My birthday occurred on my first full day with my host family in Kazakhstan. My host family surprised me when I woke up with a present (some Kazakh national jewelry) and cake with breakfast. As we talked about the plans for the day, it quickly became clear that they were intent on showing me as much of the city as they could to celebrate my birthday.
After breakfast, we set out to see an amazing mosque. While they prayed, I got to admire the outstanding architecture inside and outside the building. We then walked to a huge mall, complete with a Charlie Chaplin movie theatre. This is when I learned that Almaty is full of malls, some of which were bigger than the one we were standing in, and almost every single one has a movie theater. We then met up outside with another host family and we travelled to the university where we’d be studying this summer. We took the metro, which was incredible on the inside and fairly simple to use! After lunch, we set out to the highlight of my day – a visit the mountains.
As a kid from Wisconsin, I had never seen mountains before. I knew that Almaty was nearly surrounded by mountains, so I was excited to see them. Throughout the day, I had caught glimpses of the mountains between buildings, but we hadn’t gotten close to them yet. That all changed as we took the metro to the cable car that led up to the mountains. We got our tickets and waited in line for the two-minute ride up to the park. The whole ride was spent taking pictures with each other and of the city as we rose above it. At the top of the mountain there was an amusement park, though I hesitate to give it that full title. Its name means “green hill” in Kazakh. It had a small zoo, several upscale restaurants, a (very popular) Beatles statue, a Ferris wheel, and some other rides, games, and shops throughout the park. As fun as all of that was, I was most excited for the views that the mountain offered.
We traveled to the mountain around 6 pm, so as we were walking around, we got to witness night settle over the bustling city of Almaty. The views of the city and the mountains around us were truly breathtaking. We spent several hours at the park, taking pictures, visiting the zoo (and feeding animals!), and riding a few rides. We traveled back down the mountain by cable car where we caught a cab to get to dinner. We grabbed a simple dinner of pizza and burgers before heading home for the night.
I knew that travelling to Kazakhstan for a summer study abroad meant that I would be spending my birthday over here, but I couldn’t begin to imagine how my day would actually be spent. Visiting the mountains checked something off my bucket list and let me see some different parts of a great city. All in all, it was a good birthday.
By: Alyssa Scoville
Term: Summer 2017