Monday, 21 November 2011

Kazakhstan - The first Cycling World Cup

October 31-November 5

Hello everyone!

We’re back in school already! Half-term seemed to fly by quicker than a shot of vodka flowing down a Kazakh national’s neck. You could say quicker than Sir Chris Hoy on a cycling track…

More about that later. A little over a week after saying sayonara to the students of Haileybury Astana we were once again at the front of our classrooms teaching the future elite of the country about subjects ranging from Jolly Phonics to Victorian orphans. After the tumultuous week I had had I was actually looking forward to returning. Nothing like thirteen children simultaneously craving your attention to focus your mind!

I returned to school to find that my display boards had fallen down, but they could wait. Our return date was October 31st – Halloween. We had been under specific instructions not to host any extravagant event, but mine and a Year 3 class decided to combine to hold a small, spooky reading session in the final period of the day. What I hadn’t expected was to see my kids return from PE and change into full-blown, life-size costumes of cats and devils. It was a wonderful, scary sight. One of the mothers also brought in a large Halloween cake from her shop, which also went down well. Not to mention quickly.

We spent the first few days slotting back into our pre-break rhythm. Within the school (adults only) there is a cider brewing competition which my house have decided to have a go at. Without any of the necessary equipment, of course. We have tried our first batch…it tasted like wine. Room for improvement.

On the Thursday evening a team of five of us went to the U.S. Embassy. Before you ask what I did wrong to be summoned there, let me back up a couple of days. Some people around the school now see me as a ‘social coordinator’ who is able to locate and populate events in Astana with our school staff. The Deputy Headmaster forwarded me an email on the Tuesday morning from the U.S. Embassy inviting teams of five to be created for a scavenger hunt across the city. I’ll go into details next time. The deadline for the team creation was…Tuesday afternoon. Cue a scramble around school for those members of staff who spoke Russian (expats only, before you get cocky) and had a car. The slots were quickly filled up, our application sent, and two soirs later we were at the launch event in the Embassy. Which had a free bar…

Needless to say school was a chore the next day. We survived on fumes, but also with the knowledge that we were heading to an internationally presitigious event in the evening. If you hold cycling in such high regard…

Well the British cycling team did, as they sent a host of past and future Olympians to the first leg of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup. It was the first time Astana had played host – the other three legs are in Cali, Beijing and London. It contributes significantly towards the decision the bosses at Team GB have regarding who to choose for London 2012. A host of other countries also took part.

We visited on the Friday night and the Saturday night. The velodrome itself, which from the outside resembles a cycling helmet, is splendid. The food – chicken samsa with the bone protruding through the pastry?? – less so. But it was great fun, and we were a select few to be cheering on Team GB, which inevitably got us noticed. We were displayed on the screen a couple of times and, on the Saturday, were able to scream our hellos and best wishes to Ed Clancy and Sir Chris Hoy, he of quadruple Olympic gold fame. He blew a kiss at us as he left the arena. I say us – clearly he meant me.

We watched him win silver in the keirin – impressive as he seemed to be in fifth storming around the final bend. I’d never been to a cycling event before – they go very fast!! Due to scavenging in bitter winds and -13’C temperatures I didn’t get to go on the final day, Sunday. Events there resulted in my two housemates meeting all of the team and blagging Team GB tracksuits. They are girls, so I don’t know if I could have pulled that off anyway.

A great story for school on Monday, nonetheless. Just one of many to come out of our first week back after half-term…

Love you all


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