After a relaxing summer in Plymouth, here I am again off on my travels! Although they are not really travels in the strictest sense of the world. I actually go to these countries to work and earn a living! This time I have done an about-turn and have come back to the fairly unknown country of Kazakhstan, where I was working a few years ago. I say unknown, but thanks to the 2006 Borat film most people think they know what the country is like! It is of course, nothing like the film’s depiction! The country is the 9th biggest country in the world, with a diverse landscape and most of the world’s natural resources. Many of the world’s richest people live (or at least come from) here and many cities visibly display these levels of wealth.
This time, I have ventured north to the country’s originally named capital Astana (Astana being the Kazakh word for capital), the second coldest capital in the world after UlaanBatur in Mongolia. I spent two years in the previous capital, Almaty, before I moved to Kuwait so I knew what was awaiting me, but still decided that I do not like living in the desert and needed to be back where I would be required to wear a fur coat five months of the year!
Astana became the capital of the newly independent Kazakhstan 20 years ago this year and has been expanding ever since. It was a strange choice for a capital in that it is located in the flat steppe, in the north of the counrty, on the banks of the river Ishim, near the Russian border (well, perhaps not that strange then!)
It has less than 1 million inhabitants at present, although businesses and embassies are all slowly relocating here. The fact that it is so new and having so much investment, makes for a bright, clean, modern city (although the joys of the communist architecture are easy to find in the older parts of town).
My move to Astana started back in Hooe in July when Pickfords turned up to pick up all my bags to ship them the 3,200 miles to their new home in Astana.
When I left a month later, it involved a six hour flight from London, via Frankfurt. We arrived into the small terminal at Astana airport late in the evening and, despite being the capital, there were very few people arriving with us.
Trying to get paperwork together for Kuwait had been so difficult. It involved various trips to solicitors, the Kuwait embassy and to the FCO office in Milton Keynes plus large sums of money. For Kazakhstan the visa had, unusually, come through in a week and we breezed through customs to find our luggage already waiting for us! An amazing achievement for a country known for its bureaucracy.
We walked out in to, what we had expected to be, a freezing evening to find the temperatures comfortably above 20°C and as is the custom with international schools, were met by our new headmaster. We drove through the dark city, occasionally being blinded by the colourful, plastic trees and bright neon lights of the shopping malls and were finally delivered to our new appartment, to find Pickfords had done their job well and our bags were waiting for us!