Returning to Astana! June 26, 2017

By: Clarissa Rodriguez

I first traveled to Astana by train in August 2015. At the time, I was a participant of a summer program offered for American students in the Philology Department at KazNU. At the end of our program, the other students and I visited the new capital of Kazakhstan, where we had a tour of the city mostly on foot. We visited several popular tourist attractions, like the National Museum of Kazakhstan, Baiterek, Xan Shatyr, and of course, the Presidential Residence. All of these places were unbelievably gorgeous, modern, interesting, and really well built. Walking on the streets of the capital, I got the feeling that Astana differed from Almaty in the fact that there were fewer people in the capital city. Nevertheless, it was worth mentioning that the architecture in Astana is unique and fantastic. I especially liked the mosque Hazret-Sultan because it was quite grandiose and was considered the central place of worship in the city. When I walked inside, I was stunned! From the very beginning, I noticed the quietness of the space despite the fact that there were a lot of people at the mosque on that day. From the ceiling hung beautiful, glittering chandeliers and in the corner of the first floor, there was an allotted place for the Quran. I spent an entire hour in the main hall with my group, listening to whispered prayers and thinking about peace, happiness, and harmony… As soon as we walked out of the mosque, the call to prayer began and sounded loudly and strongly throughout the entire square. This event reminded me that I was in a completely new country, very far away from home, but at the same time, that I, at that moment, was in a part of the world where I experienced the most unique sense of peace and where I had the opportunity to learn more about a different culture and religion.

Two years later, I’m back in Astana, this time at the EXPO 2017 as one of the American Student Ambassadors at the USA Pavilion. Going around Astana helps me compare today’s capital with the one I saw when I was a student.  I can genuinely say that the city has changed for the better throughout the past two years. For example, buildings that were under construction in 2015 now stand wall to wall, tall and elegant. More so, thanks to the EXPO, tourists and volunteers now line the streets of Astana, ready to take part in the various events going on throughout the city. This, of course, makes me happy! It means that these people from different countries will now share Kazakh culture with their nations and take back with them a part of the Kazakh spirit after the EXPO. In short, I am really excited to be back in Kazakhstan! I consider this opportunity to participate in the EXPO a gift, and we all know how important it is to accept gifts with thankfulness. I can’t wait for all the new adventures that await me!

This post reflects the opinion of the author and not the USA Pavilion and its sponsors