Sunday, 30 October 2011

Kazakhstan - The first kumis

October 13-16

Hello everyone!

Needless to say, school was a struggle the morning after the late late football match. It was for the Thursday as well, though this time it was our fault.

Each teacher in Haileybury Astana is allocated a Teaching Assistant – a TA. Those who look after the very small bambinos have two TA’s, but those of us with children who can walk, talk and (supposedly) tie their own tie or cravat only get one. My TA is a girl called Assel, and the other Year 6 teacher, Fiona, has a tall young man called Denis. I say young, he’s the same age as me. But I count myself as young out here.

The point I want to make is this – in Year 6 we have been extremely lucky with the choice made by the top dogs as to whom our TA’s would be. They are, quite frankly, superstars. We don’t need to rely on them, but they are always there to assist us, be it in teaching, translation or being a friend. These two also helped us find our new apartment, so it is common knowledge around the school that they are a great asset to the school.

We felt that we needed to show them this respect by taking them out for dinner. We visited a restaurant around the corner from my new pad called Turfan, which is a cheap restaurant selling Turkic food. This covers Kazakh, Turkish, Azeri and other food from this region of the world. Really good food, as well. Fried manti, shashlik, baursaki and salads. I must keep running, otherwise I will need to start buying new clothes – an expensive hobby in Astana.

What they don’t seem to have much of in restaurants in this part of the world is diet Coke. Even with friends who speak Russian, sometimes there is a miscommunication. Fiona asked for a diet Coke, before settling on a Sprite. The waitress returned with a Coke, and moved on. It was important to grab her attention to highlight this mistake. Though we failed to do so on this occasion, there is a way of doing this. The Russian way to get a waitress’ attention is to shout DYE-voosh-kah, девушка. It sounds awfully similar to BA-boosh-ka, which is grandmother, and not a mistake you want to make.

This turned into another 2am bedtime, which led to the rest of the week being a bit of a blur. I was summoned into an excitable state when we conducted our air resistance experiment – making parachutes and dropping them from the top of the school. I can only offer my apologies to the Playmobil men that were decapitated during this experiment, but it was in the name of Science.

My mind may have also been distracted by the thought of the upcoming Saturday. This had potential to be one of the best days of my life, at least from a sporting perspective. Wales in a Rugby World Cup semi-final for the second ever time, Man Utd playing against Liverpool, and our housewarming party for our new abode.

As we know, the first two events didn’t turn out as planned. Our housewarming, however, was fantastic fun, aided immensely by a rather alternative version of pass the parcel. Not one for the kids to try at home. I also tried kumis for the first time. This is a traditional Kazakh alcoholic drink. Fermented horse’s milk. It tastes as rough as it sounds.

Kazakh fun fact: Kumis is thought to be good for your health. Among notables to use kumis as a cure were writers Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.

The pain of the rugby will take a while to disappear from my system, but I’m very proud of how they performed in the tournament. Besides, their exit leaves me to concentrate on my job for the next week before half-term. One week to go before late nights and lie-ins. I can assure you that none of them will involve kumis.

Love you all


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