An intern in Kazakhstan
Journey of an engineer to be
13th of July 2016
Kazakhstan time zone
Very odd how we get used to habits. I’m in my second week here, and still I feel like I'm on a European time zone. Breakfast (if any) is usually not consumed before 12, lunch between 3 and 4 pm, very light dinner, and bed time always postponed till the very end. And at the time I'm writing this, it's 3 am here.
Working time is not helping to settle down either, as my shifts don't start before 4pm and can finish up until midnight. I'll write more about work soon, as it's the main reason I'm here, after all.
Tonight, like every other nights since my arrival, I’m accompanied by the music left on by someone living in the neighbourhood. But it's not annoying at all. Actually, now I feel like I couldn't sleep anymore without this lyrical music, of which I don't know the words but I think it's Italian lyrical music, perhaps played with an old gramophone. And it's such a classy and full of melancholy music, that I keep wondering who might be the person who is enjoying it so much to turning it on every night, and leave it on even after 6am (yes, I've been up until that late to know it!).
Whoever this person is, I hope he/she will carry on with it, because these tunes are already feeling like part of my journey.
See, it's so easy to fall into a new habit, and so hard to let go of it. And tonight, as every other night, I will be on the bed with my mind wandering and thinking about all these new things seen and done, while the music from this stranger is still on, and I really believe that travelling is the best activity we have to live a meaningful life.
6th of July 2016
Almaty for tourists
I have been here in Almaty for just two days, but it feels more like weeks. And this is all due to the extreme friendliness and kindness of the Kazakh people I have met so far, which are all working with me at the robotics lab.
I have to admit that the arrival has been somewhat shocking, as I have never been that far away before, and the language barrier really is a big deal, especially when most of the people speak a language that not only sounds different, but it also uses a different alphabet from yours.
For someone like me who has always been travelling a lot, but mainly in European, or Anglophone countries, it has been a big cultural shock. And having studied Russian only a couple of months before moving here hasn't helped much!
It's also interesting to note that Russian is not the only language spoken here. It might be the most popular and widespread, especially in big cities like Almaty, but there is still a big chunk of people that only speak Kazakh, which does have more in common with other Turkic tongues than with Russian.
So, for example, if you happen to do some shopping in a магазин (magazine, a small shop) all of a sudden you might hear the shopkeeper talking to you in Kazakh. And that will make you feel extremely uncomfortable, because the Russian answer you had so well prepared in advance is now completely useless, and you end up smiling like an idiot since you have nothing to say :|
But all these difficulties are easily overtaken when you are surrounded by genuinely friendly people, who really care about making you feel at ease even in awkward situations. And this is helping a lot!!
Today it was day off here, because Kazakh people were celebrating the President’s birthday, which happens to fall on the same day Astana was inaugurated (or maybe the other way around!). There were no parades or big celebrations here in Almaty, but still I got the chance to visit the impressive first President's garden with an outstanding view of the surrounding mountains, and a theme park with some old fashioned attractions, but still quite enjoyable.
I have added some pictures of the day out so that you can have an idea of how the city looks like.
I will definitely have to write a post on living costs, because it's amazing on how little things can cost in here!!
So, stay tuned as there are plentiful things to tell about this incredible country!!
*Italians are not the only one to clap their hands when the plane is landing: Kazakh people are actually doing that with much more fervour, and probably with a great sense of relief for having arrived safely at their destination.
*Since Kazakh people are in love with horses, mare’s milk is very popular here. But be aware: it’s an alcoholic drink. So drink milk responsibly and try not to have a hangover for eating too many cereals for breakfast!!
4th of July 2016
So today it's independence day for millions of people around the world, who are celebrating either Will Smith or Thomas Jefferson's victory against evil colonialists.
And today, I was meant to celebrate the arrival in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, and begin my summer-long internship. Instead, due to a missed flight connection, I've been forced to wait in Istanbul for two days. Unfortunately, I'm staying far away from the city centre, which makes it unfeasible to travel around the main touristic spots. But at least the flight company has been taking good care of me so far, so can't really complain!!
I'll be in Almaty (fingers crossed) on the 5th of July, and I will use this website to write down everything weird/cool/upsetting/funny about my time there, and hopefully make it inspirational for anyone out there who is about to travel to Kazakhstan, or is just thinking to do so.
Just a brief introduction about myself now. I'm an italian national studying mechatronics engineering at Napier university, Edinburgh. I've applied for, and finally got, an internship through IAESTE, a worldwide community which promotes technical experience for STEM students. I'll be working at the robotics department of the IT University in Almaty for the whole time.
I'll try to get the most out of my time there, and travel as much as possible to understand and live a country which has always sounded very exotic and mysterious to me.