Thursday, March 20, 2014


Every morning when I wake up and every night when I climb into bed, I feel this strange division bubbling up in my chest. I think of driving down route 116 and eating seafood and watching movies with my sisters, and I can't wait for June to be here. And I think of walking through Central Park and eating pelmeni and walking with our friends, and I dread the coming of June and leaving this place. Living in a foreign country is such an enormous privilege and one I am determined not to squander during my remaining time here. 

These are the things I want to take advantage of before concluding this stint:
  • Hit the major cities: Astana, Almaty, Shymkent
  • Go to the banya
  • Sing karaoke
  • Make a real American cheesecake for the office
  • Give purpose to the staff at the Karaganda Region Museum
  • Go to a football game
  • See the view from Bayterek Tower
  • Eat beshbarmak
  • See the museum dedicated to the Karaganda branch of Stalin's gulag, the Karlag
  • Go to a hockey game
  • See a dombra concert
  • Drink kumis
  • Have an entire conversation exclusively in Russian
  • Attend mass at the Catholic church
  • Spot a wild gerbil
  • Ice skating /  Paintball / Rock climbing (not necessarily unique to KZ, but generally new here)
  • Visit Timertau and the Nazerbayev Museum there
  • Get my picture taken with every monument (there are at least 10)
  • See the inside of the Orthodox church
  • Hear stories from someone who lived under the former Soviet Union
  • Ride a camel
  • Catalogue Kazakhstan's vast variety of candy
  • Learn how to make borsch
Lest you think my aspirations are too small, here are some honorable mentions of things I accidentally did without intending to make a goal of it.
  1. Visit the Kyrgyz Republic.
  2. Watch the Hobbit 2 in Russian, and in 3D.
  3. Spill hot oil all over our kitchen.
  4. Drink unfiltered water from the tap. (Our friend remarked, "You shouldn't do that.")
  5. Buy train tickets all by myself. (Myself plus Google Translate.)
  6. Lose my phone. And my wallet.
  7. Overstay my visa by two months and get stopped trying to leave the country.
  8. Watch a Russian serial. (With English subtitles, of course.)
  9. Try vodka.
  10. Make my student cry. 
  11. Eat dog. 
  12. Go to the hospital. (For chest x-rays to prove I didn't have TB.)
  13. Ride a bus to an unknown location. (This has happened more times than I can count.)
  14. Learn how to make crumpets.
  15. Ride a Soviet-era ferris wheel.
  16. Go to a wedding. (Don't worry, we were invited.)
If you ever find yourself in Karaganda (hey, you never know!) and want to soak up every little thing this area offers, these things might be a good starting point. Not that I necessarily recommend getting lost on public transportation or overstaying your visa, but these (mis)adventures are fun in their own way because they let you see the place in a new way. And nothing makes you feel like a local like falling down on the icy sidewalks does. So embrace the humiliation. It's amusing for everyone else.

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