Our Flat, Our Palace

Our apartment is small for what we are paying but we are thankful for a place to live.  It is twice the size of what our university paid for in Ukraine which was half of what we are paying for here in Almaty. 

Did I mention that the doors don’t connect with the doorframe?  We are on the 5th floor and there may have been an earthquake here where they did at one time fit but don’t now, all stand ajar.  Ken needs to insert metal magnets to tighten the doors because no door to these rooms have locks except the bathroom for the toilet and the other for the bathtub and sink.  The steps in the hallway, did I mention them?  Seems when they built this place the steps were all about 8-9 inches high but the final step for each floor is about 12 inches.  The unevenness in walking up or down these flights of steps keeps one on their “toes” so to speak.  Drunks beware! 

We definitely have heat whether we need it or not, some people open windows or doors to let the cool air in but that is risky for one’s health because of the mountain drafts.  Kazakh natives freak out if you open doors or windows because they are convinced you will get a cold.  They have a point, so meanwhile we sweat in our own place.  No complaints, we have lived in COLD apartments before and taught in COLD classrooms in Ukraine so I guess this is an improvement.  I haven’t tried to light our gas oven yet but use a clicker devise to get the top burners going.  That is good as is our washing machine that if you pick one cycle it might take 2 hours and 15 minutes to run through the wash and spin cycles.  I picked another one the other day and it only took an hour.  Then we either put our spunout clothes on the radiators to dry or the rack to dry overnight.  Never have used a dryer in the former Soviet Union, come to think of it we use the clothes line back in Minnesota in the summer. 

I cleaned our “Palace” this afternoon so that we will have two guy friends of Ken’s over for spaghetti tonight.  One is from New Zealand and let Ken stay with him the first month Ken arrived.  The other is a Muslim from Canada and had recommended this place to Ken as a “clean” place.  I hate to think what other places he saw because this has nice walls but the linoleum, yipes!  Fortunately, we have a nice landlady and so that is much to be thankful for even though we are paying through the nose for this place. 

Yes, I need to get a job soon to help with all the expenses here, very pricey where we are living.  The streets are lined with Tiffanys and other outrageously expensive boutiques.  As one American woman put it, the whole city has become “obscene” in its prices.  Not sure who of the Kazakhs can afford to live here but they do and the buildings keep going up all around us.  Also, Mercedes Benz and BMW cars keep filling the streets and cars drive on sidewalks meant for pedestrians!!!  Apparently there is much oil money floating around here in Almaty and some people can afford to own cars and live in ritzy apartments. 

This morning we will take a $5 bus ride for 3-4 hours to Bishkek for a 2 days visit.  I’ll give a talk at my former university where I taught on Friday afternoon and then we will return “home” on Saturday.  We could take a car but that would cost $75.  I think we are better protected by riding in a bus around those mountain passes that Ken used during our courtship 14 years ago when he owned a NIVA jeep. 

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