Contributed by Carina Novillo
Hi y’all! My name is Carina Novillo and I am in the Wood Canyon Ward! I was born in Kazakhstan and lived in an orphanage there for the first year of my life. When I was one year old, I was fortunate enough to be adopted by two of the most Christ-like parents ever! Kazakhstan is a country in the Asian Continent right under Russia and next to China. It was the last country to break away from the Soviet Union in December of 1991. In most parts of the country it still looks like 1950’s Soviet rule. Everyone still lives in communist constructed buildings and there are still buildings and offices from when the Soviet’s were ruling Kazakhstan. Due to the lack of money in the country, nothing has been done about this. The Kazakh people are still healing from the Soviets. Despite all this, Kazakhstan is one the most loving and happiest countries I have ever visited.
Two months ago I had the opportunity to go back and visit my homeland which was the most amazing experience ever for me. I was able to really dive into my heritage and learn so much more about me and where I come from. I would love to share this journey with all of you because it was absolutely amazing! So let’s get started!!!
So on April 28th, 2018 we (me, my sister, my mom and my dad) arrived in Astana, which is the capital of Kazakhstan. This day was a little extra special to me because it was my 18th birthday! It was so amazing to be in the country where I was born on my birthday. When we landed I could not stop smiling, I was actually here!!!Through some friends, we met a very kind family who were also LDS and worked in Kazakhstan! They were so kind and loving and picked us up from the airport and gave us a little tour of Astana! Such a beautiful city!!! For my birthday lunch I got to try horse meat which is a Kazakh delicacy! I have to admit it was not that bad!
We were so jetlagged that we went to bed like around 4:00 that afternoon and did not wake up until the next day! Kazakhstan is 13 hours ahead of California so we were pretty wiped out but only that first day which was a miracle! Coming back home though and getting used to the time change was a whole different story.
The next day was Sunday, so we had the opportunity to go to church there! They have an LDS church in Kazakhstan. A few months before, President Nelson had come and visited Kazakhstan in the same branch we went to while we were there!!! How awesome is that!!! The Saints there are some of the most wonderful and faithful people I have ever met. They have such strong testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ and love Heavenly Father with all their hearts and want to serve Him with everything they’ve got. It is so cool that wherever you go in the world, the Church is the same and though you may not understand the language they are speaking, you are able to understand the feeling of truth and the Spirit that is felt in all those meetings. I truly love this Gospel with all my heart and have such a strong testimony of it.
While we were in Kazakhstan I was able to meet so many people there which was one of my favorite parts of the trip! To see a whole country look like me was incredibly special! The people of Kazakhstan are some of the kindest people ever! And it’s not just a few that are like that but the whole country! Their personalities are gentle and loving! They walk around the street just smiling or in a happy mood and they want to serve anyone they meet! They also love giving people hugs and it does not matter if you’ve known them for 2 seconds or your whole life they are going to give you the biggest hug ever and just love you up!
People would think I was a native and would approach me and start talking to me in Kazakh. I would have to say, “Sorry I only speak English!” and they would look at me puzzled and point at their face and then point at mine and say “Kazakh!”, questioning, you are Kazakh so why do you not speak it? To the best of my abilities, I would try to explain that, yes, I was 100% Kazakh but that I lived in the United States and only speak English. I wanted so badly to communicate with them and wished I had taken Kazakh back home but maybe when I go back I will be able to talk to them in their native tongue!
A few days after we arrived in Astana, we took a 2 hour train ride south to Karaganda which is my hometown! Let me tell y’all the emotions were really strong when we arrived. It felt like a piece of me had come home! In a way, this is my home, it’s where I was born and it’s where my bloodline comes from. Our translator, named Larisa, came to pick us up from the train station. Fun fact, Larisa was also my parents translator and guide 17 years ago when they came to adopt me. So it was awesome to see her again.
The next day was the first day of May which is a holiday in Kazakhstan called May Day or Friendship Day! There's lots of dancing and festive going on that celebrate Kazakhstan and the all the people there! It was such a fun day!!!
While in Karaganda I was able to go to a school and speak to kids my age about what life and school is like is the United States! They were able to ask questions and I had so much fun answering them! They were all so sweet!!! I made 20 new best friends which was the best thing ever!!!
On the second to last day of our trip we went back to the orphanage which was my home for the first year of my life. The same two doctors and director of the orphanage that took care of me when I was in the orphanage are still working there. So it was so special to see them again after 17 years. I was able to tell them about how my life is in America and how I am doing! They were so happy to see me again and vise versa. It was such a full circle being able to walk through those halls and going to the room where I once lived. I was able to hold sweet babies and tell them how much they are loved. I was able to learn more about me and also be reassured that I came from a good orphanage that is filled with so much love.
I am so grateful for my experience and opportunity to go to Kazakhstan. I was able to learn a lot about myself and where I come from. I was able to see how my Heavenly Father loves me and how my Savior Jesus Christ loves me. I was able to fully know that I am a beloved daughter of God and that He has a glorious plan for me. I was able to see how He has orchestrated my life so beautifully. I am so proud to be Kazakh but I am also so proud to be an American citizen. I didn't understand before I went, but I now realize, how blessed I am to live in the United States where it’s called Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I am so grateful! I just wanted you all to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of us and I promise you we are never out of His sight! And I know this to be true with all of my heart.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! I hope you enjoyed it and got a little glimpse of what Kazakhstan is like! May God be with you for this week to come!