One of the numerous things I was curious about before arriving in Kazakhstan was the level of English used throughout the country. We teach through the medium of English in our school, with the obvious exceptions of Kazakh and Russian. Of course I can only give a judgment from the cosmopolitan capital city for now, but I do have an idea of how much English is used.
Kazakhstan fun fact: In his address to the nation in 2011, President Nazarbayev stated that, “by 2020 20% of the population should speak English freely”.
Not much, is the answer. This makes it surprising when someone is capable of speaking to me in my native language. One example was on a Saturday walk around the Keruen shopping centre when Justine and I were approached by two teenage boys asking where we were from. We decided to use them as a resource to try and find cheap restaurants in our area. It was particularly cute when one of them called his mum to ask on our behalf.
Exploring a culture’s food is a fundamental experience of living or travelling in another country, and Kazakhstan is no different. I tried a new food the following Saturday – samsa. It is a rather large triangle of flaky pastry with a filling inside, normally served warm and pretty cheap at 80KZT. Sound familiar?
Yes, it’s basically a Greggs pasty. Is this where they got their original ideas from? Perhaps. Mine has meat inside – unlike our famed pasty company, they don’t do specifics here. Similarly to Greggs, however, the meat content percentage probably wasn’t overly high.
I was eating this after walking around the Right Bank of Astana. Shortly before my samsa I had come across some local markets, one particular beast soaring five floors high into the clear blue sky. The Russian word for market is рынок, pronounced rih-NOK.
I didn’t explore beyond the ground floor, but that itself was fascinating. Sheep heads and bodies side by side, sausages of intestines and chunky slabs of meat lining the aisles. I like this part of town – it seems more local, and subsequently more cultural and real.
It wouldn’t be a weekend without having some night-time fun, of course, and we spent the night at a housewarming on the Right Bank near the river. The cheap cheap vodka tastes…well…cheap. It offends your senses even more when mixed with Mirinda, a luminous green fizzy apple drink. That combination offends all the senses, actually.
We had our first full week of school this week. It has been very tiring, stressful and intensely rewarding. I won’t use this blog to talk about school too much, but if anything particularly wonderful crops up then I’m sure I will let you know. We did have our first Science experiment, and Drama turned out to be a lot of fun.
Life is chaotic and fulfilling out here, and the weather is still absolutely gorgeous. There isn’t anything I really miss from the UK – custard will be on the way soon, I’m sure – but if I were to ever miss a steak bake from Greggs, I know that there is a Kazakh variant that is much cheaper and tastes exactly the same. I’ll leave you to judge for yourselves if that is a good thing or not.
Love you all