The winter has been surprisingly mild here in Kazakhstan. However, the warmer temperatures have brought about their own problems, such as masses of snow and devilish black ice. Ice, however, has been one of the reasons we have enjoyed a new activity in Kazakhstan.
Ice hockey, known simply as hockey here, is arguably the most popular sport in the country. The wintry conditions undoubtedly assist this. It is almost as easy to organise a hockey game as it would be to arrange a football match at home due to the swathes of ice on the river and beyond.
Kazakhstan’s team are called Barys which, judging from their logo, means polar bears or white bears. They play in the second-biggest hockey league in the world, behind North America’s NHL. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) consists of teams from countries across the former Soviet Union. The only ‘Stan team, however, belongs to Astana.
Barys are moderately successful, winning plenty of matches but unlikely to challenge the big sticks from Moscow. It was indeed a Muscovite team, CSKA, that came to town when we went to watch on a bitterly cold Friday night.
We arrived shortly after the end of the first period. Barys were already losing 3-0. To put it in context, hockey games don’t often see more than 5 or 6 goals in a whole game, and two thirds of the game were still to happen. The hammering they seemed to be taking perhaps explained the fact that we were allowed to drink beer in the stands, something that isn’t allowed at the Kazakh football matches we have witnessed.
It was a hammering by the end. 8-1. We clapped off the teams before eating laghman and throwing snowballs at each other outside.
Due to an inspection at School, we have been somewhat confined to work. Indeed, the other event of note took place in school on a surprisingly mild Saturday night (it transpires that this night was actually warmer in Astana, at -1’C, than in Cardiff, which was -2’C!). We had ventured out to celebrate Burns’ Night, albeit a day late. Lots of dancing and toasting ensued.
Other than these events, life is very much work-orientated at present. When the temperature becomes more positive, so will our sense of adventure. As for now, this is life in the bleak midwinter.
Love you all