Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adjusting to Astana - Monday, 5 October 2009

Adjusting to Astana
After school the principal drove Valerie, Sophia and I to a school supply store to buy us teacher supplies (and for me to buy Sophia school supplies). We had a nice drive past the Bayterek monument, which is the tall "white latticed tower crowned by a large golden orb." (Thank you, Lonely Planet, for helping me describe it!) This is, perhaps, to Astana what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, although not as tall as the Eiffel Tower--although quite a tall structure, and great for views of the city. You can see Bayterek form our apartment, although it is far away.

The buildings in the new downtown (south of the river, where we went) are amazing. We parked not far from the Bayterek and two tall gold buildings. Valerie, who recently worked in the UAE, commented that someone had told her that Astana is a lot like Dubai. Her reaction, however, was that Astana is better than Dubai--same amazing architecture, slightly more trees (still very few!) Still a work in progress, and everywhere you go you see cranes, and buildings are being built.

Our walk to school takes us out of our tall apartment building, next to one that is being built, and about half a mile down a dirt road. On our left are large two-story houses, many still being built, on our right are some houses, some shacks, and mostly flat dirt. We pass by scruffy looking dogs and large crows, all to the delight of Sophia, who attempts to mimic them.

At the school supply store, I was disappointed with the prices. I bought Sophia a bookbag that was 30% off--for $25!!! It was a cheap plastic Barbie one, similar to what you might buy at Wal-Mart. I didn't buy her an $8 pencil case, she can do without. I learned that they do not understand me when I ask for paper with holes it in; I must buy a hole-puncher with my binders. When I started to ask for lined paper, Valerie told me to not even bother, we can right fine on un-lined paper.

So much for Astana being cheap. Valerie recently bought pants, they were $40 each, she was not happy with the prices. In America, if you know where to shop and you look for the deals, you can find pants for cheaper than that. We were told that one of the benefits of moving to Astana on a Western salary was that it is cheap!

After the store, we walked home from school and Valerie showed me the store where I could get a SIM card for my phone. Then Sophia and I went to the grocery store. At this point we were absolutely exhausted. The bookbags and pencil bags there were cheaper (although they only had Winnie the Pooh and Twilight bookbags left, neither of which Sophia would want), but the stuffed animals weren't cheap and Sophia accepted my no.

She passed out watching Cartoon Network in Russian not long after we returned home. She had woken up around 1 am that morning and hadn't fully fallen asleep, so she was exhausted. Maybe finally she'll be over jet lag!

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