Posted by: cousindampier | 14 October 2013

Nine Things I’ve Learned in Sixty Days


  1. Traffic will kill you. Not being stuck in traffic – “Traffic Jams” seem to be anathema here. Depending on the sibling and/or parent you ask, I’d probably not be described as a cautious driver. In Almaty? I’d be the grandma who can’t see over the steering wheel.In the ongoing battle between The City of Almaty and Abram’s Intact Skeletal Structure, I’m winning. Barely.
  2. A loaf of bread is cheaper than a ride on the bus. There is a reason I walk everywhere.
  3. Beer is $1 in the grocery, and $4 in the bar, so I am always very comfortable drinking at home in my sweatpants.  Beer also comes sold in liter cans.  These are enormous, and in my hands they look like the pint glasses the Hobbits are holding in Lord of the Rings.  
  4. The city is very walkable. It will just destroy every pair of shoes you have.
  5. The parks are underrated. I live close to Panfilov Park, and its beautiful cathedral. Gorky Park is not much further away, and with it an amusement park and an enormous pond, one of those pirate ships which swings back and forth, and a paintball course. And a basketball court. Finding a basketball court was nearly a better discovery than finding peanut butter in the grocery store.
  6. The mountains reveal all. Look up, and in one glance you can track how close winter is to the city, and if the sun is setting. If you can see the mountains, that is – one glance towards the peaks will also tell you how smoggy the city is.
  7. The sun seems to constantly set directly in line with the streets. It is like Manhattenhenge, but every day.
  8. Don’t eat and walk. Eating is for restaurants and walking is for walking. Coffee to go isn’t a real thing.
  9. The prettiest part of the city is the flame at night. I’m usually at KIMEP until 9 or 10 pm. At the end of the long walk down Dostyk hill, I cut through Panfilov Park, and a sharp right through the war memorial. The flame burns constantly, a brightness surrounded on all sides by dark walls. On weekends flowers surround the flame, left from the wedding parties making their way through the park and taking photos during the days.

I only spend a minute with the flame before food and grading and sleep calls and I walk through the large plaza with the names of different battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War, but that minute I spend staring at the flame is one of the more relaxing I have all day.


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