Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Karagana - Temirtau

Temirtau means "Iron mountain" in Kazakh, and it is here where the steel and coal plants are.  We visited this place two years ago with the church, and we stopped in a convent run by Mother Theresa nuns.  What I had known about this place was the plants polluted it and depression and alcoholism run deep.

Sunday I saw a different side to Temirtau.

Temirtau is a town with a population of about 180,000, and my friend R. and her daughter A. used to live here.  It is about a half hour drive from Karaganda, on the way back to Astana.

We stopped there on our way home from Karaganda, and we passed the smog-producing factory where R. used to work as a translator.  She talked about how to make metal from rocks (melting them to get out the iron) as well as safety precautions (workers falling into +900 Celsius furnaces and melting) and how she once even got to go inside a mine (as a translator).  The air near the factory smelled foul.

But the town itself was lovely (and had fresher air).  Apartment buildings were right in the center; buses ran regularly and there was even a trolley.  We stopped near the ice skating rink where A. used to go, in front of a new and fancy museum that was unfortunately closed that day.  The kids played in front of the museum, by a statute of two giant metallurgists, where A. used to play when she was little.

Then we walked to the nearby man-made lake (made by Japanese prisoners).  The sun shone brightly on us and small hills graced the other side of the lake.  R. had been on boat rides on this lake, and so we went to the small boat dock where she asked about boat rides.  The men seemed to think this was an odd request--Astana has boats, too, they said.  But they also said that the boats were still under repair since the winter, and she should come back in May or June, and they gave her a number to call.

We returned to the car and drove home, making plans to one day spend a summer in Temirtau.

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