Although I live abroad I do try to keep up with news in the UK and most days try to skim through the online versions of UK newspapers or stick on BBC world news of an evening. The longer I am in Kazakhstan, though, the more I realise that don’t know half the celebrities featured in the articles!
A few weeks back a friend from the British Embassy passed on a large pile of women’s magazines! As I flicked through them, I once more realised that I had no idea who the people on the pages were. Various ‘celebrities’ who are only famous in the UK and have never been heard of in Kazakhstan.
Here there are so many local stars and Russian stars that they are often more popular than international celebrities.
On New Year’s Eve, as we watched all the New Year shows from Moscow, my local friends asked if I knew the various singers and actors who appeared on screen. I had to admit to only knowing one singer (Alla Pugachova) and recognised a bearded Russian singer, who was possibly married to her at some point! They were shocked I hadn’t heard of most of them, as to them, these people were as famous as Bruce Forsyth is to us!
The news does include some events happening in the UK, but watching and reading the UK news it seems the weather is still a major headline.
I have been watching with amusement on Facebook the posting of snow-dusted back gardens and the news that schools have been closed for ‘snow days’.
In Astana, this month, the temperature has risen and fallen dramatically. Some days it has been as warm as -2°C others as cold as -30°C. This has meant that we have had regular heavy snow falls and blizzards as the winds whip across the Steppe and therefore the city. Older buildings are warm inside but often newer buildings suffer as they are made from poor quality materials which are not up to the job of protecting us from such temperatures.
My colleague’s bedroom window has cracked across the middle, and I went to close my balcony window the other evening, only for it to snap off in my hand as it had become brittle from the constant change in temperature.
We are also struggling to get around the city at times. The other night it took two hours and nine different taxi firms to get a cab to pick us up as all the vehicles were out or had broken down in the freezing temperatures. The other morning, driving through the blizzard to school, we got caught behind a bus which had got stuck in the snow. We managed to get around it and drive the last kilometre to the school entrance, where we had to get out due to the 2m high piles if snow blocking the road. When we got there we saw our colleagues with skis on their back. They had wanted to ski to school but because it was too deep, caught the bus, which in turn got stuck in the deep snow (as we had witnessed) so they ended up having to walk.
The school finally seems to have got a firm in to move the snow from the grounds so we are surrounded by forklifts collecting the snow and loading it on to trucks, to take it away and dump on the Steppe! The children still go out to play at lunchtime and all bring their sledges with them to play on the man-made slope in the centre of the play area. Lunchtimes and afterschool activities now include skiing on the track created in a loop around the play area. When I see the snow falling heavily and the icicles hanging from the rooves, I am just pleased I don’t have playground duty and can stay warm in my classroom! though this is an odd experience when the heating is on as I end up wearing short-sleeved blouses and sandals as it is so hot!
I do have to remind myself that it is of course only January and February is notoriously the cold month – so I am just pleased to be heading off to Oman for my yearly break from the crazy temperatures and weather conditions!