I’ve spent the last two weekends in Almaty, which is about a 40-minute drive from Issyk (longer by public bus or with traffic). It is an incredibly cosmopolitan city that is pretty much beyond our current large village/small town budget. I am lucky enough though to have a few friends there already from school, which is amazing as I get some exposure to the “real world” outside of the Peace Corps bubble that we’ve constructed for ourselves. Kunai is an old friend from uni; probably one of the first people I ever met at Harvard. He was born and raised in Almaty and (lucky for me!) is back here working for the Eurasian Development Bank after a stint in NYC after graduation. Emma is another Harvard friend who just graduated in ’09 and is here with the Princeton in Asia program teaching at one of the best universities in Kazakhstan with her roommate and “fellow Fellow” Alex from Georgetown. They are all awesome and I had a huge blast hanging out in the big city!

Us at the amaaaazing Korean restaurant across from Almaty’s Central Stadium. It’s called “Schilla,” which brings back great memories of the Square 😉 Food was spicy and delicious.

On Sunday Kunai invited us all over to his granny’s house for a giant Kazakh feast. Two of my very lucky Peace Corps friends also got to come along 😛 Not-so-surprisingly, Kunai comes from a long and distinguished line of academics: his great-grandfather was none other than the famous Kazakh-Soviet scholar Satpaev (whose name is still on a street in almost every city in Kazakhstan, not to mention the university named after him)! There was a picture of Kunai’s dad with President Nazarbayev on the living room mantel. As for his granny, she is not only THE MOST ADORABLE person in the whole world (well, maybe tied with my own host granny;) but also an amazing cook! She made beshbarmak, the traditional Kazakh national dish with flat noodles, onions and horse meat. The plate was so large that even with ten of us at the table, we hardly seemed to make a dent in it! Horse here is quite expensive and is the preferred meat (but also a bit of a delicacy); it is supposed to be clean and good for your digestion. I was worried before I actually tasted it – but turns out, it’s delicious! Like a tender version of beef, and you can avoid the fat easily.

Beshbarmak!! (Note Kuanysh’s adorable granny:P)

We also had the traditional tomato & cucumber salad (usually with mayo and dill), varied delicious stuffed pastries called “samsas” (yes like samosas), a huge array of fresh organic fruit juices, nuts and dried fruits, homemade apple cake, and possibly the best peaches I’ve ever tasted in my life. It will be hard to go back to American genetically engineered food after all the fresh garden-grown stuff I’ve had here! The tomatoes, peaches, grapes and everything else are just 100 times tastier. Then again I will fully admit that I’ve supremely lucked out with my culinary options, and that some of my other fellow PCTs are having a harder time with their host families’ cooking (mostly due to oiliness or blandness). No complaints here though! Almaty was lovely – thanks again to Kunai, Alex and Emma for showing all of us a great time. J

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2 Responses to Almaty!

  1. Sounds like a blast! Sorry I missed last weekend, can't wait to get some of that beshbarmak.

  2. Seryozha says:

    I was in this very room just a few months ago :)Looks like you're enjoying yourself there — keep the posts coming!

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