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It was an honour to be invited by some students for a day out on completion of their course. They did admittedly invite me out when the last course finished but I was tied up with Kazakh lessons and conversation practice. I understand itís a tradition here, but even so after they have paid so much for the course itís a privilege to be treated to their company in a different environment, and I for one was touched by their generosity.
They day was all arranged, all we teachers had to do was turn up. Sadly, one of us couldnít make it and she was missed, but we got on with things and in spite of the rain nobody regretted turning out. To be honest I think I lost boundless enthusiasm for the do before anybody else when the rain kicked in, and we came back to Almaty wet but refreshed.

We went by minibus to a popular location a few hours out of the city towards China, but not that towards. It was still the furthest East Iíve ever been. Iím fascinated by the four points on my life experience compass, which include Galway Bay, Stockholm, Sharm El-Sheik in Egypt and now a waterfall whose name has already escaped me.
I wonít say itís the most impressive waterfall in the world, but Kazakhstan is a long way from the sea so even though it boasts amazing views at every turn, it doesnít have too many significant rivers. Rest assured the one you see here below probably ends up emptying into the Arctic ocean somewhere.

We didnít have to walk too far to get to the falls, but I regretted not taking my walking boots as they would have allowed me a little more freedom to explore off path a bit. The river also confused its course in a few places and as such became the path, or vice versa, but not badly so and we could always get round. Plenty of people, itís one of those manageable hikes that most people can do without subsequent medical bills, and en route were a nice mix befitting of the Kazakh cultural diversity, and harmony.
Itís as good a time as any to point out that for the most part Kazakhstan is a bilingual state. Russians tend to speak only Russian although they know Kazakh better than they let on. But Kazakhs, a few not being so correct in Russian notwithstanding, speak the two local languages with admirable competence, and switch between them as if by a switch. On the walk today people would greet us in Russian and in spite of their surprise at my replying in Kazakh would change without even the slightest thought. When I was in Italy I could do the same, perhaps now I need to find it, although to be honest having learned four languages since Italian I do have an excuse. Kazakhstani people are a credit to the theory that second language acquisition does not require oodles of genius or hard work. Nor does courtesy and interest in other people. This is a wonderful place.

Gabriel gets into the sprit of

the photo shoot
the photo shoot
After we got back from the falls we moved back down the river for the feast. It mostly revolved around kebabs and beer but not to excess and I think the most anybody drank was two small bottles. I of course abstained, but Iím not anti-booze, nor anti-meat for that matter, although I was grateful for their understanding and offers of sparking water and carrot salad. Victor got the fire going (with a flame thrower) and they lay the shashlik over the embers. I didnít take any photos of the meat, just picture the scene.

We were by a fairly fast flowing river which would have been great for canoeing but not so much for rafting, I doubt, I was surprised to see some people had brought a dinghy. It seemed too shallow and narrow. Perhaps theyíre better placed to judge than me. It came in handy for apple washing.

Rifkat gets into the spirit of

apple washing
apple washing
I was up for a bit of apple bobbing meself but the relative danger (of a soaking) perturbed me. Oh, and I donít like apples.
Then it rained, weíd been there three or four hours and I was impressed even in spite of having taught a few of them for 9 months how well they communicated with us. Normally I wonít speak English outside work but with my own students itís fine, and they did very well.
So thanks, guys. Letís get something organised for another weekend.