Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Astana These Days

We're leaving soon for the holidays (yay!) so I thought I'd write a post on some of the things that have happened around here lately.  I don't always get to post a lot on what I'm doing because, frankly, a lot of what I do involves work, and there is a lot about work that is best left unposted, in my opinion.

1.  Christmas decorations abound.  This surprised me, especially because Kazakhstan is a majority Muslim country.  Even more surprising was that I started seeing Christmas decorations right after Halloween, kind of like in the US.  Malls and shopping centers are big here, so I think commercialization plays a role, but I've also seen decorations outside of retail establishments.

Okay, this isn't a great picture, but maybe you can see some of the decorations.

2.  Winter has set in.  It's much colder here than I would like.  We haven't gotten any of the famed -40 F days yet, but we have gotten plenty of subzero temperatures with serious windchill.  So far, I think wind makes the biggest difference in my comfort.  If it's not too windy, I can layer enough clothing to make the walk to work less miserable.  When it is windy, all bets are off.  Windy and sunny might be the worst combination.  When it's sunny, the snow reflects the sunlight, making it hard to see.  However, when I put on sunglasses, they fog up almost immediately, also making it hard to see.  The snow tends to be pretty powdery, which is easier to walk in than wet, icy snow.  However, snow removal is pretty uneven, and in some cases, people cart away the bulk of the snow, but then leave a layer that becomes compacted and icy as it is walked over and driven over.  I haven't fallen yet, but I fear that yet is the operative word.

A truck carting away some snow.

3.  Our building now has the promised grocery store and restaurant.  We saw signs for both when we moved in in August, but I had really given up hope.  However, they both came, and at around the same time!  The grocery store doesn't have everything, but, honestly, neither do the larger supermarkets in town.  And with the above-mentioned cold and snow, I prefer to shop without leaving the building whenever possible.  Amazingly enough, they manage to keep a small selection of produce, so it's been surprisingly useful.  The restaurant is pretty good, too.  It doesn't rate as one of the best restaurants ever, but it's also not one of the worst.  With both of us working full-time, it's useful to not have to worry about cooking every single night, and we live in such an isolated area that other restaurants are rarely a realistic option.

4.  I've turned in final grades.  I am now dealing with the fallout of doing my job because not everyone is happy with his or her grades.  Some of the unhappy people are very whiny and pushy about their dissatisfaction.  Maybe the students I had last year were just an exceptionally mature group of people, but I never imagined getting this level of pushback.  Personally, the idea of challenging a professor on my grades never even occurred to me in college.  I think I viewed them as authority figures who deserved at least a display of respect (imagine that!).  I keep trying to remind myself that many of my students are terrific, but we all know that saying about bad apples...

And, that's about it!  I'm looking forward to some time with my family soon!


  1. Having a grocery store and restaurant in your building sounds incredibly convenient! With all the struggles you've faced, I'm glad you've something good happen. Enjoy your holidays and the time with your family!

    1. Thank you, Erin! I hope you and your family enjoy your holidays, too!