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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

The Blue Green Mountains of the Steppe

Region
Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kazakhstan
Type
Letter

The name of the town where I live, Kokshetau, means "blue-green mountains." When I arrived at my site, I noticed immediately that there was neither a blue nor a green mountain to be seen anywhere, nor any mountains to speak of, for that matter. Kokshetau, like most of Kazakhstan, lies on the steppe. Puzzled, I began to ask my students for an explanation, and I learned two very interesting things. First, the name Kokshetau was mistakenly given to my town by Russian settlers in the 19th century. They were following the directions of earlier Russian explorers who spoke of an idyllic region of countless lakes and mountains, called Kokshetau by the Kazakhs. When the Russian settlers lost their way, they found, instead, one large, rather uninviting lake flanked by two hills, and they decided that this must be Kokshetau. They founded the city of Kokshetau, where it still exists, a mere 75 miles north of the idyllic region of lakes and mountains that the explorers wrote of. That area, now called Borovoe, is indeed one of the most beautiful areas of the country and far more deserving of the name Kokshetau. My students also told me the legend of these blue-green mountains that emerge so strangely from the flatness of the Kazakh steppe. The legend follows:

 

Many, many years ago there was nothing on the Earth. At that time God, who lived in the heavens, decided to make the Earth better, not only bare ground. From his great drawstring bag, where he kept all the beautiful treasures of creation, he began to take out the gifts he would give to the Earth. First he gave the oceans. There was only cold water all over the world, so he decided to make it alive and fill it with plants and fish from his bag. But, he didn't like to watch only the blue water, so he pulled out seven continents. As he had with the oceans, he settled the continents with animals and plants.

He then filled the lands with nations of people, who set to work at making their land beautiful. The people came to God with sweet words to ask him for gifts from his drawstring bag, gifts of mountains and lakes and clear streams and sweeping plains. Thus the world became more beautiful as a result of his gifts.

However, there was one proud nation—the Kazakhs—who didn't want to go to God and ask for beautiful places. Over time, though, they noticed that every nation had native wealth and beautiful sights, while the Kazakhs had only wide open steppe with nowhere for their horses and families to stop and rest, no place that would allow them to escape the fierce wind that swept brutally across the plains. So, the Kazakh people swallowed their pride and decided to go to God to ask for his gifts.

Nobody wanted to go. But then, one sly young man offered himself. His name was Aldar Kose. He was known all over the steppe for his wit and ingenuity. The Kazakh elders agreed to send him, so he said good-bye to his relatives and went to God.

When he found God, he bowed low and said, "Oh, my all powerful Lord! I am a traveler. I came from a far-off land to tell you the stories of my people, of whom you may hear little because we are so few and very widely spread out across our nation. Although we are not large in number and have very little wealth, my people are rich in kindness and diligence, and we are very hospitable."

God thought for a moment, and then smiled with recognition, saying, "I know of you Kazakhs. You are all very proud. You didn't come to me with fine gifts to ask me for blessings of beautiful land when all the other nations came. Yes, now I remember."

Aldar Kose bowed lower. "Yes, my Lord, we did not come. We heard that you were giving beautiful lands to different nations, but we are content with our glorious steppe, which one can ride across for days upon days without reaching its end. The wind sweeps across our land and howls with strength, carrying our horses and riders with it. You see, my Lord, we didn't need to ask you for beautiful lands, as we have the most beautiful already," he explained.

God was taken aback. He looked at Aldar Kose in disbelief. No man had dared to speak to him with such insubordination. He narrowed his eyes and stared piercingly at Aldar Kose for what seemed like ages. Finally, he picked up his drawstring bag and said abruptly, "Come now. I shall visit your people in your barren land to know that your words cannot be true."

Across seven continents, filled with mountains of great height and lakes of great depth, forests covered in snow and deserts swept with blazing sand, Aldar Kose traveled with God toward the land of the Kazakhs. When Aldar Kose saw that they were approaching his native land, he began to slow down and struggle with the pace. "Hurry up!" God called.

"I cannot, my Lord, for I am but a weak man," Aldar Kose replied with weariness stretching from his voice. He slowed even more, almost to a stop. Aggravated, God turned around and found Aldar Kose lying on the ground.

"Come now, I haven't much time to waste on you," he scolded Aldar Kose, and without another word, he scooped up the Kazakh and put him in his drawstring bag. Satisfied, God continued at a brisk pace into the land of the Kazakh people.

Inside the bag, Aldar Kose's fatigue disappeared. He set to work immediately with his trusty nomad's knife, sawing through the bottom of the drawstring bag, creating a hole large enough for him to slip through. As he fell to the land, Aldar Kose checked above him to see a scattering of lakes, mountains, rivers, and forests fall from the bag onto the heretofore-barren steppe of the Kazakh's land. God continued, unaware of the deception.

Thus, from this clever trick, the Kazakhs received a beautiful place to rest during their long rides across the steppe. It is the pearl of Kazakhstan, the blue-green mountains of the Kokshetau region.Kokshetau, like most of Kazakhstan, lies on the steppe. Puzzled, I began to ask my students for an explanation, and I learned two very interesting things. First, the name Kokshetau was mistakenly given to my town by Russian settlers in the 19th century. They were following the directions of earlier Russian explorers who spoke of an idyllic region of countless lakes and mountains, called Kokshetau by the Kazakhs. When the Russian settlers lost their way, they found, instead, one large, rather uninviting lake flanked by two hills, and they decided that this must be Kokshetau. They founded the city of Kokshetau, where it still exists, a mere 75 miles north of the idyllic region of lakes and mountains that the explorers wrote of. That area, now called Borovoe, is indeed one of the most beautiful areas of the country and far more deserving of the name Kokshetau. My students also told me the legend of these blue-green mountains that emerge so strangely from the flatness of the Kazakh steppe. The legend follows:

Many, many years ago there was nothing on the Earth. At that time God, who lived in the heavens, decided to make the Earth better, not only bare ground. From his great drawstring bag, where he kept all the beautiful treasures of creation, he began to take out the gifts he would give to the Earth. First he gave the oceans. There was only cold water all over the world, so he decided to make it alive and fill it with plants and fish from his bag. But, he didn't like to watch only the blue water, so he pulled out seven continents. As he had with the oceans, he settled the continents with animals and plants.

He then filled the lands with nations of people, who set to work at making their land beautiful. The people came to God with sweet words to ask him for gifts from his drawstring bag, gifts of mountains and lakes and clear streams and sweeping plains. Thus the world became more beautiful as a result of his gifts.

However, there was one proud nation—the Kazakhs—who didn't want to go to God and ask for beautiful places. Over time, though, they noticed that every nation had native wealth and beautiful sights, while the Kazakhs had only wide open steppe with nowhere for their horses and families to stop and rest, no place that would allow them to escape the fierce wind that swept brutally across the plains. So, the Kazakh people swallowed their pride and decided to go to God to ask for his gifts.

Nobody wanted to go. But then, one sly young man offered himself. His name was Aldar Kose. He was known all over the steppe for his wit and ingenuity. The Kazakh elders agreed to send him, so he said good-bye to his relatives and went to God.

When he found God, he bowed low and said, "Oh, my all powerful Lord! I am a traveler. I came from a far-off land to tell you the stories of my people, of whom you may hear little because we are so few and very widely spread out across our nation. Although we are not large in number and have very little wealth, my people are rich in kindness and diligence, and we are very hospitable."

God thought for a moment, and then smiled with recognition, saying, "I know of you Kazakhs. You are all very proud. You didn't come to me with fine gifts to ask me for blessings of beautiful land when all the other nations came. Yes, now I remember."

Aldar Kose bowed lower. "Yes, my Lord, we did not come. We heard that you were giving beautiful lands to different nations, but we are content with our glorious steppe, which one can ride across for days upon days without reaching its end. The wind sweeps across our land and howls with strength, carrying our horses and riders with it. You see, my Lord, we didn't need to ask you for beautiful lands, as we have the most beautiful already," he explained.

God was taken aback. He looked at Aldar Kose in disbelief. No man had dared to speak to him with such insubordination. He narrowed his eyes and stared piercingly at Aldar Kose for what seemed like ages. Finally, he picked up his drawstring bag and said abruptly, "Come now. I shall visit your people in your barren land to know that your words cannot be true."

Across seven continents, filled with mountains of great height and lakes of great depth, forests covered in snow and deserts swept with blazing sand, Aldar Kose traveled with God toward the land of the Kazakhs. When Aldar Kose saw that they were approaching his native land, he began to slow down and struggle with the pace. "Hurry up!" God called.

"I cannot, my Lord, for I am but a weak man," Aldar Kose replied with weariness stretching from his voice. He slowed even more, almost to a stop. Aggravated, God turned around and found Aldar Kose lying on the ground.

"Come now, I haven't much time to waste on you," he scolded Aldar Kose, and without another word, he scooped up the Kazakh and put him in his drawstring bag. Satisfied, God continued at a brisk pace into the land of the Kazakh people.

Inside the bag, Aldar Kose's fatigue disappeared. He set to work immediately with his trusty nomad's knife, sawing through the bottom of the drawstring bag, creating a hole large enough for him to slip through. As he fell to the land, Aldar Kose checked above him to see a scattering of lakes, mountains, rivers, and forests fall from the bag onto the heretofore-barren steppe of the Kazakh's land. God continued, unaware of the deception.

Thus, from this clever trick, the Kazakhs received a beautiful place to rest during their long rides across the steppe. It is the pearl of Kazakhstan, the blue-green mountains of the Kokshetau region. 

About the Author

Robin Solomon

Robin Solomon served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan from 2001 to 2003. Her primary assignments focused on teaching English as a foreign language and training Kazakhstani teachers in new teaching methods. While in Kazakhstan, Solomon participated in the Coverdell World Wise Schools CyberVolunteer program. As part of this program, she wrote letters about her life in Kazakhstan, which were then posted on the Web and read by interested individuals and classrooms participating in the program in the United States.

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