Day 1: Almaty, Kazakhstan (April 30 2018)

  • Holidays today and tomorrow: May Day, Day of Unity день Еденства Dehn Yedenstva
  • Kazakhstan is very friendly to American Councils program, 126 students in flex program. Relatively easy for students to travel to US.


Bus to tram to a skating rink at a ski resort high in Chimbulak, in the mountains. Largest ice rink in Central Asia, highest rink in world.

Dangerous mudslide area, so passed several large structures crossing the road to break up a mudslide:

(Image coming)

Bus broke down 15 minutes from Hotel... (Автобус не работает). If you’re going to break down, break down here:

(Image coming)

Driver fixed the bus (молодец!) but it broke down again shortly after. Alya summoned a new bus and in less than an hour (holy cow) we were on our way again.

Elementary lessons in Kazakh language

On the bus we were introduced to the Kazakh language by flex alumns Айгирим (Aigirim) and Дамира (Damira) flex alumna (Minnesota)

Kazakh is similar to the Turkish language, but with some unique sounds. 42(!) letters, one of the largest alphabets.. Currently uses Cyrillic alphabet, but it will be phased out — transitioned to Latin alphabet by 2025.

Kazakhstan trying to develop tourism. Increasingly, three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. Kazakh and Russian are equal official languages. Almost everyone speaks both.

Extra letters from Cyrillic are a theta, h, i, schwa, barred у and г, hooked н and к: ѳ һ і ә ұ ғ ӊ қ

ғ, pronounced Xreh (hard romance R). The word for scientist is ғылыми, roughly “Xrylymi”

Some Kazakh words:

  • қала city
  • Астана , the capital, is the word for capital (Seoul, South Korea is the other capital that is the word for capital)
  • Сәлеметсіз бе Hello (formal)
  • Сәлем hi
  • Менiӊ атым my name is ...
  • қалин қалай how are you
  • Жақса мен doing well
  • қанша how much does it cost?
  • ѳте кѳп too much!
  • Рахмет Thank you

Шимбулак (Shimbulak)

Ski resort, lots of people up here because of holiday Snow in mountains will last to July

Coffee Company and Retro Soviet Cars

One Alumna’s father had a large property housing many dozens of vintage Russian cars; the cars belong to his friend.

All original Taxi Mmf 1945 Army truck “Black raven”, a KGB car Mini Jeep

Green 1950

Many post war handicapped, hand controls on several cars Yellow car is Ukrainian: very good in sand, for going to dacha. The movie Moscow in Tears features this car. Blue car, affordable and popular Gold one: same model Stalin drove Green bus was from Baikul, drove cosmonauts to launch

Coffee company

Next visited his company, housed in a new headquarters, designed by him and his wife from a bare lot. Comprises warehouse, offices, showroom. About six company cars for distributing supplies and maintenance trips. They service 200 machines across the city in 150+ locations. The company sells the machines, performs maintenance, and distributes supplies (coffee, powdered milk, cups, ...) Machines are made in Germany, Italy, and primarily Spain. KVC is a distributor for the machines directly within Kazakhstan, and to sub-distributors in neighboring countries. They handle coffee and cold beverage vending machines, as well as commercial machines for restaurants and offices. Demonstrated a vending machine with more than a dozen options: could make coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Cocoa was pretty tasty.

They buy coffee from Genoa, who buy it from source countries and prepare blends. All stuff made in Europe, even the cups — none manufactured in Kazakhstan. So it’s fifty cents for a cup of coffee from the machine: somewhat cheap relative to western prices, but expensive relative to Kazakh salary.

Son Кирилл (Kyril, 34) now runs company, has giant corner office with shower and couch. “When I built these offices I tried to think of everything so he can just work, no distractions”. Warehouse floor, optimized so trucks can pull up drop off and leave. Kyril watches everything, tracks all machines. 25 employees.

Panfilov Park

Named for president. Open 24/7.


  • Чебуреки (chebureki) pierogies
  • плов (plov) rice with horse and lamb meat and carrots
  • Бешбармак (beshbarmak): means “five fingers”. horse meat with pastry

Women who order beer are served with a straw in the glass — delivers alcohol faster so they will be drunk sooner.

Arba wine, a Kazakh Riesling, highly regarded. Kolbasa in Kazakh means “made with hands”, some think Kazakhstan first to make sausage