Today marks the beginning of the end of my time in Almaty. I only have three more days of classes left. Where did time go? While I am looking forward to returning to being reunited with my blackberry, 24-hour Internet access and other amenities of a Western lifestyle, I will certainly miss Almaty. Just as I begin to feel really immersed in the culture and comfortable engaging in conversation with locals, it is time to go back to America. While I do not yet know when I will be back in Almaty, I will return. I have gained incredible insights into Central Asian culture, politics and lifestyle during my time here, but recognize that two months is not enough time to really understand Central Asia.
As for life here, all is well. I'm keeping buys with school, spending time with the host family and of course, enjoying Almaty's fantastic nightlife. Classes are intense as I finished two Russian grammar textbooks. I cannot believe the amount of material I have covered with Raushan! We are reviewing everything now and all of the meticulous Russian grammar rules are starting to make sense. Moreover, I really feel like I am a part of my Kazakh family. My Kazakh host mother is still as eccentric as ever (see previous posts, "Do you want a spoon with that?"). I will certainly miss her asking me every time I walk in the door first, if I ate and second, if I need the bathroom before she quarantines herself in the toilet for twenty minutes reading the daily gazette.
This last week is extremely busy! After classes end on Wednesday, I am taking the overnight train to Astana, Kazakhstan's capital! In Astana, I of course plan to visit all of the major tourist sites but I will also be visiting my friends Beck and Madina, both of whom studied in the U.S. as Bolashak scholars. I met Beck at a Model U.N. conference in Beijing two years ago. Beck studied Housing and Urban Development at Arizona State University and now works in Astana. Madina graduated from GWU last year with an engineering degree and also works in the city. Friday, I will be taking the overnight train and will be in Almaty Saturday morning, giving me two days to cross all the T's and dot all the I's before jetting off to America on 2:00 AM Monday morning. The double red eye aerial adventure is inevitable when travelling to Central Asia, but that is even more of an incentive to have an epic last Saturday night.