Sunday, May 4, 2014

And... we're back

Written by Robyn and Kevin.

We know we've neglected our blog for the last several weeks, but have some new stories and adventures to share in the coming weeks, and some practical tips for living in Astana.

A few highlights:

Spring has arrived in Astana.  We were out of the country for two weeks.  When we left, the river was frozen and snow was on the ground.

When we came back it was suddenly spring.  Tomorrow's forecast is for 86 degrees F (30 degrees C). The city is looking very different without a mantle of white. Trees are budding and some are just barely starting to leaf out. The snow and ice of winter that turned to puddles of water and mud that we just became used to dodging while walking the sidewalks have now turned to dust on the frost-heaved pavers.

We're sorry to share that it was family events that took us out of town.  Kevin's father passed away on April 6, after several months of declining health.  And, in an incredible coincidence, Robyn's grandmother passed away, at the age of 98, while we were in New York, so we returned to KZ after two funerals instead of just one. We miss both of them every day.

Just prior to traveling to the US, we took a quick trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to renew visas. We have yet to experience a more diverse place. Our flight back from the Emirates consisted of Uighurs sitting in front of us (square embroidered hats on the men, flowered silk scarves on the women), two women in black burkas a few rows back, an urban Kazakh family to our right (tank tops and skinny jeans), German businessmen immediately behind, and an older couple with covered heads sharing our row.  Just an example of what you might encounter on a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

There's been one more move in our Astana lives. Not another apartment this time, but my (Robyn) office has moved from the Diplomat Hotel business center.  We had this amazing view, but no steady internet, truly a requirement for doing business these days.
Former office view
View from the new office (a hint of a riverview)
Thus, my colleagues and I have traded the new city for the old, moving to the other side of the river to the business center at the Radisson hotel. As the weather is milder the longer commute is fine (now a 15 minute drive instead of a 5 minute walk).

And, we survived the winter.  Perhaps that's the biggest news of all.  While it wasn't easy, it wasn't as bad as we had feared, not least of which is because it is almost always sunny.  No mountains or ocean to keep in or change the weather, just the winds across the Steppe blowing away the clouds.  So the winter is cold, but it's not often gray, a pleasant surprise for these transplanted Los Angelenos used to a daily dose of sunshine.

One thing that doesn't seem to be changing...the wind. It is almost always windy in Astana.

More from Astana soon.  Thanks for "tuning" back in.


  1. Hi R & K,
    Sorry to hear about your losses.
    Thank you very much for the beautiful pictures. We are glad to hear that in the end the Astana winter was not as bad as you feared. It reminds me of a good friend of mine who last week looked at me and in a very concerned tone asked: "Are you sure you guys thoroughly thought your move to KZ?"

  2. The "old view" from the office is much nicer, but you're there to work, not look out the window, so I guess it doesn't really matter, right?