The last week in US I have spent in San Francisco, a city in the style of disco, as one old Russian song suggested. Besides being the dream and a desired place for many, it is certainly a blessed in many ways land. A Golden fever never stops, with the new tech being a new gold, as if there is an empirical unseen magnetic power attracts wealth.

Last time I was in SanFran in 2007, and most of my memories rely on the wine tasting in Napa valley, which is an awesome experience anyway. This trip is certainly different. I was trying to be less of tourist, more of a explorer, mostly of people’s stories. And what a bummer — I’ve got none of the interviews planned, no matter how high hopes and connections I’ve had before arriving. I have little explanation to why it has happened, but with all the previous cities I’ve visited I was eventually getting great stories for interviews, but here. Is the new tech is so distracting that people no more time for meeting other people I don’t know. Hence the fact.

There was one meeting which disappointed me the most. I got in touch with somebody managing the «life changing experiences» business, who suggested me to come for their «meet-up», which I did. No matter how «busy» the meet-up was I hardly could get 2 sentences with the organizer… I guess I was over-expecting too, again, this is SanFrancisco… Disappointed, I left the bar, got back home and decided to buy tickets for the Sunday ballet. Oops. No credit card. Bummer! I should had left it at the Bar! Frantically, I rush getting an Uber car and the driver’s name seems to be painfully familiar… should be a Kazakh. I get into a car, start a conversation from far in English, and yes! He appears to be a Kazakh guy, who came here to study and also does some part-timing with Uber. I don’t know what I was more happy about eventually — meeting a fellow countryman, or retrieving my card from the bar.

Almost the same day, a Kazakh lady, named Gulya, herself from SanFran, «knocks» to my Facebook account. Word after word and we agree to meet and hike, as she and her husband are avid hikers and she wanted to share the best experience she truly enjoys. What a wonderful day we spent in the mountains together with her family! Gulya is originally from Atyrau, an oil region of Kazakhstan, where while working for Chevron she met her husband Richard and 14 ago they have moved to San Francisco area. Now enjoying it with their 10 years old son, Ryan.

Gulya and her son Ryan

While making it through the forest on the hiking trail we talked with Gulya, who appeared to be an amazing woman. She is the eldest in the family and had the responsibility of brining up her other 4 siblings. She has married Richard very late according to any Kazakh standards, at the age 35. Ryan was born 2 years later. As she was explaining to me, there was simply no choice for her to think about her own family earlier, as she felt so much of responsibility for her immediate family members then. «You’re my kind of a girl», she grinned at me, «You like hiking, you are open-minded and easy.» We’ve shared many stories and I was heart-warmed at having a great soul to walk and talk to.

«The Wives Club»
Asel with a husband

On my 5th week of traveling it was the first time I could finally speak my mind without having to translate it. Though their kids are totally English-speakers as a first language, with funny american accent when they try to speak Russian. The picnic was organized in the public park area, with all grilled meat involved, but also «baursaki» (fried dough bread Kazakh style) and «plov» (a Central Asian type of risotto).  That is another example how I can overeat in US, organically.

Gulya is picking one of the «baursak»
"One realization hit me recently."

When I am in Kazakhstan, I am «Korean» for everybody and that is clear. Kazakhs is the «title» (main) nation representing 60% of population of 16 mln people,  with another 120 nationalities including Russians with around 5 mln, and, say, Koreans, who are of 200,000 people, among other 118 ethnic groups. Koreans in Kazakhstan are… OK. Some would say that they are better than OK, since some of them are quite wealthy. But still, Koreans is the minority group, and they will never be active or equal part on the political arena, will never be given any important governmental post, but they are «permitted» to do business, and that is OK. And should Kazakhstan develop a chauvinistic approach towards minorities, which it tends to, Koreans will be under the heat.

However, when I am abroad. I am Kazakh. The same way as Koreans in US are Americans. But if Americans is the nation of immigrants, chanted for the essence and spirit, Kazakhstan has yet difficulties accommodating equal rights for ethnic groups. Well, yes, many will say that if you are a Black or Asian, especially woman, and gay, in US, then your rights has to be fought for. True as well. However you can, for example, move to a more liberal state.

But my point is different — I feel myself more Kazakh when traveling. I am no f… Korean, why? I don’t even speak the language or have or feel any tights to my so-called «historical» motherland, which by the way, really doesn’t care for the «lost 200,000 koreans in Central Asia». But I am not settling yet for being a Kazakh in my own country cause I am not given the right to feel so, but no matter the rights given I feel a right of my own contributing to the community I was raised in, until I am permitted to contribute.

Kazakhs, don’t call me Korean. I am Kazakh?