Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learning the Ropes

View of the Eastern edge of town from
the top of the ferriswheel in Gorsky Park.
The internet guy just came to fix/install my home internet!  And for some reason I am able to access my blog from home, when I wasn't able to from school or any internet cafe.  Of course, I had to choose between internet or telephone - they can't seem to find a way for me to have both.  Sort of like I have to choose between having my washer work or my toilet flush - how they're connected is a mystery to me, but it's one or the other.  And no, unplugging the internet and plugging in the telephone doesn't seem to work - there's some kind of Kazakh magic at work that I'm not privy to.

Navigating the Blogger site in Kazakh was also a challenge.  I finally figured out how to choose my language and have the directions in English, but for a while it was dicey whether or not I was going to be able to do that. 

Things at school are also a bit unpredictable.  The supply order for this school year that was ordered last November hasn't arrived yet.  We have nothing.  We were told to use paper sparingly, which means I can't print out the syllabus for my students, and I have about 3 pieces of chalk.  When my computer, the internet, and the school's server are all working at the same time (a rare coincidence) I can use my projector, but the computer often locks up in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation with a message saying something like I do not have permission to view the remaining slides (of the presentation that I created). 

With the exception of the school supplies, these minor inconveniences are somewhat endearing.  I'm told that I'm in the "honeymoon" phase of living abroad; that I will become more annoyed with living here as time goes on, and even become spiteful.  Somehow I don't think so - I genuinely like this city.  The people here are so kind and willing to help.  My mode of transportation currently is my bicycle, and I often get lost when going to new places, so I'm constantly having to ask people on the street how to get here or there.  They are always tolerant of my broken Russian and my requests to repeat their answer more slowly, and point me in generally the right direction most of the time. 

The little turtle looked out of place in the flowerbeds
of a small park in the center of Almaty.
Although I generally don't have the best sense of direction, I have to defend myself in how often I get lost in Almaty: the streets aren't always labeled at the intersections (they're often labeled a street or two back), and each street has an old Soviet name such as Lenin or Frunzia as well as a new Kazakh name such as Caina or Auezova.  My map is labeled with some of the old names and some of the new names, but many streets on my map aren't labeled.  Also, there are two Auezova streets, and the one that the school is on is mislabeled, which caused me some anxiety the first time I was trying to get to work. 

I really can't complain too much, however, because it's instantly apparent the second I start going in the wrong direction.  The mountains are always visible, and they are to the south.  The entire city slopes downhill to the north.  Since my main mode of transportation is my bicycle, I know immediately when I'm headed in generally the wrong direction because I have to change gears.  School is north of where I live.  It takes me 25 minutes to bike to school, and almost 50 minutes to bike home, so the slope is decent.  If I find myself going uphill when my destination is to the north, then I know I've taken a wrong turn. 

Sculptures in the center of town.
There is a much easier way to get around: gypsy taxi.  A gypsy taxi is anyone with a driver's license, a car, and who is going generally in your direction.  Kazakhs stand on the street with their hand out, tell the driver where he or she wants to go, and negotiate a price (usually less than 500 tg, or $4.00).  It's a nice safety net for me wandering the city: if I ever get really lost and I don't think I'll be able to find my way home I can always wave down a taxi and tell the driver where I want to go. 


  1. Fascinating! Keep 'em coming, Tif!

  2. Hooray that your blog is up and running. We can't wait to read more. We hope you write about Kazakh cuisine. Are there cool and bizarre thing to eat in the markets? Is the city pretty or drab? Do women people dress conservatively? Traditionally? In a cosmopolitan way? How are the apples?

  3. Hey Tifin,
    Your mom gave me your blog address and I will share it with friends. This is very neat and I would love to come visit. Please keep an eye out for accessibility because I will post info on my blog. I hope you did find the computer you were looking for! Best wishes, Barbara