26.7.15: Flight to Almaty
At 3am, I dragged myself out of bed, gathered the final remaining things scattered around my room (toothbrush, retainer, laptop, phone, chargers), checked that my passport and wallet were with me, and set off for KLIA at 4am. Despite having to work at 9am, my father drove me straight to the airport, a 2.5 hours drive either way, while I slept snugly in the passenger seat.
I arrived at the airport, texted the group, and found out that Jen Khai was already there. I met up with him at a gate nearby, and said goodbye to my father. After a brief conversation, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t yet had breakfast, so we head off to McDonald’s for a bite. After I get my food, Chris and Jia Jen arrive, and the team was thus assembled!
At 8am we meet up with Shien Jin and head to the counter for check-in. To our surprise, it was still not open, even though the flight was schedule to depart at 10:55 and it was already less than 3 hours before that happened. After some jokes about how this would be a precursor for Kazakhstan, we went to a dim sum place nearby for breakfast with Shien Jin’s parents, where the four of us spent the next hour trying to convince them that we’d already had breakfast and wouldn’t need much more food.
At 9am, we meet Mark and try the check-in counter again, and get our boarding passes. We were extremely disappointed that we didn’t get adjacent seats.😦
At the security checkpoint we took a group photo.
We made our way to the gate and note that the plane was pretty small.
Half an hour into the flight, Jen Khai comes over and tells me that there’s a vacant seat next to him, after which I promptly move. The flight to Almaty from Kuala Lumpur took 8 hours, but since it was a daytime flight, we didn’t get much sleep. Instead, we worked on the IOI practice tasks (divide and graph), discussed some IOI problems from 2014, watched a Russian movie, and looked at the pretty terrain as we flew past them.
When we arrived, we breezed through customs because Malaysia was (surprisingly) one of just ten countries for which a travel visa was waived! At the baggage carousel, we saw some other teams, but only knew the Singaporeans. Outside, we met a few other teams, Taiwan and Hong Kong, while waiting for the bus to depart.
Upon arrival at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, our host for the week, we were very impressed by the playground facing the dormitories. Apparently, see-saws and slides are of some use to university students. We checked into our rooms, and then headed off for dinner. Here’s a view from our room:
Here was our first taste of Kazakh food. We had an interesting dinner trying to figure out what we were putting in our mouths, because this was also when we realized that there was a pretty substantial language barrier between us and the food servers. For instance, we didn’t know whether the meatloaf thing was chicken, beef, or…horsemeat? In any case, the food was better than I expected, and the same was true for the rest of the meals throughout the week. It was good.
During dinner, we were asked by multiple people about our guide, which we hadn’t met yet. This spurred a few industrious, official-looking people to go around trying to get us a guide, while trying to tell us to stay in the dining hall, which wasn’t a problem since we were still eating. After a while, we meet Allan, our guide for the week. Allan asks us if we want to go and dance, but we decide to return to our rooms. We then register and get our goodies:
When we first saw our rooms in the afternoon, we lamented the lack of air-conditioning and fans, but thought it would be OK because the weather was supposedly very cold at night. As it turns out, 20+ degrees Celcius isn’t actually very cold, and we go to bed in shorts and tees, sweating a little as our first day in Almaty drew to a close.