Archive for November 12, 2008

On the SLOWWW train to Karaganda

I left Almaty after teaching three classes in a row from 8:30-1:00 p.m. yesterday. I’m not asking for sympathy, I’ve been doing this routine all semester every Tuesday and Thursday. What was DIFFERENT about my day was I was to “catch” the slooowww train to Karaganda for a conference. My husband and I had lunch together at the Grill and then left from my office to the train station, he wanted to see me off, what a kind man.

Once in the taxi, I had a sinking feeling about not having my keys in my pocket and which meant I didn’t have my powerpoint presentations on my two jump drives. The 15 minutes down to Train Station #2 yielded nothing of my keys after a superficial search of my backpack. Once in place in the waiting room, it clearly appeared that I must have left my keys and the all important ppt presentations in my cabinet. A trick I’ve done before. My hero husband got back into a taxi to go to my office and sure enough, the keys were on the desk. Back in the taxi to get to the train station 7 minutes before my SLOOWW train left for Karaganda. Whew, that was TOO close.

Settled into my coupe with two ladies, Oxana (26 year old dentist) and Valentina (middle aged librarian) grandma of a 2 year old girl and a Kazakh guy whose name I could never pronounce. Actually my Russian is bad but their English was worse so somehow we were able to communicate and it was an uneventful trip. Except once our male traveller returned to turn in for the night, he got the top bunk. The reason this train is slow is because it stops about every half hour or hour. The Spanish train accomplishes this same route in 13 hours from Almaty to Astana. This train I was on left at 3:00 p.m. and arrived in Karaganda at 8:24 a.m.

The one and only incident that was kind of funny was at one of the stops around 9:30 p.m. a blonde woman got to our compartment and was swatting the legs of the man. She seemed a tough cookie and was insisting that he had taken her place, was in her bed. The other two passengers, Oxanna and Valentina asked for her ticket, she dug around for it and came up with it rather shamefaced. She was not in our #3 but maybe #5 of our #8 wagon. Easy to confuse all the numbers on the ticket but we all agreed that she had behaved badly. The man was gracious about her waking him.

How nice to have Oxanna help me buy a card for my mobile phone once we “landed.” Then Irina from the university was there to meet me and take me by taxi to the university in Karaganda. I’m meeting a LOT of nice people at this conference, there must be about 200 teachers here. I learned a Russian proverb from Aigul, another new friend, she said that I “had come from the boat to the ball.” Yes, I feel like that, 19 hours on a slow train and having to present with all these other professionals. We are currently in a very fancy computer lab and I’m happy to get my blog done for today. Tomorrow I will give an 80 minute workshop to the teachers here in Karaganda.

One never knows what to expect while living and teaching in Kazakhstan. I had intended to be in Astana today for the first part of this conference, the second day in Karaganda. The way things are scheduled, the Minister of Education could not attend on Wednesday so they moved up the whole conference a day ahead. My American sensiblities have a tough time with that sort of schedule change. One person’s schedule dictated changes for about 200 others, no wonder I forgot my keys back in my office!!!

Leave a comment »