Today was a great day!
The other MIT student I will be teaching with, Nikhil, arrived this morning, and we jumped off to the start! One of our hosts showed us around the area near our apartment. We ate lunch at a "canteen" for university students (like a 24-hour buffet). I had some chicken, puree (mashed potatoes), borscht (beet soup), and blini (crepes) with sugar and tvorog (a sweet cottage cheese).
We then walked around the local area, passed the circus, and met a camel! (Camels live in the western part of the country, which is desert-like.) After passing through the Promenade, a small indoor mall, we went to Dostyk Plaza to see a movie called Diamond Sword, about Kazakh history in the 15th century. It was in Russian, and a bit beyond my comprehension, but I was able to follow the plot fairly well! While in Dostyk, we saw a reenactment of a winter fairytale and checked out a bookstore. I enjoyed seeing some of my favorites translated into Russian!
After Dostyk, we ventured to Kok-Tobe (translated loosely from Kazakh as Blue Peak), a tourist spot on top of one of the largest mountains near the city. It is almost like an amusement park, with rides, gift shops, and even a small zoo. It was very hazy and dark, so we didn't have a good view of the city, but I still enjoyed looking down the mountain!
We got dinner at a small dinner that used to be a Turkish cafe. We had delicious chicken soup (think chicken noodle, but without vegetables and with rice instead of noodles), pizza, and baklava (a Turkish pastry with honey and nuts - very sweet!).
I learned quite a few new words, too. "Vesnovka" is the canal that the city built to channel water out of the city when snow in mountains melts in the spring. The city is built on a slight slope, so you can look literally up or down the Vesnovka. Hummingbirds are called "Calibri" (like the font name), but they are not found in Kazakhstan.
I think one of the most interesting things I have noticed so far is the interaction of many cultures in the city. Almaty seems very trilingual - you often see signs or advertisements in any combination of Russian, Kazakh, and English. You also see a lot of international dining options - Chinese, Mexican, Russian, Kazakh, American (even Burger King and KFC!). American music is also very popular. You can hear it playing in large public areas like the mall, or even outside in large squares! It's interesting to hear some of my favorite Christmas songs while walking in a city halfway around the world!
Looking down the Vesnovka (Currently covered in snow and ice)
A view of the circus, and a roller coaster!
Enjoying festive reindeer decorations outside Dostyk Plaza.
Meeting the Snegurochka, Grandfather Moroz's granddaughter, Grandfather Moroz (Frost), and other characters after the fairy tale play.
Posing at Kok-Tobe.
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!