Visitor from the South

in which Becca comes up from Shymkent and I knock off all the Astana tourism I always meant to do.

One of the nicest parts of my summer was the chance to rekindle an acquaintanceship from Harvard into what I hope is now a lasting friendship.  I should hope Becca would agree.  Having been properly hosted by Becca in Shymkent earlier in the month, I was glad to have an opportunity to return the favour in my fair city.

And thus, last Tuesday, at 7 am, Becca showed up at my door, fresh from a 20 hour train from Shymkent.  She was ushered into a very full week of meetings for donor development for the organisation that she works for in Shymkent, morning runs, bizarre architecture, Embassy to-dos, Astana tourism, and meeting up with my co-workers.  I was most satisfied with the way the week worked out.Her first day was probably one of the busier ones, as she came to work with me and went directly into a series of meetings at the U.S. Embassy.  She then had a nice walk home, and I joined her later, only to return to the embassy for the Ambassador’s fancy Iftar dinner for diplomats, the press, and politicians.  A very successful event, for the record, which received nice reviews in the Kazakh-language press.  When we returned, it was almost 10, and Becca was treated to the absurdity that is the “singing fountains”–which play loud classical music with a fairly absurd light-show.

Young romance?

Astana is a city that comes into its own at night, so it was good to get a taste of the city.  The next morning I headed to work, Becca to more meetings.  We met up after work for a run through the city, finishing in time to take quick showers and head out to meet a Harvard friend of ours.  We headed out just at sunset.

The Baiterek--a symbol of Astana and printed on all bills.

We had a few minutes, so I showed Becca a few camera tricks in effort to get her camera to work like mine (success!), and the inevitable pictures ensued.

Ain't it pretty, it's my city. "Это мой любимый город!"... okay, maybe not. But it's grown on me.

We then found Baur, the friend, and had a lovely meal as we talked about our various experiences and lives, about Kazakhstan, and reminisced about those college days.  The next day, last Thursday, proceeded much like Wednesday, but the run was moved to 7 am to make room for an earlier dinner with my co-worker Colleen, who was gracious enough, with her husband, to host us for a pleasant evening of good food, excellent company, nice wine, and wonderful conversation.  Plus, the view from her apartment was fantastic.

The Presidential Palace complex across the river.

Friday began with another early morning run, during which I managed to trip over an exposed rod and land on my chin.  Yes, that is possible. Evidently. And I was scraped enough to attract attention at work. Sigh. My chin is decidedly purple underneath, for the record.  After I returned from work, Ryan (my new flatmate), Becca, her co-Peace Corps Volunteer, and I headed up the Baiterek, symbol of Astana and an easy attraction well worth the $3.50 it costs to do it.  I took enough pictures there to merit its own post, but the view as we headed up the elevator:

Becca stops to take a picture on the way out:

Her friend then headed off to his town, and Becca and I made a stop to the famous Khan Shatyr, which is pretty much no more than a glorified mall.  But an architecturally fascinating one.

The support structures.

I hadn’t been in a while, not since it first opened in early July.  At least, not without a quick purpose in mind.  I was newly impressed by the absurdity of it’s tiny indoor beach (admission: $70. So NOT happening), mini Tower-of-Terror, and little space-age cars that skirt the top floor.  The place is absolutely insane.

View from one of the floors. You can see the funky car near the top.

Becca was sufficiently impressed, and we delightfully bought some groceries in the store on the bottom floor before heading back to my place to enjoy a quick curried dinner, before meeting up with my co-worker Erik and his wife Deanna for beers (well, minus poor Deanna, who heads to the States in a week ahead of the arrival of their first child).  Again, another night of wonderful conversation and excellent company.  And then we headed in, eager to make the most of Becca’s final morning.  Which was epic enough to be covered in two separate posts.  It had been a most wonderful visit, and I look forward to our next visit, whenever and wherever that may be.


One thought on “Visitor from the South

  1. I didn’t doubt that you would beat me to the blog post — I won’t be able to top this I don’t think! 😀 Everything about the trip was truly awesome because of you (though perhaps with a little help from Nazarbayev and Norman Foster:P). I await the DUMAN and Карта Казахстана post с нетерпением!!

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