Saturday, October 3, 2015


Back when Zoltan was in sadik last year, Sensei Talgat came every week to teach karate to the kids. A friend of ours also brought her son to the studio where he taught for additional lessons. Before we went home for the summer we brought Zoltan there, once for a lesson and once to test for his orange belt.

He is a completely different child on the mat. He is focused, hardworking, serious.  Today the kids went together for the first time, Alex in her white belt and with two friends who are also giving it a go; Zoltan was especially proud to be the interpreter and, as a more senior student, to help out.

The lesson is in late afternoon, so by the time they were done with the rigorous workout (I wanted to jump into class!) they were exhausted and starving. They ate dinner with practically no complaint - a rarity, especially for a new dish.  We're all loving karate!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A very big week for Zoltan

Two wonderful things happened this week:  One, Zoltan was his class' Star of the Week. Then Sunday night his very first tooth, that had been wiggling for weeks, finally came out!  It turns out he does have the same tooth fairy as Alex (we weren't sure) so he got a new toothbrush and a few hundred tenge - apparently this tooth fairy has kept up with currency fluctuations and knew the tenge is worth less now than when Alex lost her last tooth.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thank you internet

Because of the internet, and the ridiculously low (comparative) cost of nuts in central Asia, I have started making cashew milk rather than worry about shipping in enough boxes of rice milk, and expiration dates, and nobody even likes it all that much anyway.

Because of cashew nut milk becoming a regular staple, and doing some experimenting with the recipe (more sweet vs. more savory), I have come up with a version of the milk that I decided would be a good cow's milk substitute for Alex's favorite, birthday-request dinner - that she hasn't tasted in two years.

It turned out delicious.  I have a very happy little girl who will scarf this down tomorrow night while the rest of us eat enchiladas smothered in cheese.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

He's turning British

Within 24 hours of beginning school at his British school, this was the conversation I had with my son:

Me: Zoltan, did you leave your sweatshirt at school?
Zoltan: My what?
Me: Your sweatshirt.
Zoltan: Yes mommy, I left my jumper in my locker.

Of all the Britishisms I love, and there are many, jumper is the solitary one I can't stand. It gives me scary flashbacks of that unfortunate skirt/overalls combo wardrobe item too many poor little girls had to wear in the 1970s.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


The kids are junior archers! A couple of weeks ago we went into the steppe for a picnic and for them to practice shooting the bow.  When they focused on what they were doing, they did a pretty good job hitting the target.  Especially Alex. She got competitive when Zoltan hit the target first.
Not pictured here are the lovely rows of trees, clearly planted rather than rising on their own, that we wandered through when they took breaks. And the farmer and his cows that appeared at the end of the lane around the time we finished for the day.

We went back this weekend  for more practice. My little princess wore her pretty dress, and hooked the quiver into the elastic waist of the leggings we made her wear to protect her legs.  Her aim is getting better and better.  Zoltan ... well when he actually aims he hits the target. We should have a few more chances to go out before the winter hits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We were supposed to go camping last weekend. The weather was turning up perfect, and we figured it was the last (and first) chance this year to go. We had everything packed up. We had the shashlik we'd make for dinner all marinading in the fridge. And then the menfolk (male-folk?) each came up with a medical reason that the trip would not happen.  So since we couldn't bring Mohammed to the mountain, we brought the mountain to Mohammed. Translation: We set up the tent in Zoltan's room. And then the kids and I slept there overnight. Before bed we turned all the lights off and let them put on the headlamps we'd gotten for camping. You would have thought we'd gotten them a puppy and gave them chocolate cake for breakfast and dinner the way they squealed and cheered.  We do still hold out hope of getting that tent outside...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day of Knowledge

September 1, the Day of Knowledge, is a traditional first day of school in at least two countries where I have lived (Russia and Kazakhstan).  Today the kids met their teachers, listened to a lot of speeches, and then went home by lunchtime. Tomorrow will be the first real day of school.

We're happy that Alex's class is pretty much still together, and one of the very few new kids is another American!

Zoltan snagged a class with several friends, so although he was nervous and grumpy, we think he will settle into class faster than if he'd been with a full slate of strangers. Of course, one thing that makes it easier is that we don't bring him in - he rides the bus - so he can't cling too much.

Alex, in Key Stage 2, now has to wear the blazer and house tie. Appropriately, we just watched Harry Potter 2 over the weekend so she liked pointing out the similarities in attire. Edmonstone is most like Ravenclaw because it has blue. (And Ravenclaw is the house for the cleverest pupils ... and, you know ...) Sadly, Haileybury has no cloaks. I'd dig cloaks. I wouldn't even complain about the ridiculous prices if it were for cloaks.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A perfect date

Early in the week we booked the babysitter. 7:00 pm on Friday evening we're still bantering back and forth "where do you want to go"? We decide to try Trattoria, an Italian restaurant in Highvill where I have had several business lunches but have never had a real meal.

The night was stunning (and of course the camera was at home), we weren't starving, so we decided to go for a walk first. Somehow a year in we had never ventured into the Pyramid Park, but this was certainly not the last trip!  We spent about 45 minutes strolling the grounds, watching the fountains, and checking out different angles for possible future family photos with Astana backgrounds.

At the restaurant the waitress spoke excellent English. She asked if we wanted our pasta al dente or soft.  When she forgot our water she remembered on her own and was appropriately apologetic.  When I did not finish the dinner she asked if anything was wrong with the dish: "Really, you can tell me. If it wasn't good we want to know." (it was tasty, just too much food). I have rarely experienced this level of customer service outside USA or Japan. We tipped heavily.

The food was also good. The pesto was fresh, they used generous quantities of fresh mozzarella on the brushetta. Terry's carbonara sauce tasted more like a light alfredo so it was a surprise but actually the dish was a bit better than mine. His strudel didn't look much like a strudel but tasted just right. All in all we'd go back on the rare night we're in the mood for Italian food.

After driving home we decided to go for a walk around the Baiterek to digest some of that dinner and were amazed how many kids were still out so late in the evening. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dinnertime, foreign service style

Last night for dinner we had steaks, snow peas, and baked potato. Halfway through the meal Terry looked at me and said "You know, these peas cost more than the steaks."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Polite society

Kazakhstanis are known for kindness, generosity and tolerance.  Here's something I am really getting used to and will miss when we move on.  When you let someone into traffic, or quite frankly even when they cut you off, they put on their hazard lights for a few blinks to say "thank you."  It turns out that being acknowledged for doing something for someone, even if they forced you to do it, reduces stress and road rage by 50% (using my very non-scientific method of asking Terry and mentally rating how I feel.)