This morning, I woke up to a gorgeous view of the mountains sheltering Almaty.
Nikhil and I walked to the school (a convenient 5 minute walk away) and had a hearty breakfast of porridge, tea, and bread stuffed with meat and potatoes. I have never minded tea, but this trip, I am growing very fond of it!
We had class in the morning, from 9:00 to 1:00pm. We talked about literature reviews (what they are, how to find reliable resources, what and how to write a literature review, writing citations, etc). The students practiced by writing abbreviated literature reviews for the projects they brainstormed yesterday. We also spent some time discussing and learning about current topics in the science and technology world. Most of the students are only in 10th grade, so I hope to show them a variety of exciting topics, and help them find their interests!
After class, we had lunch in the cafeteria (puree, beef stroganov, vegetable soup) and walked with Aidana to the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. There, we met with faculty and students in the department of physics and technology, and had the chance to talk with them about their department, resources, research, and student opportunities. We also shared a bit about our life and studies at MIT. We toured the National Nanotechnology Lab there, and spoke with students about their work and the equipment they used. I especially liked learning about atomic-force microscopy (AFM). AFM uses delicate diamond probes to actually touch and "trace" the surface of samples to characterize their structure and behaviors. We also visited the library on campus. There was a museum about Al-Farabi, an Eastern European who was considered the second master of philosophy (Aristotle was the first master), and the namesake of the university. There was a quote from President Nazerbayez above the doors that I liked: "The books is the most patient teacher."
We had a bit of free time afterwards, and Aidana showed Nikhil and I some great Kazakh music! I enjoyed both the modern pop music and more traditional folk music. The pop was interesting because it sounds a lot like pop music in America - just with a different language. The folk music was beautiful, and played on traditional instruments like the dombra (guitar-like, with two strings), kobyz (like a violin), a flute-like instrument, and a sort of harp. The musicians sometimes sang along with throat singing - they can sing multiple notes at the same time! The music was very relaxing and had a rich, warm sound.
Then, we went to dinner with some of the students and Mr. Ibekenova (one of the student's parents). It was at a restaurant called Baursak City, named after a traditional Kazakh bread that reminded me of a lightly fried donut hole. The restaurant had an incredible collection of original traditional Kazakh items, some more than 100 years old! These included a dombra, carpets, decorations, and a horse saddle. We were treated to appetizers of salads, fish, horsemeat and kazy (horse sausage). I really enjoyed a salad of mixed greens, candied walnuts, apples, and beats. The main course was a selection of Beshbarmak and lamb cuts. One dish was very interesting - lamb, potatoes, and veggies, all cooked inside a sheep stomach! The stomach wasn't eaten, but the dish was delicious and the lamb reminded me of a pork roast. Dessert was sweet Kazakh candies and more hot tea.
Tomorrow will be another full day of learning and adventure!
Majestic mountains in the morning! (...It was cloudy in the afternoon though...)
Dinner with the students! (only some of the appetizers are shown on the table)
Beautiful 100+ year old dombra and a hand-embroidered quilt. Each flower and design is filled in with hand stitching. One of the students also treated us to a delightful concert on the dombra!
I am a junior studying AeroAstro at MIT. I love rockets, airplanes, birds, and anything that flies! In my free time, I enjoy crocheting, solving sudoku puzzles, and reading. I have been learning Russian for about two years, and I'm so excited to visit Kazakhstan and learn about the beautiful country and culture!