Sunday, March 9, 2014

We've moved

Written by Robyn on February 10, 2014, but neglected to post until now.

Yes, we're still in Kazakhstan. But we have changed apartments after 2 months.

While there were things we  liked about our former apartment, it had been completely renovated before we moved in. Before we moved in that sounded like a good thing. But after living there we realized it was unfortunate.

Astana, being such a new city, does not yet have a high level of service available, and there is a dearth of competent workers - as in plumbers, builders, electricians, tilers. What that meant for us was a number of things that didn't work, including some essentials. Drains that wouldn't drain. A brand-new dishwasher that didn't work. An enormous television that was useless. Of even greater concern was that every few days we would encounter new problems, some of them nervewracking (cracking and sinking shower floor!), leaving us to wonder what else would disintegrate.

When we asked our landlady to fix these problems, she would make a fuss, and eventually decide it was too much trouble and she was going to sell the apartment instead of trying to manage it. We had a one year lease, but that didn't seem to matter.  Regardless, we didn't push back, considering ourselves lucky to be out of the place and the problems that we hadn't yet discovered. And, on to find another apartment.

On the up side:  Kevin and I were able to look at places together and choose something that suits both of us. And, it was a little bit of sightseeing to tour new buildings in new neighborhoods.  We also had the benefit of a few weeks on the ground. Not long, but it gave us some sense of what location we'd like to be in. and a perspective of what type of apartment we'd be more comfortable in.

On the down side: while we had help moving through my company, we had the hassle of moving again, in sub-Arctic temperatures, and this time without the assistance of professional packers and movers. While not a full move -- we moved from one furnished apartment to another just a few blocks away -- there were still our 8 suitcases, 12 boxes' worth of air freighted items  and groceries to pack, transport and unpack.

The move itself took less than 2 hours to transfer our belongings from one place to another, with help provided by some locals. But after all the packing and unpacking of the last few months it's taken about 3 weeks to gather steam to empty all the suitcases and boxes.  Last one finished last night.

But we are much more comfortable in the new place. We ended up in an apartment that had been owner-occupied, which means that things work (well, for the most part). and there are hooks in the places we want them. and lights where we want them. We'll do a virtual tour of the new digs at some point. but here's a sneak preview of some of our oh-so-snazzy lights.
Kazakh style
How many times have you moved lately? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Women's Day

Posted by Robyn.

I had no idea.

Sure, I've heard of International Women's Day. and thought it was a Soviet relic of a holiday...celebrated perhaps with parades of women, marching in rows of healthy, smiling damsels wearing neck kerchiefs, and a few special honorees receiving small wildflower bouquets from a dear leader.


I was wrong!

This is a fun, and quite modern holiday in Kazakhstan.

For one, it is a national holiday and as often as possible made into a long weekend. This year it falls on Saturday, March 8, and Monday is a day off.

For two, Men Take It Seriously.  My male colleagues produced flowers, boxes of chocolates as well as cake and adult beverages to honor their three female colleagues (on Thursday, a day early, because they were all going away to spend the long weekend with their wives).  And today, Friday, Astana restaurants were full of women being treated to lunch by their male colleagues.

For three, women take it seriously! Kevin was advised by his female classmates that he should plan to really celebrate his wife, and it wouldn't hurt for him to remember the ladies in class at their next session, either. and I was given a gift by my assistant - and to my complete surprise, I was given flowers by her best friend!
I'm experiencing Women's Day in Kazakhstan as a combination of Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Secretary's Administrative Professionals Day all rolled into one.

The first tulips are from Kazakhstan, too
Did you know it has its own website?  where I learned that "International Women's Day is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers."

Do try this at home!

Have you ever celebrated Women's Day?