Written by Miriam Orsini
After a regenerating breakfast of eggs and chai tea prepared by Jamila and served in our cosy kitchen, we went for a walk around the dig house and were introduced to a beautiful study room, which would soon become our research and lab room.
As we were all incredibly tired after an interminable journey through the Kazakh steppe, we all went for a snooze until lunch time. After lunch and a shower we felt ready for a stroll around town. Shaulder, the village where the dig house where we are staying is located, is a very small village. Still, it has a number of shops, a Mosque, a museum, a few restaurants and a number of monuments.
Locals in Shaulder are very friendly and appear to be fascinated by the presence of tourists in the village, as well as amused by our total incapacity to speak either Russian or Kazakh. However limited our interaction with them - limited to waving and being waved at, smiling and being smiled back at, and mostly being honked by cars - we immediately felt welcomed by everyone. Being brave people and determined to defeat the limits of our obvious linguistic barriers, we felt confident enough to walk into a few shops in search of supplies, towels, and mosquitoes nets!
Whereas some of us were successful in their search of towels, which were on display in a shop (easy to point at!) my search for a mosquito net miserably ended, when after a few attempts, I decided that being eaten alive by insects would be less painful than keep trying to mimic a mosquito net. On our way back to the dig house we went past a memorial park, which displayed some pictures of Kazakh life, a beautiful bronze book with Islamic inscriptions and, to our disbelief, a monument displaying penguins and jumping dolphins, in desperate need of conservation. Unfortunately, we never found out the meaning of this particular monument. Still, we massively enjoyed it.
Back at the dig house we went back to our room to finish unpacking and as if our few days here in Kazakhstan hadn’t been already exciting enough, we were hit by a sand storm! We stayed in our rooms for a few hours, hoping that the thatched roofs of our houses would cope with the wind. Luckily they did.
After spending the evening chatting and relaxing, we embraced our insect repellents and went to bed, rather early, being still jet lagged, sleep deprived and due to wake up at 4am for our first day of excavation, but nonetheless very excited to finally see the site and start digging and conserving!