a wedding going on. And if they see you, you’re going to be invited to join the wedding, regardless of what you’re wearing. Yes, just to be a part of the experience. They’ll, invite you.

Xavier: You could go right in, and you’re going to eat and drink and dance and do everything with them?

Denneille: Yes, as a matter of fact, I’ve had people just tell me that, my son is, like people who I don’t know, my son is getting married on the 20th. We’re inviting you to the wedding you know. It’s going to be here. Yeah.

Xavier: That first time you experienced that did you go? When someone invited you are you or you were first reserved and then the next time you say let me do it?

Denneille: Actually, my first wedding invitation came at the beginning of this whole covid thing, so I wasn’t able to go. I was actually invited and asked if I could sing a song and I was like I don’t sing. But I’d love to be a part of the celebration there. That was a colleague, and she was like, yes, yes, definitely we would love to have you there. But it’s not a colleague that I would generally interact with. I just probably say, good morning, and she told me her son was getting married. But it happened that in the heights of, it was in I think it was March of last year. So that was on a smaller scale because weddings tend to be a big production here. Trust me. It’s almost like, a ball kind of that setup.

What, I have been invited to like, because there are, and that’s the other thing I would tell people to do is, there are lots of cultural holidays and celebrations here. And like I mentioned about the people here being very hospitable, people get together a lot to share meals and stuff like that. When we have like, for example, Nowruz, which is like the Persian new year in spring, the beginning of spring in March. You have like everybody coming together and celebrating and it’s a huge event. They cook. You get to try horse milk for the first time if you know if you’ve never had it.

Xavier: Have you had the milk? So, have you had the milk?

Denneille: I have had horse milk and probably because it’s fermented so it’s easier to come down you know, a little bit alcoholic. And it’s not bad. I’ve got to say, it’s more on the saltier side. It’s not something that I would go for, I’d get seconds for. I would probably have one because they serve it like in a teacup, because it’s served warm. And I would just sip on it you know. That’s it. But I would definitely say just participate. If you have the opportunity to participate in any of those ceremonies or celebrations, definitely go for it. You learn so much. Because of how it’s set up, like you know, you have like the grandparents, the great grands if they’re still alive. And people are sharing stories and you’re always going to have at least one person who speaks English who will translate for you.

Xavier: Oh. That’s nice.

Denneille: Yeah. I’ve learned so much about the Kazakh culture from the from these experiences you know. Like those are some of the stories that I will take with me you know, through life because, yeah.

Xavier: That’s nice. That’s nice. You had mentioned the diversity and surrounded by all these other countries and so on. Is there any type of Asian influences that you have seen there? And I’m going off the camp with some of my questions but I’m just kind of curious.

Denneille: No. I mean Kazakhstan is technically, is Asia really. It’s just because they are landlocked and of course their history as being a part of the USSR that it’s, there are of course, remnants of that time here still, you know, architecture, culture. Because you do have as Russian population and you have the Asians or the Kazakhs, the Mongolians and those people you know. The Asian influence is very strong here depending on the city again. For example, in Almaty, I guess depending on which region you are in, like for example, the language that they speak will differ. So, like in this city that I live right now, they speak more Kazakh here than Russian. But in the city that I lived in previously in Semey, that’s where they did all the nuclear testing that’s where they have the site, I hear more Russian there than Kazakh. There are very few people that I heard communicating in Kazakh, but like K-pop, like Korean Pop is very, in terms of like dressing, with the kids, even adults. It’s been influenced by even other Asian nations you know, the Asian culture, it’s very much present here. Trust me.

The students, my kids, they love anime. I mean, when they get to Grade Ten, they’ll tell you, “Oh, Miss Denneille, you know, that’s for kids.” But they will still, you know, dress up in a particular way that reflects that type of, you know, subculture but…yeah.

Xavier: I am so excited to see they have all these you know as you said those different cultures. Have you got the opportunity to kind of jump off, since you’re kind of in a little, you know, central to jump off to some of these other countries?

Denneille: Not the neighbouring ones, but I have. I have visited Indonesia. I’ve been to Vietnam. Where else have I been to? My travels have been very limited.
The city that I lived in before, there’s a bus that you can take, that takes you into China. It’s like 20 hours. So, I visited the places that are generally close by and other places where I know people. So…

Xavier: So, okay that’s good.

Denneille: I haven’t travelled extensively since being here.

Xavier: Well, we know that might come. We know that might come as things get eased up. As you know, we’re going through this pandemic at this point.

Denneille: Yeah.

Xavier: We know. So, I have one question before and listen, I appreciate you spending the time. I really, really do. I got so much. I learned so much.

Denneille: It’s fun, so of course I’m more than happy to.

Xavier: I learned so much, but I have one question before my final question. And I think if you watched the videos before, you know what the final question is so you kind of know I’m not ended yet. But the question is this one, the scenario. You land in Jamaica,

Denneille: uh-huh

Xavier: What is the first thing you’re doing? Whether it be something you’re eating, whether it be somewhere you’re going, whether it be, whatever, what is it you land, what is it you’re doing? the first thing you’re doing.

Denneille: First thing is Scotches jerk chicken. I think it’s Orange, I don’t know the name of the area. But on the way from the airport, there’s a Scotches like before you get into Trelawny or on the border there. Like that’s my first stop, always. Like seven years in, always. Because I normally come home Summer and Christmas, always. Scotches first and then I will you know head to Mom’s in Ocho Rios for some oxtail. It’s like those two things, definitely. I normally have like a list of things that I want to eat as soon as I get home. It’s normally Scotches first for jerked chicken. It’s then Mom’s, for you know the oxtail.

The following morning is going to be Juicy Patties for cheese patty and some hominy corn porridge, always, religiously, like without fail. For the rest of the time that I’m home, anything goes, but those things for sure. It has to be. And I always have to stop and just put my foot in some water because like Kazakhstan is landlocked, so we don’t have beaches. And I’ve always been a beach-going girl. So, even when I lived in Browns Town my weekends would be spent, at least one day, Sunday morning or Saturday morning at the beach. And that’s one thing that I miss so much, especially now that I haven’t been able to travel. I haven’t been home in two years. It’s yeah, that’s definitely going to be what is the first thing, even before Scotches.

Xavier: Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Denneille for again, giving us so much good information, so much of your time and so. And again, I know I went off the ranch a little bit with some of the questions, but it was really, really engaging, interesting. I usually end this way. And I think you know the ending. You have to teach me how to say goodbye in the most informal way for the country you’re in.
Now, I think the Russian one is pretty easy if I remember it. I don’t even remember the Russian one. It start with d I think. I don’t remember what the Russian, how the Russian…

Denneille: You did say the most informal way so like the one that you’re thinking of is relatively formal. It’s dos vidaniya.

Xavier: Yes, yes, yes. That’s the Russian one.

Denneille: Yeah but…

Xavier: But you have another language you’re learning too so maybe you know the one in that language.

Denneille: I can definitely say goodbye in all, in both of the languages.

Xavier: Ok. So, we want the Kaz, what’s the language called now. Is it Kaz…?

Denneille: Yes. Kazakh.

Xavier: Kazakh?

Denneille: Yes. Kazakh.

Xavier: You’re going to teach me goodbye in Kazakh.

Denneille: Okay, saw bol.

Xavier: Saw bol?

Denneille: Saw bol.

Xavier: Okay, all right.

Denneille: Saw bol is Kazak for goodbye or if you’re being formal it’s, saw boliniz. It’s yeah but it’s saw boliniz. It’s goodbye. How is it spelled? That I can’t tell you.

Xavier: All right, that’s fine.

Denneille: Russian goodbye is always, to me because dos vidaniya is not even the most informal. Paka is the most informal Russian goodbye. Paka which is always easy to say. You know, Paka!

Xavier: I love that one.

Xavier: So, it’s saw bol.

Denneille: Saw bol.

Xavier: And paka.

Denneille: Paka.

Xavier: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Photo – Deposit Photo

About the author

Xavier Murphy