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
- 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.
- Visit the Kyrgyz Republic.
- Watch the Hobbit 2 in Russian, and in 3D.
- Spill hot oil all over our kitchen.
- Drink unfiltered water from the tap. (Our friend remarked, "You shouldn't do that.")
- Buy train tickets all by myself. (Myself plus Google Translate.)
- Lose my phone. And my wallet.
- Overstay my visa by two months and get stopped trying to leave the country.
- Watch a Russian serial. (With English subtitles, of course.)
- Try vodka.
- Make my student cry.
- Eat dog.
- Go to the hospital. (For chest x-rays to prove I didn't have TB.)
- Ride a bus to an unknown location. (This has happened more times than I can count.)
- Learn how to make crumpets.
- Ride a Soviet-era ferris wheel.
- 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.