I finally got to sleep 15 minutes before landing. The sun was up it was 8:30 in the morning (4:30 a.m. U.K. time) and the airport looked like an abandoned industrial estate with one dilapidated shed on it. I grabbed by hand luggage and followed everyone else walking across what I suppose was the airfield towards the wire fence where people were waiting to greet them.
A random guy said my name (at least I thought so, I could have misheard) and like the sensible person I am I happily followed him, after all I was expecting to be met, though I had no idea by who. He started to lead me towards the car park at which point I felt it wise to ask where I should collect my luggage. Lucky I mentioned it as he hadn’t thought about that. Once my 1 suitcase and backpack were collected we loaded them and ourselves into a minibus with another random guy at the wheel. As the minibus door was being closed yet another random guy tried to barge on board. I get the impression he was some sort of vagrant and the driver and greeter were emphatic in denying him entry and firmly shut the door. Since then I’ve realised there is a very informal “taxi” system around these parts so it probably wasn’t so odd.
I feared for the vehicle, its contents and all other beings on the road during the short drive to my new lodgings, so much so I felt the need to look up the traffic related deaths statistics for Kazakhstan. It was no surprise to find its several times higher than Europe and well above average for the world, so that’s good to know.
My greeter finally introduced himself as N__. He teaches English though he has never been to an English speaking country, so he must have worked hard to get to that level. He offered to meet me at 12:00 to help me get a sim card and cash out. I thought I had better take him up on the offer despite my desire to sleep.
I was handed over to my new landlord who led me to my new apartment and his mother who had evidently been finishing off the cleaning. You would not believe the decor of the place, every wall and rug was a different colour and pattern, it was quite something to behold. It was officially the biggest place I had lived in on my own. Admittedly the only other place I’d lived in alone was my boat, so it wasn’t a massive accomplishment. The landlord’s wife had baked me 4 different cake type items and I was told I would be invited to dine with them in a week or so which I thought was very sweet of them (p.s. this never happened).
My apartment consisted of:
- A kitchen with 1 table and 4 stools. 1 pan, 1 mug, 1 spoon, 2 knives and 2 forks, 1 glass oven dish and several glass plates and bowls.
- A large double bedroom with balcony.
- A large living room containing 1 long sofa and 1 small TV.
- 1 toilet.
- 1 bathroom.
- Several large wardrobe type cupboards,
- A large hallway,
- 1 spacious other room I like to call the ironing room containing 1 chair, 1 cupboard and an ironing board set up. I don’t believe in ironing.
I stripped out of my sweaty travel clothes (as soon as they had left, not while they were there obviously), climbed into bed and slept for 2 hours before getting up to go and sort out my life. N__ was very helpful and got me set up with a Kazakh sim card so I was reassuringly connected to the internet wherever I went from then on (data and minutes etc. are super cheap out here). My Revolut card as usual thoroughly impressed me by being fully functional in any cash machine getting me interbank rates as I withdrew some money. Then with cash and a sim card sorted I did a spot of shopping before heading home. Then going shopping again as I had forgotten a lot of things.
Things I didn’t bring with but wish I had
- A towel
- A hairbrush – oops
- A white sheet – for my projector
- Home foods – the supermarkets don’t look very international to say the least
- Milk and cereal – just in case all else fails
- Pasta and tomato puree – a safe bet
- Cheese spread and bread – easy lunch solution
- Blanket – to snuggle up on the sofa and watch TV
- Water – the tap water tastes bad and I’m not convinced it’s safe to drink
- Onion, potatoes and peas – it seemed sensible
After settling in for the night, and unpacking everything into a very small portion of the storage available I video called my parents and one of my brothers to show off my still fit and healthy person and also my unusually decorated home. Shattered by this point I decided to eat my packed sandwiches for tea followed by the cakes I had been gifted.
The cakes tasted awful.
I ate chocolate buttons instead.