Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rocky Mountains...or Steppe?

It has been another very long day here in Kazakhstan—leaving the house at 7:30am and returning at 9pm. The university had a trip to Tamgaly-Tas, about 2 ½ hours outside of Almaty. It is an archeological site with Bronze Age petroglyphs, and was absolutely fascinating. However, it was definitely not in the Rocky Mountains—rather, the site is a very low escarpment rising up out of the steppe. Not tall mountains at all. However, it did remind me quite a bit of Kansas (with the exception of the trash on the sides of the roads and old men riding donkeys across the steppe). I will write more on the site later, but am completely exhausted and will be heading off to bed soon.

Before I go to bed, though, I wanted to briefly describe the trip out to Tamgaly-Tas, since the bus ride was unlike any previous experience I can think of. We were on a large charter bus, completely full of people (and—in at least one case—someone had to sit on someone else’s lap so we could all stay on the bus). Tamgaly-Tas is only about 20 or 30 kilometers off of the main road. However, it took over an hour (closer to 1 ½ hours) to drive that distance. The road itself was once part of the ancient Silk Road—and that is approximately when it last received any attention or upkeep. Our driver, Sergei, needed to keep swerving off of the road to avoid the many, many potholes or uneven patches. What made it extremely interesting was that the bus also has a television—set to a channel showing the very latest in Turkish and Russian videos. Just imagine sitting on an overcrowded bus swerving all over the road (and off of the road) while the driver chain-smokes and ogles the scantily-clad women in the music videos instead of watching where he should be driving. There is no place quite like Kazakhstan!

More later—now it’s time for a glass of wine and a good book. I’ll be asleep within 30 minutes…

another day, another adventure

In a few minutes, I will be leaving my apartment to meet some faculty members from the university. They are taking me to the "Rocky Mountains" for an all-day trip. I actually have no idea where we are going since no one has mentioned the real name of our destination--and "Rocky Mountains" are not listed in my guidebook. should be interesting! I'll try to post an update soon about this latest trip.

In other news--apparently there is no daylight savings time over here. So, once you change your clocks back home, I'll be 11 hours ahead of the East Coast and 12 hours ahead of the Midwest.

It will be another busy week here--an art opening for the embassy tomorrow night, wrapping up the grading for the semester for my American Studies students, and trying to arrange for a visa to Kyrgyzstan for next weekend. Yes, Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek (the capital) is about 4 hours away, and a group of us decided to see if we can make it there for the long weekend. We've all been anxious to do some traveling, and the opportunity presented itself. We're also trying to put together a trip to Urumqi (Urumchi), China for the end of the month. It's only an overnight bus ride, after all!

Well, time to go make sure I have enough warm clothes for today. It hasn't been cold at all thus far, but people are already bundled up as if it were deepest winter. And, since I'm the guest of honor today, if I'm also not warmly dressed, people will be trying to give me their coats, gloves, etc. all day. They find it strange that I actually like it when the weather is cool (but I've been told that the climate here is different, so even though the weather doesn't make me sick at home, it definitely will here). More later...