Monday, 21 November 2011

Kazakhstan - The first scavenger hunt

November 3-10

Hello everyone!

I mentioned last time that we had signed up for a scavenger hunt. The essence of it is that, for four consecutive weeks in November, each of the eight teams entered are sent a list of five questions. The answers to these are located across the city of Astana, and are often found in the most remote areas. We have decided to sacrifice our Sundays in order to complete the challenges.

But why, you ask? Why ruin your Sundays and deprive yourself of much-needed sleep in order to hunt for the colour of a restaurant sign or the name of a factory in the freezing cold and biting winds? Let me tell you. The prizes are…lavish. I’ve been told the budget that the U.S. Embassy has put towards this as an event to foster community spirit, and from the mini-prizes we have seen we know that success will bring its rewards. Rumour has it the Sky Beach in the Khan Shatyr (a.k.a. the giant tent) has been rented out for our finale party. But almost as much as that, it is a chance to see the real Astana and scout out places we would never otherwise see.

Whether you are missing out by not seeing some of these places is another question entirely but, having sufficiently recovered from the rather alcohol-laden launch party on the Thursday, we wrapped up warm on the Sunday and were soon driving round in the snow. At this point I’ll introduce you to the team that will bring home the bacon – not to mention all of the other goodies – for our team:

Matt Smith – Team Captain

Jason Hung – Driver

No decent picture available. Silly man.

Claire McCarthy – Russian speaker

Hannah Woodhead – Beacon of optimism

Fiona Bell – umm…I’m going to say humour…

A car and fluent Russian speaker are indispensible to this hunt. Astana has a modest population but the city itself is sprawled through the steppe. Our first set of clues – all completed successfully – took us north of the train station and south to an apartment block containing a Chinese restaurant. It also took us to a boat on a lake. Luckily it hadn’t frozen, so we could still clamber aboard for the first of many photos. The banter is great fun, and it will be a very important part of our lives for the next month. Expect to hear more about it as November progresses.

I’m talking about this at length because nothing else has really happened. We are working hard as ever, and I am spending some of my nights training for a half-marathon in February in Dubai. I did manage to pick a lock in school, which some would say is impressive. Others would say that it shows that not everything is perfect in school…

We’ve spent our week preparing for our class assembly, to be held first thing on Monday morning. It’s strange the things I had forgotten about a British school. Assemblies are an important way of portraying a message, and ours is friendship. I remember how much fun it was to do a class assembly when I was the same age as my children, so I have drummed into them the value of making this as fun as possible.

I’ll report back next week. It could go terribly wrong, but my kids are superstars, so I’m sure all will be grand. Assuming we haven’t got ourselves lost on our scavenger hunt before then…

Love you all


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