November 23, 2008
Emilia and I had such a long rest this morning that we had to hustle to make the hotel’s buffet breakfast. To be honest, the buffet is not that special, but it does have porridge and hard boiled eggs, two components of Em’s diet. I supply the apple juice, as they have some type of fruit juice blend, which tastes questionable. For those of you who may be wondering about formula, she has a very early morning bottle, as soon as she wakes up (that’s always before 7 a.m.). I call that pre-breakfast.
Lena had told us about a nice park, so we headed there first. It was across from the Tien Shan Hotel, which seems pretty nice from the outside. I’m sure there are some very high-end hotels here, where you can blow a lot of money. For practical reasons, we are not staying at one of those places!
The park was nice, and I bet it’s wonderful in the summer, as it has a row of fountains. Actually, many parks here have fountains, which must add great beauty to the landscape in the warmer weather.
We decided to head back to the Silk Road (yes, the one you learned about in history class), as I wanted to take a closer look at the street art. I found a beautiful watercolor, but the price was outrageous when you took into account that the frame wasn’t included. It would be nice to buy a small painting for Em, but that was the only piece that really stood out for me.
During our walk, many people made comments about Emilia. I find she’s a head turner. Most people usually just comment on how adorable she is. She’s been called “kookla” (doll) many times, and her big cheeks always make people smile. However, one artist commented that I need a bigger stroller because Emilia was slipping down a bit since the umbrella stroller doesn’t have much back support. I acknowledged this and told her I have a much bigger and better stroller in the States. It’s amazing what you can communicate through sign language. Later in the afternoon, I actually had a woman tell me that it was good that I was carrying Emilia in my Baby Bjorn (I actually got her into the carrier without any assistance…a first). Again, it’s amazing what you can communicate with head nods, hand signals and smiles.
Unfortunately, Lena had to work again this afternoon. I feel bad for her, as she doesn’t get any comp time when she’s called in on the weekends, and she’s not paid overtime. Kaz is in a recession right now – it’s very tied to the American dollar – so most people who have jobs won’t complain even if they are being overworked or underpaid. I’m still amazed at how little money people earn here. It’s not surprising to hear that someone will make in a month what I make in one hour at my job. It blows my mind.
I asked suggestions at the front desk for places Em and I could walk this afternoon, but I’d already been to the places the receptionist recommended. Obviously, there are other parts of the city to see (I really want to go on the gondola ride), but I had Em in the carrier and wanted to walk. So I decided to go exploring with my baby on board.
We found another pretty park with a statue of a Kazakh on a horse (horses are very big here in Kaz) and a delightful playground. We then came across Silk Way City, which looked like a mall. So, we went inside, and sure enough it was an extremely modern mall with many fine shops, a movie theater, a food court and a mega grocery store. Em and I headed for the grocery store, which was akin to a Super Stop N’ Shop. The selection was great, but as usual, I had trouble identifying things in the deli. I saw something that looked like meat-filled dumplings, so I bought those for tonight’s dinner. They were very tasty, even though I couldn’t heat them up.
I didn’t eat anything at the food court, which was quite crowded on a Sunday afternoon, but I was amused to see a sign for “King Burger.” I assume this is the Kaz version of Burger King, even though they served some things that would never be on the American BK menu.
We came across a store that sold traditional Kaz keepsakes and actually found a Kaz Barbie! It was a little pricey, but I couldn’t resist buying it for Emilia, as I’m sure I’d never find a doll like this back home. I’ll tuck it away, so that Em can have this as a Christmas gift when she’s a bit older. It would be great for show and tell!
On the way back to the hotel, two young teens asked me for directions. Although I think I look like an American, I have been mistaken several times for a local. This may be because Almaty is a city with very few Kazakhs. Like New York, it is a melting pot, and many people come from nations that used to be part of the U.S.S.R. or elsewhere, such as Korea.
I’m hoping to see more Almaty sites tomorrow, even if we do have to take cabs to get places. I figure if we’re here for an extra day (or more), we might as well take in as much of Almaty as possible.