Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 2 in Almaty: Kok-Tobe Cable Car

Monday we decided to take the Kok-Tobe Cable Car. It's a cable car that takes you up a very large hill on the edge of Almaty. The ride up is fantastic, as we watched the city get distant, and the houses beneath us. There were plenty of unfinished houses and plenty of shacks, crammed into tiny spaces on the steep hill with few roads (some dirt paths).

At the top of the hill we could see the city--now I realize that it is much larger than Astana, with many tall buildings. The city was in a haze, however, which I've heard is most of time time.

And in front of us--to the south--were the mountains. Again, they were in a haze.

As the day went on, the sky became clearer, and the mountains more breath-taking. Sharp, jagged, snow-covered peaks that went on seemingly for forever. The tallest peaks seemed to arise out of the sky, especially when it was hazy; I had to squint and double-check--was I seeing mountains, or just clouds?

So behind us was the city, in front of us the mountains, and to our sides rolling hills, spotted with houses. The hill we were on was immense, and we had a lot of walking in front of us.

There were several restaurants, a Beatles statue where we all posed for a picture, and a small zoo. Sophia loved the reindeer; there were also peacocks and majestically colored pheasants.

The grass at the top was green and well-tended to, but my favorite part was the un-tended slopes on the sides. They looked just like the mountains in South and North Carolina towards the end of fall. Sloping hills, mostly bare trees, dead leaves on the ground. I hadn't dressed for hiking, but I ran down the hill, high heels and all. Sophia and her friend enjoyed playing on the hillside. In the distance we could still see the snow-capped peaks.

Mostly we took pictures and basked in the shadow of the mountains. How glorious!

After, we took the cable car back down and walked the short distance to the Pizza Hut where we had eaten last year.

Then it was back home and to bed.

Sophia and her friend have been getting along amazingly this week so far, better than sisters, with very few and very short spats. Mostly, they hang out, talking and giggling and letting us adults be. Her friend's English is amazing, considering she's been taught by her mother and hasn't really had it in school, and Sophia is her only English-speaking friend. But every now and then she'll have to ask her mother for a word in English. Once the word was "trash", another time "war". You have to wonder what they're talking about!

They both are very much into imaginative play, and the language barrier seems to be no issue for them. They love to play with stuffed animals when they are inside; pretend they are riding horses when they are outside. They love to collect nuts--large acorns--outside; inside they like to draw and color. Sophia enjoys putting Russian-language movies for the two of them to watch on their computer.

Monday morning, R and I were woken up at 6 am by the most delighted-sounding, "Dobri utro!" ever ("good morning!") as R's daughter pranced into our room. R responded as I do when woken up that early, with a low growl and something like "go away." Luckily, this did not upset her child, and she and Sophia played quite happily together until we did feel like waking up.

A wonderful vacation for all!!

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