August 4, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kazakhstan : Mt. Pleasant News : Becky See returns after serving in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kazakstan : Peace Corps Kazakhstan : The Peace Corps in Kazakstan: August 4, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kazakhstan : Mt. Pleasant News : Becky See returns after serving in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

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Becky See returns after serving in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

Becky See returns after serving in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

Becky See returns after serving in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

See returns to MP after serving in Peace Corps

August 04, 2004

By Martha Wick

Assistant News Editor

Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, slightly less than four times the size of Texas. According to the CIA World Fact Book, Kazakhstan has an estimated 15,143,704 people. Its population is 53.4 percent Kazakh, 30 percent Russian, 3.7 percent Ukrainian, 2.5 percent Uzbek, 2.4 percent German and small percentages of various other groups. Most of the people in Kazakhstan are Muslim, followed closely by Russian Orthodox with a small percentage of Protestants and others. Why should anyone in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa care about Kazakhstan? Well, one family has good reason that extends beyond mere passing interest in the rest of the world.

After the past two years, Becky See's family probably knows more about Kazakhstan than they ever thought they would. See, daughter of Gary See of Mt. Pleasant, recently returned from a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in the former Soviet Union country.

"I didn't know anything about [the country] before I went there. It was a Soviet Union country and that had all been cut off from us. I had no expectations and I tried to remain open minded," said See during an interview yesterday.

See graduated from Mt. Pleasant Community High School in 1998 and from Drake University with a degree in economics in 2002. Her first year and a half in Kazakhstan, she taught economics and English in the village of Lenger, which has a population of about 20,000. The reminding six months she spent working for a business incubator called SODBI in Shymkent, a city of about 400,000.

Although See did not speak Russian, the most popular language in Kazakhstan, she took the Peace Corps' crash course and then retained a tutor in Kazakhstan because the school where she taught lacked money for a translator. According to See the school system in Kazakhstan retains the flavor and tradition of a communist society in the sense that everyone graduates regardless of effort. She said that as a teacher this was frustrating. "There was no incentive to study. And I had no control over grades," she lamented. Also, See longed to work in economics, "but I was teaching more English in the end than economics."

Her frustration led her to look for work elsewhere, which is when she found the position at SODBI.

Kazakhstan gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, but See observed that old habits are hard to break. The current president, President Nazarbayev, was the former chairman of the Supreme Soviet party. He was elected president on December 1, 1991.

"Easily 90 percent of the people I talked to preferred the communist system," said See. "There is now high unemployment and high crime. In the beginning, there was little infrastructure, no gas, water..."

See said, while in Kazakhstan, she was out after dark only twice and that was by "accident." "I was tutoring a student and it was time to go, I kept saying it's getting dark. Finally, I just had to leave." She hailed a taxi, which is basically, any car on the street, she said. "People with cars will make extra money by giving people rides." She was alone in the car with a man she was uncomfortable with but she was happy to get a ride at all, she said.

©Mt. Pleasant News Inc. 2004

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Story Source: Mt. Pleasant News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kazakhstan



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