November 30th, 2008 – by: sayohat
Target practice in the park
The last day of November was also my last day in Almaty, so I had to check out of the hotel and find a place for my luggage until my evening train. Luckily Hamid came to the rescue again. Pernille had other plans, so Hamid met me around 11am and we drove to the Central Park, which is still called Gorky Park. Fairly deserted now because of the weather, it was easy to see that in summer the place must be alive with people. There was an Aquapark, a haunted house, large movie theater, several rides and other attractions. A few people strolled around, probably enjoying the quiet and a relaxing Sunday out of the house.
After the park, we drove to the home of Muratbay and Gulzira, Erlan's parents. I also saw Erzhan, his younger brother who was also a student of mine.
Lunch with my friends
He's now a teenager in college and has long hair and is aspiring to become a bodybuilder. It's still hard to imagine the little kids I used to see being rowdy in my classroom now grown up. I nearly didn't recognize Erzhan. The Uteniazov household was quite impressive and much nicer than most houses I'd been to in the US. Gulia-opa joined us and we sat down in the dining room and feasted on freshly baked pumpkin somsa, which Gulzira-opa remembered I liked, fruits, salads, milk tea and eventually a meal of plov. After all the eating I was stuffed, but it was delicious, and we chatted for awhile before it was time for me to go. Gulzira-opa gave me a bag of fruits and somsa for the train trip and we said goodbye. Hamid and Erzhan took me to the train station, but first we drove around to see some more areas of town, including the biggest shopping mall, a new skyline of glass buildings being constructed, fancy car dealerships and even out to the airport.
Almaty's rapidly growing skyline
They walked me onto the train to my spot and there we said our goodbyes, and I thanked them for true hospitality and generosity I was still amazed to have received. Just after dark the train, full of noisy, drunken passengers, slowly began its journey to Shymkent
, leaving Almaty in a trail of smog. I bit into an apple and thought about how drastically my impression had changed of this large, cosmopolitan city. With at least two wedding invitations in the not too distant future, it's likely that I might be back here after all.