Friday, August 5, 2016

The upgrade

Dear Business Class,

You've changed in the years since we hung out together regularly.  Mostly, for the better. Back in the day I could sleep in any airplane seat, but these days I truly appreciate that fold-flat feature. Sorry none of us slept any more than usual (1-2 hours) even with your full sized, comfy pillow, full sized, warm blanket, and, again, the fold flat.  The extra attention from staff; real plates, glasses, and cutlery; and fruit (twice, once as a snack and once with breakfast!!) were a huge hit. I'm a little embarrassed to mention how baffled the remote control for the TV made me, but seriously, there was nothing to indicate that little square was a motion sensor in addition to being a "select" button. The noise-cancelling headphones gave me an actual shock when I unknowingly put them on and the roar of the engine immediately ceased. I've never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, and didn't understand the hype.

There were three of us to upgrade, so I was relatively confident it wouldn't come through, and thought to my self it was probably for the best; for all my life advantages I never flew business class until I was an adult and maybe this was just one step too far towards creating pampered, jaded children/future adults.  But they were properly excited and thrilled with each feature, and the trip was so much more comfortable, and we came off the plane like slightly tired human being rather than stinky, grumpy zombies. I am now thinking we may need to do more of this!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Happy Anniversary, once again we suck

It is 8:43pm. My mom and I were trying to arrange an online chat, and she was having so many problems with it I finally said don't worry, we're putting the kids to bed so no need to keep trying. She wrote back "Happy anniversary."

D'oh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terry and I were married 11 years ago today (can you even believe it has been so long??).  Apparently, we live the adage - it's the marriage, not the wedding. This is definitely the latest in the day we have ever gotten before remembering our anniversary, and it doesn't even count because neither of us remembered.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

More Mcguyver

In typical Soviet fashion, we received a message this afternoon from the kids' summer camp that tomorrow is the talent show/party and everyone should bring some food or drink to share.

We packed out earlier this week, so we have very close to nothing at all in the house both food- and implement-wise.

We do still have chocolate chips.

Each of the two tin foil pieces used to line the baking sheet used to house a loaf of bread in the freezer. They are both now completely destroyed and fit only for the bin.  There is no brown sugar in the mix. All the white flour is now gone, so the pancakes I planned to make to use up the maple syrup will have to be made with 100% whole wheat flour.

I love moving.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Best. Packout. Ever.

11 boxes of air freight (65lb underweight) and 219 boxes of ship freight (almost 2000lb underweight) later, with a total of 6 suitcases and 4 carry-ons for 4 people, we have crossed a threshold.

Ten men came through my home like whirlwinds, like a finely choreographed dance, and packed, weighed, labeled, moved and paperwork'd all to finish at the same time. Did things get packed that shouldn't have? Sure, but in all cases it was our fault - we forgot to set those things aside. Is any of it critical?  Nope.

Our house now echoes with vast emptiness. Last night, our first night in pared-down surroundings, we went out to eat as at that time we hadn't unpacked the welcome kit. It will be interesting to see how the children entertain themselves with only the toys they had selected to bring in their suitcases (plus several bonus games I'd squirreled away)


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I wrote a book!

Well, OK, not exactly. What I did do was write a chapter in a book. Still a pretty big deal to me (and, I'm sure, to my mom).

A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis is a compilation of stories about travel, foreign countries, and food - topics that many foreign service officers (myself firmly in this camp) sometimes get a little obsessive about.  I am so incredibly grateful to Tales From a Small Planet editors who invited me to join this group of much more accomplished writers, and give my my first, and perhaps not only, taste of publishing.




Sunday, July 17, 2016

We went to the beach today



Anyone who knows Astana geography knows there is no beach for a good 3 hours' drive. And I certainly did not drive 3 hours each way today to get to a beach. I took a gigantic shortcut.

Khan Shatyr looks like a half-falling down tent, created by famed architect Norman Foster.  It is, in fact, a shopping mall.   As a counterpoint to Dubai's indoor skiing, Astana boasts a beach on the top floor.  We had been meaning to check it out for almost the entire 23 months we have lived here and for one reason or another never made it.  Today, we rectified that.

The sand for the beach was imported from the Maldives.  The SkyBeach has two pool areas, one is a gently sloping beach-like wave pool, with two waterslides next to it (the slides drop off into a tiny pool that patrons are expected to quickly depart after splashing in).  The other pool has a lengthy sandy "shore" about 5 inches below water, but that is essentially a shelf and you abruptly enter the pool from there at full depth. This section of beach is also studded with a rainbow of rocks and pebbles.

The kids had the best time ever. We stayed way longer than I thought we would. They were so worn out tonight there was no talk of stretching bedtime just a little bit longer.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Breaking up is Hard to Do

... no, no, don't worry, Terry and I are fine.

With 5 weeks to go in my tour things are winding down. Many of my kids' friends - whose parents are often our friends - have started leaving for their summer holidays, only to return after we've left.  My kids spent the last couple of weeks bickering with their friends more often and some friendships ended on such terms that there was no goodbye. Cultural differences I used to think enriched out experiences, and even found endearing at times, are grating on my nerves and offending my sensibilities. We're starting a lot of sentences with "When we are in the USA..." and "When we get to Germany..."

We all know the end is nearing, and it is easier to say goodbye if we are also saying "good riddance."

It isn't you, Astana. It's us. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Idiosyncracies

I had a business trip this week that required me to overnight in a hotel. 

This was sitting on a shelf above the mini-bar, right next to the complimentary bottle of water.

While this was not my room, my room's door was strikingly similar.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Finishing with Panache

Open apology to my mother's mah jjong and canasta groups - Sorry, my mother is going to be insufferable for the next week. I'm sure you have all had your turn as well.

Today was "Speech Day" at Haileybury, where award were given and speeches made. Alex, it turns out, won the academic excellence award for her class - she was the top student (pupil, as the British say). She accepted her award and medal in front of the assembled students (pupils) and parents.  For various logistical reasons, she was actually the very first child to receive her award.

Well done, Alex!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The First Farewell

We have friends whose kids attend a school with a more Kazakhstani schedule. That means school's out!  They head home for the summer later this week. When they return to Astana in August we will be gone.  We had them over for brunch this morning. When we said goodbye we knew that we didn't know where or when in the world we'd ever meet again in person (but, thank you internet) but that it wasn't going to be in Astana.

The leave taking begins.

:-(