Bullied and bullying on the Toboggan Trail

I try very hard not to complain about the countries I live in.  Yes, there are times when things drive me nuts— but that is very true in the states as well.  Yes, sometimes I don’t agree with the politics— but that is certainly true back home as well.  Yes, there are things I miss about the states, but there are things that I miss about everywhere I have lived.  I don’t want to be that complaining blogger—on the other hand, I don’t want to be the everything-is-rosy blogger.

This attempt to not complain; however, is not a steadfast rule.  Today I will complain about one of the things that makes me most frustrated in Kazakhstan.

First, though, let me tell you how much fun S, his brother who was visiting from Chile and I had at Ak Bulak where we went tobogganing.  Before you chide me for tobogganing while pregnant, let me assure you that we made sure it was totally safe, both I and the baby are fine, and a lot of local people have already yelled at me and informed me that pregnant woman are not allowed to do pretty much anything.  I will not be subscribing to that theory—but I will be careful.

Actually, it was a ton of fun and very different then what I expected.  For one thing, unlike my sledding experiences growing up in Wisconsin, I did not have walk back up the hill dragging a tube.  Instead, there was this fun little machine that slowly pulled you up the hill.  See:

Second, the route down was awesome. It was long and curvy and a ton of fun.  Imagine a really wide luge that was well laid out and maintained, but quite wide. So, after the pull system pulled you up the hill, it released you (in your tube) and you went over a corner and that speed down the hill floating to and forth.   After we learned how to control our speed (dig feet in, throw loop that connected us to the pull system to the ground for traction), it was a ton of fun.

What was not a lot of fun was the waiting in line.  Granted, waiting in line is never fun.  However, this was a quick moving line so it was pretty painless. Or rather, it should have been pretty painless.  However, there was a group of local kids (middle school age) who felt entitled and kept cutting the line.   Not only were the skipping the line—thus making it much longer for other people—they were doing so and splitting up families or groups that were traveling together.  So, for example, I always wanted S or his brother to be there person right behind me.  I knew that if there was a problem and they were going to ram into me, either of them would have thrown themselves to the ground or done anything humanly possible to no risk injuring me or the baby.  I did not have this confidence in random strangers.  But, these kids, would try and cut in the middle.

We watched several times flabbergasted.  For the most part, I was not actually tobaggoning.  I did a few runs, but mostly I watched everyone else and took care of the stuff.  We also knew a lot of other Americans there that day: people from work, my boss and his two girls, our friends we had traveled with.  Finally, I got fed up.  The kids tried to cut inbetween S, his brother and the daughters of my boss.  Using my best Russian, I explained that there was a line and they were expected to go to the end.  They decided to cut right behind us.  Luckily, someone else (another American I know with better Russian than I) saw this happen.  He went and got the kids and marched them to the end of the line.  You know, to make sure they knew what a line looked like.

Next round, the kids cut again.  This time, they had a MOTHER with them.  She told them to pay no attention to me.  She told them to only speak to me in Kazak as I spoke Russian.  She, the mother, the supposedly responsible adult was blatantly telling her children to disrespect others and treat the system. This is the attitude in Kazakhstan that drives me absolutely nuts.  Yes, people are selfish and generally act in self interest, but refusing to stand in line, illegally parking my car in because you don’t want to park ½ a block down, and doing anything to push down another to get something first drives me nuts!

After watching this, it was hard to blame the children. This is what they are being taught.  And, it is frustrating.  It was particularly infuriating for the children in our group who also wanted to go more times, who also didn’t want to stand in line, but who had learned in kindergarten and at home to respect others.

After a while, the mother disappeared. The kids continued to push in line.  At one point, I physically put my big pregnant belly between them and cutting between my bosses kids and my husband’s family.  When one pushed his way around me, telling me that he spoke no Russian (same kid who had spoke to me in Russian an hour earlier), I picked him up and put him behind me, forcing him to wait.  I guess, in some ways, I became the bully.



  1. I will share this posting with my class to discuss what exactly is being taught to young children about their own culture, about manners and civility. You raised a good topic for GREAT discussion among educators. But how to train up the parents???

    • You raise a great question and I would be interested to hear what the rest of your class has to say. I don’t know how to train up parents…. which is why it is something the culture needs to find a way to address. How can you blame children if they are not being taught? How can you blame educators if the lessons aren’t reinforced at home? And what is the cost of these lessons never being learned?

  2. […] to Kazakhnomad who posted on a story by a an expat working in Almaty about bullying on the toboggan trail. Go read her story yourself, but basically she was annoyed by kids who cut in line for the tobbagan […]

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