Towards the end of September, just as the weather started to cool down, we had our first Regional Field Study. We ventured out of Almaty after our history lectures on Friday, led by our fearless resident director, insightful tour guides, and our somewhat maniacal bus driver – I will never get used to the apparently normal practice of passing the car in front, even if there is only one lane. Our first stop was Charyn Canyon, one of the corners of Kazakhstan’s “Golden Triangle.” As someone who has never even been to the Grand Canyon, I was incredibly excited that we had the opportunity to walk around and explore the craggy peaks and winding paths through the impressive variety of different rock formations. I also quite enjoyed the river that snakes through the deeper part of the canyon, d,. After an exhausting, but very satisfying few hours of hiking, we headed towards our lodging for the weekend. We arrived at our hostel-esque guest house and sat down for a warm and delicious meal prepared by our gracious host. We went exploring throughout the village and procured supplies for the adventurous next couple of days before finally settling down for the night.
On Saturday morning we awoke nice and early, downed some hearty porridge and set off to the first of two lakes that we were going to be hiking around. This was our most strenuous day, but I love all things nature and used to go on long hikes all the time, so I wasn’t too worried. As we arrived at the outlook over the first of the Kolsai lakes and I took in the azure water framed by looming mountains barely visible through the heavy morning mist, the exact opposite emotions came over me. This sense of awe grew as our eight-kilometer trek to the second Kolsai lake was underway. We spent the next couple of hours taking in the dense forest surrounding us, the glimpses of the first lake quickly disappearing into the background of our journey and gazing up the sides of formidable mountain terrain encompassing the entire area. I was struck with an overwhelming sense of peace at the satisfying union between the soothing sounds of the nearby creek, the slight burn in my legs, and the crisp air in my lungs. When we finally reached our much-anticipated destination, it certainly did not disappoint. We were greeted by a very large, very fluffy, very friendly Central Asian Shepherd dog who we promptly dubbed as one of the boys, even though I’m fairly sure he only liked us for our snacks. The second lake held a tranquil beauty and a few of us decided to wade in the water because it “couldn’t be that cold.” , “I have never been so wrong.” Despite my legs going numb in a matter of seconds, I was struck again with a sense of clarity. For someone who doesn’t believe in fate, the thought that accompanied this peace of mind, that I was right where I needed to be in that moment, was certainly a compelling one.
By: Nathan Glushka
Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Term: Fall 2019