Update from Mike Coen in Kazakhstan

The following is a recent letter from Mike and Dottie Coen, who are part of Arvada Sister Cities International and are in Kyzylorad, who have worked so hard with Project CURE in getting outdated medical equipment from the United States to Kyzylorada, Kazakhstan.

Hello from the other side of the world!

Special greetings to all our family and friends with love for you all and much pride in you all as well. I have some good stories and will write them up in more detail later, but for now, since time is very limited in our busy schedule, I must write just a few things.

Dottie and I were delayed due to the snow and de-icing process at Denver Int'l Airport. Therefore, we missed our flight from Frankfurt to Almaty. We had the experience then of going instead to Istanbul! We were to arrive at 10 p.m. originally and to depart Almaty the next morning at 6. Instead, we arrived at 5:30 a.m. and had to take a wild taxi ride to the train station. Yes, the train station, because we could not get flights. Instead of three hours in flight, we spent 24 hours on a train. We had no idea where we were specifically but figured out that it might have been Taraz where I bought some Uzbeki bread and some apple juice at the railway station platform from local vendors. That, and two granola bars became our sustenance for the entire trip. I highly recommend the experience just for the rest you get to overcome jet lag. In the middle of the night, our train reversed directions, changing from electric power to oil or coal, so it was strange to awaken and see

the scenery going by the window in the opposite direction from the previous daylight hours.

In Kyzylorda, it was the celebration of their brief time as the national capital, which ended when the Red Army took over and Kazakhstan became a republic under the USSR. The celebrations and events and such were unbelievable and I will have to describe them later.

The medical inspections of polyclinics, hospitals etc. have gone well. There were some problems with customs and with shipment/transfer at the Black Sea that we must iron out in sending the final container of medical equipment and supplies. We have met with the governor, mayor, directors of various city departments etc. Because of the big doings here, we also met up with Amirkhan and Serik whom some will remember from their visit to Arvada. We gave them greetings for you and send you greetings from them. Those of you who have traveled here are fondly remembered by the locals and your contributions to these exchanges is much appreciated. We were able to meet twice with the former Mayor Dosmanbetov who is now serving his second term in the Senate of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He was mayor in 1999 when we first came here. He arranged a special trip for us tomorrow to visit the Aral Sea while we are in the "nearby" city of Aralsk. Of course, this city used to be on the sea.

Now the sea is 120 miles away! You guessed it, we have many miles of rough roads to travel the next two days but it will be a unique opportunity to see such a place.

We are both well and feel the work being done is worth the effort. In fact, some of it has been downright fun. We have been photographed and interviewed many times and have been on TV several times including a piece done on the national TV, so Arvada is getting played up here for the cooperative effort so many of you have played in getting the medical aid here and in the years of exchange work we have shared between Arvada and Kyzylorda.

Yesterday we even saw the Republic wrestling matches and the horse racing. We saw the longest race- 25 K (15 miles) around a one mile track. About 40 horses started and only 8 finished. One of those that finished then went down and died right there as it could not get back up. The boy jockey was devastated by the experience. Dottie and I just finished 7 hours of meetings of various kinds dealing with health, commerce, sister cities and such. Now she has gone with Diana to the bazaar to pick up a few more scarves as they bought the place out in an hour on Sunday, getting every worthy scarf that 4 separate vendors could supply. Tonight we are hosted by the city minister of health. Tomorrow morning we head out for two full days of mostly driving to visit the mayor of Aralsk who will later come to the U.S.

Thursday we have debriefing meetings with Health Dept. , the Mayor, SHARE Int'l and then pack for a late night flight that will take us through Shymkent on our way back to Almaty. There we have most of the day to relax and see some friends, including hopefully some Rotarians who helped with the project. Then, we go to the airport at midnight for our flight to Frankfurt and directly back to Denver. We HOPE!

We miss you all, particularly our kids and grandkids and our friend Brian whose medical expertise would have been very useful on this trip. Though we are the point people who stand out publicly on a trip like this, YOU are the ones who have made this a reality of excellence. They have a word for this kind of excellence here, KIERYMIET, or MIRACLE.

Blessings to you all,

Mike and Dottie Coen
CROSSwalk People Helpers
Arvada Sister Cities International