Salem (Hello, in Kazakh)!
Today was relaxed, but delightful. Nikhil and I started off the day with a Kazakh traditional meal at a restuarant called Tyoubeteika. We tried Besparmak, a Kazakh national food made of horse meat, pasta, and onions served in broth. Besparmak means "five fingers" in Kazakh because the food is usually eaten with hands. It had a very subtle flavor, and reminded me of a high-quality ramen. The meat was very tender! We also had ganfan uyhurskyy, a rice dish with cooked vegetables.
We met with one of the teachers at our school, Aidana, and she took us to the Kasteev Fine Arts Museum. The museum is named for the famous Kazakh artist, Kasteev, who is known for first bringing fine arts to Kazakhstan. The museum featured Kazakh, Russian, and European artists. I was familiar with the western/European art styles, from the Baroque and Renaissance periods, often painting biblical stories and myths. However, I was really drawn to the Kazakh art.
The Kazakh art was beautiful to me because it was familiar, yet enlightening and new. The art was familiar in the sense that it shared some similar styles with the western European art (some was very photo-realistic, while others were more impressionistic). On the other hand, the art was exciting because it depicted Kazakh history, the life of the people, and their values. Kazakhstan was initially inhabited by nomadic tribes that relied heavily on the horse for transporation, warmth, and food. Thus, many of the paintings included horses and traditional Kazakh yurts. One of my favorite paintings shows a Kazakh warrior on a galloping horse, with a Golden Eagle perched on his arm.
We stopped for dinner at another canteen, called Kaganat, down the Vesnovka. The canteens are popular in this area because of the university students! I had a beef patty with cottage cheese, rice, olivie salat (nothing to do with olives - it is pickles, hard boiled egg, corn, peas, and potatoes finely diced and tossed in mayonaise), and of course, tea! Aidana called it "normal food" :)
We have to walk very carefully on the sidewalks here. They are usually salted, but it all washes away, and you are left walking (very carefully) over bumpy ice patches - sometimes covering the whole sidewalk for yards! I feel like a penguin shuffling along so I don't slip!
Tomorrow is our first day teaching - I look forward to meeting all the students!
Kazakh horse riding gear from the 20th century.
Aidana, Nikhil, and I in front of a painting of a Kazakh warrior on horseback.
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!