Kazakhstan: A memorable day off


By Edward J. Fern, MS

California, USA

In March 2009, I had the opportunity to teach in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I traveled to Almaty by way of Beijing, China. In the bathroom of my hotel room in Beijing, above the washbasin, were two little cardboard stands filled with little boxes of products, both labeled in Chinese and English. The one on my right said, “Free.” The one on the left said, “As the use of open.” It was a perfect reminder of the difference between translating and interpreting. I could only hope that my teaching would be interpreted rather than translated.

My seminar in Almaty followed a two-day conference sponsored by a Moscow based training company founded by Alexander Kutuzov who had attended my first seminar in Moscow in 2001. I spoke for about an hour at the conference and later learned that my talk had been translated rather than interpreted. Fortunately, a real interpreter was arranged for my seminar. That even allowed me to learn more, from my students, about the application of project management to mining.

I also had the opportunity to meet Professor Alexey Philipovich Tsekhovoy, a department head at Satbayev Kazakh National Technical University. He is a very kind gentleman who smiles more or less constantly and is gifted with a beautiful baritone singing voice. We formed a friendship in spite of cultural and language differences.

Because Astana Airlines provides no flight from Almaty to Beijing on Saturdays, I had an entire free day after my seminar. Professor Tsekhovoy, took advantage of this day to arrange a tour to Charyn Canyon for me and seven of his associates

Some 18 percent of the population of Kazakhstan are descendants of European Russians exiled to the mines in the southern part of Siberia by Josef Stalin in the 1930s and ’40s. According to some estimates, Kazakhstan has the world’s second-largest uranium, chromium, lead and zinc reserves, third-largest manganese reserves and fifth-largest copper reserves, and ranks in the top 10 for coal, iron and gold. Mining and petroleum are the mainstays of the Kazakhstan economy, though we also saw an abundance of cows and sheep.

The canyon is about 125 miles east of Almaty, so we traveled the two-lane A351 through rural Kazakhstan in our minibus, just large enough for nine of us and our driver. Our journey took us along the northern side of a mountain range that divides Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan. During Soviet times, tourists flocked here to go downhill skiing. The views were breathtaking. I also noted many westbound trucks, from China, that were loaded with manufactured goods. 


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About the Author

ed-fernEd Fern flag-usa

California, USA

Edward J. (Ed) Fern is President of Time-to-Profit a Project Management training firm providing services on four continents. He has held director level positions with Sprint, Control Data Corporation, TRW, and Infonet Services Corporation. He earned an MS in Technology Management from Pepperdine University in 1992 and his Project Management Professional designation in 1998. Ed has conducted project management seminars in forty-six cities in fourteen countries on four continents. He is the author of the book Time-to-Profit Project Management: A Primer for Project Managers in Commercial Product Development and co-author of Six Steps to the Future: How Mass Customization Is Changing Our World, both published in English, Russian, Romanian and Brazilian Portuguese. Ed can be contacted at [email protected].