2018 年於復活節假期，我們率領 41 位拔萃男書院師生前往哈薩克，深入舊城和民居，認識中亞的歷史文化。我們從最大城市阿拉木圖，走到新首都努爾蘇丹，感受哈國現代化進程。我們更與中國駐哈薩克大使張漢暉大使會面，探討一帶一路策略的實踐。旅程中的體驗、討論和分享都為同學帶來不少衝擊和反思。
哈薩克新首都努爾蘇丹 (舊稱阿斯塔納) 建於國家中部荒野中，以便日後擴大發展。我們這次趕及在冬天的尾巴到訪阿斯塔納，走到位於新區的納扎爾巴耶夫大學，遠眺就是城市邊緣。一望無際的雪景，比其他旅遊熱點更來得震撼。而觀景台為哈薩克地標建築，亦是合照背景熱點。有指觀景台與很多努爾蘇丹的建築一樣，都是由第一任總統納扎爾巴耶夫設計，孰真孰假就不得而知了。雖然觀景台外形標奇立異，但其實象徵了哈國的神話故事，也為宣揚哈國的文化出了一分力。
而哈薩克雖為世俗國家，卻有逾七成人口為穆斯林。但在穆斯林世界中，哈薩克的教規可算是非常寬鬆，對日常衣著沒有要求，只是進入清真寺時仍須衣著端莊，女士要遮蓋頭髮。我們身後的 Khazret Sultan Mosque 是全中亞最大的清真寺，寺內莊嚴神聖，也讓同學感受不同宗教的特色。
Recap of Kazakhstan Programme for Diocesan Boys’ School
During the Easter holiday, we have designed a programme to Kazakhstan for students and teachers from Diocesan Boys’ School to explore the unique Central Asian culture via visiting local families. We went from the largest city in the country, Almaty, to the new capital established since 1997, Nur-Sultan, to experience the modernisation and recent development of the country. We also met with the Chinese Ambassador Mr. Zhang Hanhui to discuss the execution of the Belt and Road Initiative in Kazakhstan. The experience throughout the trip allowed students to reflect what we have learnt about the country.
It was our pleasure to invite the Chinese Ambassador Mr. Zhang Hanhui to meet with us. He did not only share about the execution of the Belt and Road Initiative in Kazakhstan, but also his view about the policies and social situation in Kazakhstan, bringing a unique point of view to students. After the meeting, all the students found that the opinion was very original and different from what they have learnt from mainstream media. It helped students learn about more different aspects and cultivate the ability of critical thinking.
Besides meeting with officials, we have also invited two local families to enjoy dinners with us and let students try a taste of home cooks. Kazakh Milk Tea was served during the dinner. Accidentally, our student had brought some 3-in-1 instant milk tea as a gift. They immediately shared the difference of the ‘milk tea culture’. Some students brought chopsticks as gifts to introduce our dining culture.
To further investigate into the development of education in Central Asia, we have arranged meetings with several secondary schools and universities. Exchanging with local students, we did not only share about the lifestyle difference between two places, but also discuss the views to society and politics, building up global vision.
When the kazakh students introduced us the local culture and characteristics, we could easily find a trace of joy on their faces. It was probably the proudness to the country and their own culture. We have also invited our students to introduce about the history and culture of Hong Kong. It was challenging to introduce a brand new place to local students in just 10 minutes. The preparation of the presentation, choosing what to introduce about, provided a golden chance for students to redefine ‘what is our own culture’.
We then had a precious opportunity to attend the lessons together, experiencing a different style of teaching. Though with difficult language, music as an international language can always bond people. A Kazakh student practised the song ‘Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies’ by Beyond in Cantonese for us, magically linked two students from different places.
We especially arranged visits to schools in both cities. In Nur-Sultan, a city which the country focused to develop, numerous schools named after the first president were established for the most prestige students in the country. The campuses were well equipped with most advanced technology. The classrooms were all equipped with smart TVs. There was even a green house inside the campus. Comparatively, the schools in Almaty were more traditional. It showed the difference in levels of development in the country and also provided a great opportunity for us to discuss, how these developing countries cope with the challenges brought by the rapid economic development.
After meeting with the locals, we started to discover the socio-economic development of the country while exploring around the city.
The new capital Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana) was built in the steppe region in Central Kazakhstan. The area facilitates future expansion of the city. We visited Astana right before the end of winter. When we visited the Nazarbayev University in the new developed region in Astana, we could see the edge of the city close at hand. The snowscape beyond the edge stretched the horizon, which was as stunning as most tourists’ hot spots.
The most well-known landmark in Kazakhstan would probably be Bayterek tower, which is also a popular photo background. Local legend said that the tower was designed by Nazarbayev the President, as most of the special architecture in Bur-Sultan, yet the legend could not be verified. Although the tower might look bizarre, it actually symbolises a traditional folktale, helping to promote the Kazakhstan culture.
Although Kazakhstan is a Secular State, over 70% of the population are Muslims. The rules of Muslims in Kazakhstan are rather relaxed. For example, there isn’t any special rule imposing on daily outfits. Visitors only need to be careful while entering Mosques, which requires dressing modestly and ladies covering the hair. The Khazret Sultan Mosque is the largest mosque in Central Asia. The solemn and sacred atmosphere allows students to experience the characteristics of different religions.
In the Museum of the First President, we did not only appreciate the special exhibits, but also discussed the ideology represented by the Museum and the influence brought by Cult of Personality in Central Asia and communist states.
Museum of the Future Energy was the Kazakhstan National Pavilion in the Expo in the previous year. Students could study about the transformation of Kazakhstan, as an energy giant, under the global trend of shifting to renewable energy. Through the former Expo exhibition, we could learn about how the Expo helped the international status of Kazakhstan.