A full measure of happiness in Kazakhstan

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Text and photos  by  DIANA DUZBAYEVA

Up until my recent trip back to my native country, I used to think that happiness only came with what the world defines as “success.”

But how do we define success? Is it a dream career, a beautiful house or grand vacations every year? Can a person be happy without acquiring material wealth and purchasing experiences?

The answer came to me this summer during my trip to Kazakhstan. I encountered so many fascinating places there, but one place stuck in my mind the most. It was at the home of my uncle, Serik who lives in a small village in Kara-Turuk.

Though they live without the luxuries of modern comforts, such as a washroom and running water, my uncle and his family are happy, loving and generous people. There is always room for guests at their table.

The warm atmosphere was so enchanting that I began photographing everything that caught my attention. I wanted to capture the special relationships my uncle has with each member of his family, and the simple tasks they do day by day.

I enjoyed watching my aunt, Altynai bake our traditional bread, lepeshka, in the outdoor clay over, tandyr. Within a few minutes, she had enough dough for 30 pieces of bread made from scratch.

Then she cooked the beshbarmak, which means “five fingers” because you eat it with your hands, suited to the nomadic life of our ancestors. The traditional Kazakh meal is made with three different kinds of meat (beef, lamb and horse), pasta and veggies cooked in meat broth.

After all the meals were ready, everyone sat down outside at the table beside our house. During this warm summer supper, I found myself realizing that I’ve never felt so welcomed and cozy.

And as the evening slowly rolled into night, the universe above us swirled and I caught a glimpse of the Milky Way. That night, I let go of any concerns and didn’t feel rushed; all I felt was peacefulness in my heart.

As I watched my uncle slowly smoking a cigarette while gazing at the stars, I realized just how happy he is.

He had never traveled far from home or pursued a high-paying career, and yet I haven’t seen anyone happier than him.

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