Having broken up for the summer holidays in mid-June (much later than the end of May when most Kazakh government schools end their school year) I have had a busy holiday visiting friends and family around the world.
It is a great time to catch up with everyone and enjoy some of the things I miss living in Astana, such as good coffee and modern transport system, as well as my morning run around Bovisand!!
Being able to run outside is something that I have greatly missed in Astana. The winter months are too cold and icy to run outside and in the summer it has been too hot. I am sure the more hardened runners would not mind and I must admit to seeing members of the wrestling and boxing teams of Kazakhstan wrapped up running along the riverside at all times of day and night and in all weathers!
We are lucky to have a really nice landlord in Astana. It is fairly easy to find a flat to rent in Astana but we were fortunate to have ours found by the school before we arrived.
I also discovered we were fortunate as the other flats in our block were double the price due to the fact they are rented to foreign companies who pay the rent for their employees and families. If you want to rent a flat then you need to employ a Maklar (or broker) who will do the footwork for you. They then take 10% in commission from both parties or a set fee. They organise a contract which both sides sign (though as I have never had any problems, I am not really sure how legitimate these are!).
Our landlord is a retired Kazakh who, with his wife, seems to be quite happy with us as tenants! So much so, that whenever there is a problem it is fixed the next day. In the winter we realised that there was a draft coming through the windows and when the temperatures got to -40 we ended up sleeping in the sitting room, which seemed to be the warmest place in the flat! But I rang the landlord and came home to find a small man hanging out of the window, nine floors up, fitting new frames.
My flatmate and I discussed whether we should remain in the appartment for the next school year and decided it was the best option considering the prices being asked for similar flats. Older Soviet flats are available from 400 dollars and up. These are often further away from the centre and have not been re-furbished in a European style (as adverts like to boast). However, two or three bedroomed, modern apartments are around 3000 dollars so for the sake of another bathroom, which was our only requirement, we decided to stay put.
Our landlord was happy to have us stay and did a good deal over the summer so we could just leave everything there! Arriving on the Austrian airlines flight at 6am I was rather concerned about what would be awaiting me in Astana and my flat.
We had heard there had been a big storm during July, with flash floods and windows blown in all over the city! Upon opening the door it appeared I was stepping into the Astana bug’s graveyard – black shiny carcasses lay all over the flat. The only other problem was an open window, which had probably been the cause of the beetles, also meaning our flat was covered in a layer of black dirt from the city pollution. I thought of all the other problems we could have had and was thankful I could deal with these with a vacuum cleaner!