Friday, November 30, 2007
Kazakhstan Travel Plans
Kazakhstan lies in the north of the central Asian republics and is bounded by Russia in the north, China in the east, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the south, and the Caspian Sea and part of Turkmenistan in the west. It has almost 1,177 mi (1,894 km) of coastline on the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan is about four times the size of Texas. The territory is mostly steppe land with hilly plains and plateaus.
In January, Michael and I are traveling to Almaty, Kazakhstan to visit The Almaty International School http://www.qsi.org/kaz/ and speak at a teacher's conference. Already I am impressed by the school and its philosophy which leads with an emphasis on kindness. Kindness is not a word that gets airtime in US school goals. How do you develop a standardized test for kindness? If you go to the website, be sure and check out the online student newspaper which is very informative and the little video.
Airline tickets all booked and new down coat purchased, we are ready to go to the cold cold steppes -- in January (did I mention?) The trip will be long -- what the travel agent calls an "over over." Overnight to Amsterdam, get on another plane, and overnight to Almaty. The flip side of the world.
So, naturally we are looking for some background reading material to help activate and assess our prior knowledge (which amounts to zip) of this area to help increase our comprehension. Unfortunately, Lonely Planet does not have a guide. Neither does Fodor's or Frommer's. Mmmmm.
So when we went for our visa pictures at AAA and (just thought I'd ask) I asked the travel agent there if she had any brochures or travel information for Kazakhstan, she replied, "What country is that in?" Mmmmmm.
We politely informed her that Kazakhstan IS a country -- in fact the 8th largest country in the world. Casting a suspicious eye on both of us, she informed us she only had information about Europe, which looks to be only a launch pad for this trip.
Filling out the VISA application, I notice that the word for NO (as is "have you ever visited Kazakhstan before?") is OK. OK means NO? That'll make your number two pencil turn backflips. Mmmmmm.
Our contacts at the school have been warm and inviting -- in direct contrast to online descriptions we have read about the geography in January. Lonely Planet online has this caution: If you do decide to battle the winter, be aware that many domestic flights are grounded and finding food can be a problem since lots of eateries close for the season. Mmmmmmm.
But then there are the rich descriptions of the food, the hospitality, the friendliness -- all in direct contrast to the weather. Just now, I was back on the site looking at the buildings and the faces of the students, getting excited.
So, here's my today thought to ponder: Is January considered winter in a land when OK means NO?