Friday, February 17, 2017 to Sunday early morning, February 19, 2017:
Friday afternoon, February 17, Stephanie Ehler and I flew out of the Austin Bergstrom Airport and started our long trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan via Washington, D.C. and Frankfurt, Germany. At each stopover, we were lucky enough to have just enough time to reach our next gate for the next boarding. I spent most of the flights unconscious. At one point I fell asleep before we were allowed to adjust our seat backs and Ehler watched me sleep with my head lolling forwards and backwards. She adjusted my seat for me when this was allowed and I had no idea until she told me. During my few hours of consciousness, I outlined the DCTM manual on STAAR testing and read a few chapters in a brand new book from Summer, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. This book seemed really appropriate for my trip towards a country in the middle of a very cold, snowy winter.
We finally arrived in Almaty between 2 and 3 am Sunday morning, February 19. We passed through Customs and found our luggage with no problems. A driver met us and drove us to our hotel. Stephanie was wise enough to notice when our driver nearly dropped us off at the wrong hotel because she had thought to print out our hotel confirmation before we left on Friday. She was able to overcome a language barrier by showing our driver the printout and within a couple minutes we arrived at the correct place.
I was very happy to find that our hotel, the Sherapark Inn was very clean, comfortable and fancy. Nearly all the people working in the hotel’s guest services looked Asian, but spoke Russian. That combined with the way my key turned on the power in my hotel room made me feel like I was in a cold, Eastern European version of China. Due to all my sleep on the planes, I was only able to sleep a couple hours before our lunch meeting with our hosts at 1 pm later that day. During the hours I was awake, I drafted this blog article.
Sunday, February 20, 2017
At 1 pm, we met our main hostess, Tanya, and our driver in the hotel lobby. They drove us to a sky resort within the Mahalangur Range. This mountain range is famous due to Mount Everest. On the way to the resort, we learned a little about Tanya’s school. It is a private secondary pilot STEM school that will serve approximately 100 students when it opens. When we arrived at the resort, we look a sky lift up the mountain and met with our translators, Aray and Dasha, at a nice restaurant decorated like a wooden hunter’s lodge.
At the restaurant, Stephanie and I tasted horse meat for the first time. It was part of a delicious salad we ate at the start of a large lunch. We also drank hot expresso and thyme and ginger tea. These beverages were so soothing up on the cold cold mountain. We ate a delicious cheese-filled flatbread and also another good dish with lamb shops, sauce, and plain flatbread. Unfortunately, our inner fat kids, Kimmie and Sheila, were not up to the task of making significant progress in all our lunch courses. We ate until we were stuffed and there was still plenty of food left.
While eating, we got to know a little about Tanya, Dasha, and Aray. Our translators are cousins who grew up in Almaty and who speak very good English due to schooling abroad in Switzerland and Vancouver, Canada. Both looked Asian adding to my sense of being in a cold Russian version of China.
After our lunch, we went for a short, brisk walk around the resort. It was cool to be surrounded by so many skiers. If the slopes didn’t all look like black diamonds and if it hadn’t been about 20 years since I’d last skiied, I’d be tempted to try again.
We took the ski lift down with our hostesses and then drove back to the hotel. I was so jetlagged and full that I was passed out for nearly the whole car trip back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, Stephanie and I rested before meeting again to plan Day 1 of the ARIE training. During my rest time, I did some physics problems for fun from Shaum’s Outlines in College Physics. I also finished drafting this blog article.
To prep for our work meeting, Stephanie ordered room service like a boss. She ordered fruit, mushroom soup and a fancy ham and cheese sandwich with fries. The cream of mushroom soup was outstanding! She went all out on the room service because the exchange rate made all the food very reasonably priced. After eating, we looked over our Day 1 visuals and planned who would lead each session: we scheduled Stephanie to lead the Project Launch while I would lead the Project Ideation session. After we settled this, I spent some time in her room grading and publishing this blog article because her internet was working faster than in my room.
When I returned to my room, I found out that the internet still worked well, so I finished grading all my students’ grant proposals. I had to leave fairly detailed comments because I will not be able to give them in person feedback prior to the end of the trimester due to this trip. I updated the linked rubric chart above so that students could visually see what rubric parts they earned full (green square) and partial (yellow square) credit. Later I will copy paste the scores hidden behind these squares via Conditional Formatting into companion score sheets in order to generate my students’ project grades.