Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Kazakhstan - The first Uzbek belly dancers

August 23-30

Hello everyone!

Whilst we have been working exceptionally hard to ensure our school is ready to open, it hasn’t stopped us from having a bit of fun. Here are a few highlights from the social side of our first week in Kazakhstan. Work hard, play hard.

Various events were held – and paid for – by the school to help us settle into our new home. The first of these was at a small café. The school took those of us who arrived on the Saturday and scored a deal where we paid 3,000KZT (£13, $20) and we received unlimited food & alcohol in return. Food? There wasn’t much of it, so we concentrated on enjoying ourselves with drink. This is what the money looks like by the way.

Kazakhstan fun fact: Each tenge note has a picture of the Bayterek on the front, and a picture of its land mass on the back.

Four of us stayed and were close to polishing off their supply of white wine before we were told that they had to close. Wanting to make the most of the chance to have some late-night fun on a weekday before the children take over our lives, we hunted for another bar, before deciding on karaoke. We found a karaoke place, walked in, asked about karaoke – and they had none. It was a bar. Strange advertising.

Incredibly, they did have bowling alleys in a room at the back of the bar. We gave it a go, had a blast, and I put some Russian into use. Prostite Простите pro-STEE-tye is Russian for sorry, and we needed to use it extensively after one of the girls decided that bowling at the pins was a bit boring, so launched her ball into the bottom of the scoring screen high above us. We then hung out under the Bayterek – which we now call the World Cup – for a while before hitting the hay. Late.

After a minor scare of being woken up to a phone call saying that the bus was waiting for me we decided to take it easy on Tuesday by going for food on the far bank. Apparently it’s cheaper on the right side of the river than the left. The food was good, though parts of the menu made for interesting reading.

On the Wednesday we went for Uzbek food, which reminded me of Indian food but with more meat. It was tasty all the same. After eating we were entertained by performers, the final batch of whom were belly dancers. It seemed that they would dance in front of a man until he gave her some money, at which point she would storm off to someone else. Luckily, I was flanked by girls so no dancer could get near me or my precious tenge. Strangely, I did feel uncomfortable about taking photos of them – luckily my neighbour was on hand to do that for me!

A relaxing couple of days spent at friends’ houses and trying on winter hats that cost 40,000KZT (£170/$288) – they were very warm, and may be a good investment – we had our main event on Saturday. We were at a place called Guns ‘n’ Roses, which I would class as an expat place if there were more expats visible in Astana, and had free food and beer between 6pm and 8pm. You can imagine how that night went down. Piggybacks, passouts and prodigious amounts of vodka – fantastic fun.

All of this happened in someone’s apartment, and I feel that frolicks in people’s flats may become a common theme of our time here once the temperature starts to drop. It seems as though most of us are living in amazing places. Here are some pictures of my apartment. I have a lounge that is almost the same size as my whole Korean pad, in addition to a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom with double bed. Oh, and two balconies.

I am very pleased with where I am living, and very pleased to have had time to hang out with the people I will be working alongside. They are great fun, genuinely friendly and all wonderfully unique. I can’t complain with life at the moment!

Love you all

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