We have now moved into the final and best month of the year. 2011 has been quite a rollercoaster for me – from bouncing around in Berlin to staring in awe at Astana, via Austria, Sri Lanka, India and various parts of the United Kingdom, it has been a wonderful, exciting and fulfilling year. One more month to pack in as much fun and adventure as possible before moving into 2012, and that is something we manage to achieve successfully and regularly in Kazakhstan.
We are certainly in the Christmas spirit here. Classrooms and houses are being decorated with tinsel and lights, as well as more random elements such as ‘Santas on a rope’. We have spent an evening singing Christmas carols whilst eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine. We have even been to a Christmas bazaar in the Radisson Hotel, which contained stalls from numerous countries including Britain, all selling products that can be wrapped up and given to a loved one at this time of year.
Kazakh fun fact: Considering all of that, it is interesting that Christmas ‘doesn’t happen’ in Kazakhstan. Though the city is decked to the nines with flashing lights and fully decorated trees, they are all New Year decorations.
Being a secular state with a Muslim majority, the Kazakh government seems to be trying to balance the traditions of their people against the natural extravagance of the capital city. In my opinion, they seem to have steered the country towards the rampant commercialism commonly associated with the modern Christmas. How they can claim that pictures of Father Christmas actually show Grandpa Frost, who delivers presents at New Year, is simply beyond my realms of intellect. Still, I love this time of year, so am happy to play along.
Carl has now flown the nest and returned home. It was wonderful to see him and spend some quality time with him, particularly on the final night when we braved the cold to see the illuminated Christmas – sorry, New Year – decorations in the business district. Any more visitors are more than welcome!
As well as being Advent, this is a very special month for Kazakhstan. Independence Day is on December 16 – guess I have to share my birthday with something – and this year is the 20th year of Kazakh liberation from the Soviet and CIS state. Celebrations are sure to be grand, and the importance of the occasion is being drummed into our children at school. We took the Year 6 classes on the first ever Haileybury Astana School trip to two Kazakh museums on the Wednesday. The museums, particularly the Museum of the First President, were very interesting, and I will visit them in my own time at a later date to be able to truly appreciate the artefacts and memorabilia inside.
On the Saturday we participated in a football tournament, competing against various other expatriate teams. We knew a few people from the other teams, so the camaraderie and banter was good. We topped our group but then lost in the semi-finals – (majority) English team loses to German team in semi-final of football competition shocker. It was a lot of fun, though it took my legs the best part of a week to recover.
Later that day our flat hosted the first, hopefully annual, Decemberfest. We have created this event due to the volume of birthdays for people from our school that occur in this month. It’s almost in double figures, a ridiculous number. The house was thus decorated for birthdays as well as Christmas, though the decorations obviously lent themselves to the latter theme.
The one random element that was introduced was my decision to make eggnog. It normally takes between five and eight hours to create, but we didn’t have time for that, so opted to create eggnog using a cocktail bar recipe. It actually turned out very well, tasting like Kahlua.
Decemberfest was a rip-roaring success at the end of what has been yet another busy, action-packed week in Astana. As you can see, we’re ending the year in the same fashion that it has progressed – with buckets of fun and a lot of adventure.
Love you all