Karaganda itself was pretty awesome as well. Highlights include making arts (and crafts) like handprint reindeer. Watching Christmas movies. Multiple nights sleeping on a cold floor. And just hanging out with friends. Saturday was really our big day out though. During the day, we managed to go out to a great Turkish restaurant and ice skating (I know I vowed never to ever ice skate again, but it was actually really fun. And it seemed like I had to, being that I was in frozen Kazakhstan, and we were on a lake at a park. I’d never ice skated on a lake. There were no walls, as Christina pointed out, but it turned out okay. And no twisted ankles!)
And even as exciting as that was, the next activity scheduled was even better. Karaoke. I LOVE karaoke. And I haven’t been able to do it yet in K-stan. We wandered around a bit before we finally found a place with it written on the outside windows. Of course, when we went inside, it didn’t look like any karaoke bar we’d ever seen. There were some TVs, but there was no stage. Just a mic lying on top of the bar. But we checked out the selection, saw they had a fair number of English songs, and decided to go for it.
The selection they had was… interesting. Only one Journey (and not Don’t Stop Believing). No Neil Diamond. A lot of Beegees but no Stayin’ Alive. Celine without the Titanic song. A lot of Louis Armstrong. But I guess you shouldn’t judge a Kazakhstani karaoke bar on the selection of English songs it has. We did manage to find enough songs to keep us going though. Ken started the night was the uber appropriate jingle of Wham’s Last Christmas (which turns out is a really long song). Katie did a great George Michael and Faith. Christina and Jessic sang about warm weather with Kokomo. Jamie did maybe the most passionate performance of the night with the Eagle’s Take It Easy. Megan and I did not one, but two Disney duets together, in which she totally upstaged me in both of them. Ken and Katie also got halfway through a Dima Bilan (the Russian Justin Timberlake) before Katie accidentally told them to shut it off when she said help me in Russian.
And of course, I gave the absolute worst performance of the night by overestimating both my knowledge of Juanes and my ability to read the Spanish language after four months of living in Kazakhstan. But, I can now say that I performed Camisa Negra at a bar in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and it may be something I take pride in for the rest of my life.
I think how a country likes to do its karaoke says a lot about them, or at least is interesting. In Peru for example, you passed a microphone around the tables, but there was no “stage” to sing on. In Asia, I’ve heard that you often rent your own room. Here people performed near the bar, but they didn’t really “perform.” Sang yes, and for the most part very well. But they lacked the American enthusiasm (which is maybe just shown in order to make up for the lack of singing ability.) I did enjoy the locals singing though, especially when one of them picked out a third Disney duet to sing with me and I inadvertently told Ken to sing it instead.
The rest of Karaganda was pretty chill. Mostly just savoring friends and American culture while we could. Our train wasn’t scheduled to leave until late Sunday night/early Monday morning, so we had a lot of time to kill. I ended up watching Fellowship of the Ring in Russian (and it was awesome). And then while I was channel surfing at 1am, I stumbled upon a live broadcast of the Miami-Baltimore NFL game. I was in awe. I didn’t expect to see a live football game for two years. It means I probably could have seen the Falcons game the day before, but maybe it was for the best that I didn’t have to watch that.
We left Karaganda in the morning and went right to sleep on the train, being that it was 3:00am when we boarded it. The bunk of the train actually provided me the best night’s sleep in three days. And when I awoke I was happy to find that my plats neighbors were all young people. A twenty-two year old guy and two twenty year old girls. When I wasn’t hanging out with Megan and Jamie in the next compartment over, I spent most of my time playing cards (Durak, look it up, have I blogged about that yet? I should) and getting to know these moladois. The time flew by, and it barely even felt like we were traveling.
I walked home with a guy I met on the train who lived nearby and was happy to see my host-sister and niece. I ate dinner and then crashed. Kganda was great, but it almost didn’t feel like the Peace Corps. I’m actually excited about staying close to site for a while. Surprisingly, I missed it some while I was gone.