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Anthony Pahigian, 58, from Boston, diplomat

Gordana Pahigian, 44, from Belgrade, artist



About us

Anthony. We met when we I was serving at the organization for the security incorporation. We were in Belgrade by the USA, it was international mission by OSCE. I was serving in Beograd serving for OSCE, she was an artist.

We had seen each other before. I met her because my daughter went to the school she was working at.

Gordana. We’ve been together for more than 10 years. I cannot forget the day he proposed me to marry him. He proposed in late December at the waterfall at the border between Connecticut and New York. We were hiking the mountains, so this was in a beautiful property.

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Anthony. It was a small but beautiful frozen waterfall. Lots of snow, nice place… It’s not a famous, I don’t even know it. It’s just a beautiful track.

Gordana. We used to hike a lot there. We had a dinner with our family and friends. They didn’t know that he was going to propose me. We announced them afterwards.

Gordana. We travel to different places. Last year we went to Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.

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Anthony. We really enjoyed travelling in Kazakhstan. We went to Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semey, Almaty, Shymkent, Uralsk, Aktobe, Aktau, and Karaganda.

Gordana. I’m an artist, I study sculpture and that’s a good thing. That’s how I can follow my husband everywhere he goes. I just take my pencils, as I paint. I paint when I have time at home. I also work part time at the Embassy.

Anthony. She produces newsletters for the embassy to help people who have no opportunity to learn Russian know what activities are going on in Astana – what’s playing in Astana ballet, movies. That’s a good opportunity as she learns many places and activities. She goes to such places and then tells the rest of us.

Gordana. Also I write articles about Kazakh traditions. I had a story about yurt, how to build it, what it represents for Kazakh people.

Anthony. The actual job I have is wonderful. I have an opportunity to interact with a lot of people and get out. It’s a public air and we have a media side, cultural exchanges, we work with educational ministry on English, so we work a lot on non-governmental organizations- society affairs. I think I have one of the best jobs in the embassy, I really have good colleagues to work with and a great country to work in.

About Astana

Anthony. Having just arrived here, the first thing we wanted to do was to go to Baiterek. We saw it across the street near the Presidential library. We were trying to get to Baiterek and went across the bridge. This was crazy, hot, cars were driving around. Then we took the double decker around the city. We were sitting at the top and it started to hail. When we first cam they gave us blankets. We were thinking: “Why?” Then it started to hail and everybody ran into the bus, but I stayed. It was funny. So my first experience is like: everything is moving quickly.

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Gordana. Coming from US I was really surprise when I saw expensive cars of the same luxury and size as it would be in Washington. And girls all dressed up, with long hair and beautiful make up, high heels. I didn’t expect that. So many young and beautiful people. Astana is young, young people live here. Everything looks shiny, polished and clean.

Anthony. Of course it’s interesting to hear the opinions about Astana from people from other cities. Sometimes people say that Astana gets all the money, attention. It was interesting to hear that some people were complaining about the Expo. We were big fans of Expo. It’s expensive, it was the first time in central Asia. It was a good experiment. It’s much easier to do nothing.

Gordana. It was a huge success. I was there every single day. We both worked. I worked for Serbian pavilion, my husband was a deputy commissioner in the USA pavillion.

Anthony. They couldn’t hire her, since I was deputy commissioner people could tell she got the job because of me.

Gordana. So we were there every single day and could go to the national days. Sometimes twice or three times a day I would listen to the hymn of Kazakhstan. I miss EXPO. There’re 3 favorite buildings in Astana – the Pyramid, Khan Shatyr and the Sphere.

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Anthony. Arbat is nice place, it’s beautiful. I like the park where we go skiing. It’s really beautifully designed. I like everything here in winter. We go there by car, ski for an hour and go home or go to “Tselinnikov”.

Gordana. People in Astana are prepared. Whenever it snows, there’re big tracks cleaning all. Everybody has shubas. I didn’t buy a shuba, but I was thinking about it. It doesn’t suit me, I look much older. I could buy one when I’m older. My husband bought me for my first birthday in Astana a hat made of white fox, so from that day I didn’t take it off, until the April, 2. Everybody saw the white hat and knew that it was me. It’s very chic, warm and beautiful.

To buy clothes in Asana is not a cheap business. I like to buy quality stuff with discounts. I remember I wanted to buy Burberry coat, and thought I was going to save for about 3 years to buy that coat. The friend of mine Gulmira took me to the place and the coat was 4 thousand euros. The same coat can be bought for 700. Normal price would be more than thousand dollars, but there’re seasonal discounts. I don’t know why the price is high.

Anthony. We’re leaving this summer. We’re going from a big beautiful country to a small beautiful country with 2 oceans.

Gordana. I really enjoyed the time in Kazakhstan. I’ll miss friends from here. At the beginning people would look cold and no greet you, look like tough. Then you start speaking to these people, you see they’re the nicest people. They’re super kind. Several days ago I was coming from supermarket there was snow. I fell really badly, 3 different people from different angles were running to help me out. One was gathering my oranges, one babushka was cleaning me from snow, the third was like: “Are you OK?” Kazakh people are really warm, I’ll definitely miss Kazakhstan.

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Gordana. I have many Kazakh friends. I’m proud of that. I just go out with them, they speak me up, call me, and send messages. This summer I was working with a movie crew of the serial «Geroy» (lit. Hero), I met there many nice people, artists. We’re still friends with them.

Anthony. Someone called to the embassy and asked for English-speaking people. There were a couple of people too, but my wife got the big role. It’s a story about an American couple that adopted a girl in Kazakhstan. She was a mother. Everything was filmed in Astana. I think that’s a good experience.

About family

Gordana. Our son studies at the international school. They play basketball at FBI junior, football. Sometimes we go to NIS for the big tournament. He understands a bit Russian, but doesn’t speak Kazakh except some words like “Rakhmet”.

Anthony. Our favorite holiday is the Thanksgiving. So we had a wonderful mixed party, Kazakh and American people came to ours. We had a great dinner with turkey. Our colleagues like producers and the director of the movie, the ambassador, diplomats, friends working in foreign ministry came to ours.

We celebrate Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas. They’re American traditions and the embassy holds some events like Halloween. It’s customary for children in America to go and knock at the door and get chocolate. All the children of the employees both Kazakhstani and American come and see, get dresses up, go to different offices and take chocolates. Then they get crazy as they eat sugar and start running and crying. In cafeteria they make pizzas for children.

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Gordana. We like watching movies together, especially in Kazakhstan, as it’s cold in the evenings. We walk around the pyramid, across the bridge towards Akorda, then we cross other bridge. We do it every in weekend morning, even though it’s cold. It takes about 45-60 minutes. It’s ten thousand steps.

Current state of mind

Gordana. I’m happy and satisfied with what I experience and learn here. I met great people here, some of them are my friends, hopefully, for a long time. I feel like I’m not losing my time here. I really want to get out and meet Kazakh people, learn something from them to make the real cultural exchange. I did so, I didn’t lose my time, I learnt a lot. I hope to accept the same from Costa-Rica.

Anthony. My current state of mind is “How could 2 years go so fast?” We still have many things to do in the remaining time. “48 hour film” race has just finished, it had 1300 groups in Kazakhstan signed up to make 4-minutes long movie. Then we had spelling bee project, it was really funny. Out biggest project is called “Go Viral” in Almaty. We did it last year too. This year it’s going to be the second summer festival. I dream of coming back here and see the big festival. Kazakhstan is a huge country and you have many creative people.