The stars were brilliant on our overnight flight from Frankfurt to Nursultan, Kazakhstan. I was lucky to have a window seat as my sleeping schedule was on reverse-mode, so I just enjoyed looking out into the starry darkness and thinking about the tour ahead.
The hazy morning light broke early over the eastern horizon, and revealed the green and brown steppe landscape that stretched as far as the eye could see. Almost no dwellings, few farms, few people, just a wide, flat, vast expanse of land.
We checked into our hotel at 6:50am, and were informed that breakfast started in 10 minutes. We all enjoyed a great meal together: omelettes, coffee, fresh-squeezed juice, and “Kazakh Delicacies” (aka homemade horse-sausage).
You heard me right. More than any other meat, horse is widely available, and something people are very proud of. In fact, EVERYONE that I ask talks about horse. My favorite meal was a horse-and-pasta dish (“bolog-neighs?”) that was spectacular.
At first, it is a little strange to get around the idea of eating it, but you have to remember that where you are in the world really can dictate what food is not only appreciated, but available. The only sea nearby is a great grass sea (G.O.T. reference for ya). So you could look at it like seafood… It actually reminded me of pastrami.
We all took naps, and met up to walk around Nursultan (formerly named Astana). It’s unseasonably warm here. We’re at the bottom of Siberia, and the winters are long and harshly cold, but we brought the heat! It’s been in the 80’s, and will hit the 90’s this week.
Our first program was the next day at the modern, beautiful Paralympic training facility. After touring the dojo, volleyball courts, and weight room we held a concert and discussion in the main lobby.
We had been told a few times that people can be shy, so if they’re quiet at the concert, don’t be alarmed, and be assured they are enjoying it… This did not end up being the case, this time. The crowd clapped, cheered, and sang along to every song! We then had an extended meet-and-greet, and many selfies were taken.
I’m now on the plane to Aktobe, where we’ll have two events when we land today. To give you an idea of the landscape, roads, and infrastructure, it’s a two hour trip by plane, but we’re told would take twenty-three hours by car.
It’s also Joey’s birthday!! So, of course, we will be celebrating that all day (We love you, Uncle Joey (Lawrence)!)