The climb and descent were great, but the thing that blew me away about this climb was the views from the top. This was the furthest I have ventured into the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan, and they only get bigger and better the further south I have gone. The pictures hardly give the views justice.
After gaining about 500 meters from the road, the border guards caught up with us. Luckily, we were 500 meters above the road and a few kilometers away, and the guards were not to anxious to leave their Lada 4x4 or the road. They shouted and whistled at us, but we played deaf until we arrived at the top of the ridge, and at that point we lost sight of them until we would arrive back at the observatory later that evening.
You might have noticed I don’t write too much about the actual city of Almaty on my blog. It’s great, but I been having too much fun in the mountains to reflect about the city very often. A colleague of mine, who is new to the city, has been exploring and eloquently writing about his first experiences here. I recommend checking out Cousin Dampier’s blog if you want to see Almaty through another foreigner’s eyes.
The city sweats. Faces are sweaty and people are sweaty and car seats are sweaty and the walls are faded from that kind of heat that makes it all sweaty. Almaty should be dustier than it is. The buildings have that wind-blasted quality about them, smooth yellow-brown cinder block mated with yellow-brown plaster. White is the trim of choice, setting the window frames apart from the muddied world behind them.
Even in the heat, people are out, walking, carrying bags. It is not packed-crowded, like New York. It is less busy than that, but just as unfriendly. Smiling is not the Kazakh way, yet because they don’t smile out of nature, they are friendlier than New York where people don’t smile because the mass of people is painful.
And then one day it changes. One morning I awoke with my blankets pulled up over my head, instead of thrown to…
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After watching the two other American students perform brilliantly talking about unique topics different than my own, I took the chair and started to talk about how the Treaty of Paris in 1947 was one of many treaties signed at the end of the Second World War that had to do with how the Allied Forces would divvy up the land that had been invaded by Nazi Germany. Within sixty seconds of complete bullshit, I realized that the two proctors had no answers in front of them and were not checking a single thing I was saying.