Sunday, December 5, 2010
Day 5 in Almay - Ice Skating in the Mountains
Thursday, 2 December 2010
About a half-hour to an hour drive outside of Almaty is Medeu. I'm not sure what it is, if there's more than the giant outdoor skating rink halfway up the mountain to Chimbaluk, where you can ski.
Last year we went to Medeu, to learn that the rink was closed due to inclement weather (icky, wet, sleety, foggy) and then we went up to Chimbaluk, to learn that the skiing was closed for the same reasons.
This year my Kazakh friend R made some phone calls and checked the Internet, so we learned ahead of time that the skiing was closed due to renovations--the great Asian games (Asia's Olympics) will be held in Almaty & Astana in February. The ice skating is closed Monday & Tuesday.
On Thursday we took a taxi to Medeu, for 1500 Tenge--$10. When we arrived, the girls expressed their disappointment--they were expecting Chimbaluk! (They didn't say "Chimbaluk", they said they wanted to be in the mountains and snow, not ice skating with mountains surrounding us.) We explained over and over that Chimbaluk was closed, we had wanted to go skiing too!
Entrance fee was rather cheap--2100 Tenge for me and my child (children being cheaper)--about $14. Skates were 1000 Tenge ($6.80) for rental; children's skates were 500 Tenge, but the sign was misleading! Children's skates only went up to size 33; Sophia is a size 34. Skates were mis-sized; Sophia ended up wearing a 35 or 36 that was still too tight on her; I wore a size 41 (my size in Europe & Asia) that was way too big.
We also had to give ID to rent the skates, I was so relieved when they accepted my American driver's license! I did not want to give up my passport!
Finally, we made it out. The rink was huge, and the ice a little rough. The weather was fair; we were okay in wool sweaters and did not need bulky coats. There was a stadium around us, behind it, tall hills and mountains, with a bit of snow. There was no wall on the side of the rink, something Sophia usually clings too.
My friend R went to watch her daughter practice--she's going to Uralsk (western Kazakhstan) soon for an ice skating competition--and I spotted a little glider thing--it looks like a walker with no wheels, perfect for someone who needs support while on the ice. We took it, but then a Russian woman with a name-tag came up to us and said something in Russian. "It's busy," she said in English. I managed to get my friend to translate--the glider was in use, and cost 300 Tenge per half-hour. There were only two available, and the one we were trying to use was not in good condition. The woman was an ice skating instructor, half-hour private lessons cost 1000 Tenge. She said she couldn't teach my friend's daughter--who's working on her triple-axle--although she did watch and comment. But she could work with Sophia.
So for half an hour Sophia practiced with this instructor, who was amazingly patient and amazingly good. Sophia copied her and learned a lot--she can skate without wobbling; she can turn around on the ice!!! For someone who used to cling to the wall, this is amazing progress!
My friend's daughter had to leave that evening for Uralsk--her plane was at 7 pm, she would fly with another girl who was going for the competition. Her coach would meet her in Uralsk and then fly her back to Astana with the other girls from Astana. All of this was last minute, causing my friend a lot of worry the day before we left for Almaty! (She'd almost canceled the trip to Amaty.)
So then we had to leave, take a taxi back to the mall near our house, and then R took another taxi to the National Museum, where our two flat-mates were. They hadn't gone ice-skating with us, and there was only one key to our apartment, and so they had the key.
I fed the girls--KFC--and took a picture of the fast-food restaurant called "Kind Burger." Then we met up with the others, who did some quick grocery shopping at the Silk Way City supermarket, in the basement of the mall, which is bigger than any supermarket in Astana.
R and her daughter made it to the airport in time; then R and our American friend went to church together, while my co-worker, Sophia, and I relaxed in our home.
One more day to go!