Home Sweet Home

September 14, 2008 at 6:36 am 7 comments

This post is a little lengthy but, hopefully, at least a little interesting

I wasn’t sure which I wanted to write about first, our apartment or the food in Kostanai. With my mother’s questions this morning about our living quarters, the decision was made. [Here I sit, outside our apartment, waiting for our ride to the baby home.]

Our Home in Kostanai

When we first entered our apartment on the eve of our arrival in Kostanai, we were pleasantly surprised. On first inspection, our accommodations looked to be pleasant and well kept. However, when opening the unplugged refrigerator door, we were blown over by the overpowering aroma of a well-rotted cabbage! Wow! This odor instantly engulfed the entire apartment. One of our coordinators quickly called the landlord who arranged to have this appliance cleaned while we left to exchange money and do a little shopping at the grocery store.

Upon returning, the residue of air freshener, kitchen cleanser, and rotten cabbage hung in the air. After locating two boxes of baking soda and dumping them into the bottom of our odorous icebox, we spent our first night with all of the windows open and little stored in the fridge. Luckily, we brought along various sized zip-lock bags and, although the smell has improved, to this day, anything going into the refrigerator goes into a bag.

But, enough about that! After some scrubbing, cleaning, and minor furniture arranging, our apartment is finally beginning to feel like ours. Mind you, the apartment really wasn’t that dirty to begin with: the bathroom was clean, linens were washed, and the carpet seemed freshly vacuumed. However, upon further inspection, we found that all of the dishes, pots, and pans needed to be scrubbed and some were so caked with foodstuffs that we actually put them aside and won’t be using them at all. (The counters and cupboards needed a little work, too.) Now that we’ve cleaned enough to feel comfortable, we were finally able to have our first cooked meal at home two nights ago.

Where We Live

Our apartment is in a great location; we are located directly on the car-less walkways and large, beautiful park that I mentioned in a previous post. I feel very safe walking around this area as it is always populated with people passing by or just sitting and relaxing on the benches that line either side of every pedestrian lane. My theory is that this park is where young people gather to meet and socialize versus the typical U.S. “bar hopping” habits. It is also a large family area where children can run and play while parents watch on.

Friday and Saturday nights are typically filled with live entertainment and fireworks, while beautiful gardens, carnival rides, ice cream vendors, and warm, comfortable weather prove to be attractions each and every night of the week. The only thing that really makes Doug and I stand out more than any other citizen in this area (other than my graying hair and lack of lipstick) is that we take our pictures with a camera rather than a cell phone. On every turn and near any landmark, someone has their cell phone flipped up and is taking a picture of their companion. So much for standing out as a tourist…at least in this area of Kostanai. Here is Doug posing with one of the typical tourist attractions that happens to be in front of our favorite restaurant.

Every apartment complex seems to have a central courtyard where tenants gather, children play, laundry is hung, cats wander, and firecrackers are detonated nearly round the clock. Ours is no different that any other (in fact they all look pretty identical, right down to the color of the playground equipment) except that the proximity to the “downtown” area lends itself as a more private, late-night hangout area for young people. Basically, I think we have some partiers in our apartment building who enjoy being outside until 4 a.m. or so quite a few mornings of the week and, especially, on the weekend.

The weather has been so wonderful and the evening breeze so nice, that I yearn to be able to open my window and sleep with the brisk cool air throughout the night. Nope…isn’t going to happen! Every time I try, I’m awoken by the sounds of pumping 80’s like disco music and the most obnoxious and consistent laugh I’ve ever heard. I swear I’m going to record it (the laugh) and post it here so you can all hear. I can’t complain, really. We ARE living in the middle of a city, but the echo of these sounds is definitely magnified when they occur in the courtyard. I’m actually looking forward to cooler weather, or even rain, hoping that it will send our jovial partiers inside in the evenings.

Our Living Quarters

Basically, we have a bathroom with a new tub and shower, a small kitchen that opens to the living room, and a bedroom. Not huge but big enough. We only have one closet and no bureaus, so we are living partially out of suitcases. I’ve converted a folding table into an ironing board (can’t do without one of those) and seem to have fallen into a system of daily chores that come along with any living space.

Our washing machine takes at least four hours to do one cycle and holds less than half the amount of laundry our machine at home can handle. All clothes are hung to dry. We’ve got a great clothes rack that can handle at least a couple loads of laundry. (Mom, you’d love it.) The air is very dry here so clothes dry quickly. Check out the instructions on this machine.

The hallways leading to the apartments are concrete, stale smelling, and frankly, a little scary. Fortunately, they open up to warm and welcoming abodes; that is if you can get through the door(s). Each apartment seems to come with two doors: the steel, reinforced door leading into the apartment and then the wooden, more traditional door that acts as a façade covering the ugly realities lurking behind. Our key that opens our steel blockade is reminiscent of the keys from the movie, The 5th Element, that are needed to save Earth. (Hmmm…what have we gotten ourselves into?)

We’ve learned to relax on our downward sloping couch while we watch a great selection of American movies, all dubbed in Russian. Television is interesting here, as it is in any new place that you visit. We actually enjoy turning on the Discovery Channel and watching America’s Funniest Videos and a few of our other favorites from that network (all in Russian, of course). We can figure out what is going on most of the time and listening to the language is helping us pick up more vocabulary. When we hear something consistently, we’ll often look it up, adding another word to our repertoire. (Yeah…good excuse for watching T.V., huh!) Note the hair color of the woman on the left. This is a VERY POPULAR tint in Kostanai.

Along with the lively nightlife in our neighborhood, the beds in Kazakhstan tend to deprive one of a good night’s rest. I suppose it is all what you are used to and Doug and I are finally acclimating ourselves to our delegated rest area. If I had to sleep on the floor, I’d eventually get used to that, too. Right?

The beds are quite hard and resemble box springs rather than mattresses. (Actually, I think they are box springs.) The first night we both slept soundly because we were so tired, but after that we discovered the realities of our bed. After two nights into our stay, and one night on the couch for me, I needed to figure out something so that we had a little padding to sleep on. I found that adding an extra duvet covered comforter to our mattress made a slight difference and we’ve been able to sleep better. Unfortunately, the bed is fairly short, which makes it difficult for Doug to really get comfortable no matter how soft the mattress. But, as we acclimate more to our environment, everything gets easier and becomes more natural….even sleeping in an uncomfortable bed.

We’re making our little place our own and feeling more at home everyday. It can’t come close to being the “real thing”, but it is good enough for now and we can certainly make “do” for a trip extended with an incredibe reward at the end.

If you are coming to Kostanai and will be staying in an apartment, here are some quick tips that we are finding to be handy:

  • Bring a set of clean sheets for your first couple of nights. The bedding here is clean, but there is nothing like sleeping on your own for a sense of comfort when you first get here.
  • Check out cleaning supplies when initially visiting your apartment. This is something we picked up on our first shopping trip.
  • Zip-lock bags of various sizes have come in handy. We haven’t had to shop for any because we did bring some along (they pack very well) so I don’t know if they are here or not. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be sold. They have everything else, however, I’ll investigate this and let you know.
  • We also bought a few extra towels and face clothes, having only 1 towel here when we arrived.
  • You will find that, just like moving day, there will be little things that you will need to run out and purchase to make your stay more comfortable. Don’t bring these things from home. You can buy ANYTHING that you will really need here. A note on this: The only thing we haven’t been able to find are matches to light the gas stove. We’re probably looking in the wrong place or not asking the right question. For instance, salt is shelved with the cereal and it took us a couple days to find that.
  • You do need to buy drinking water but we’ve been boiling the tap water for coffee, tea, and cooking with no ill effects.
  • No need to bring any toiletries except those needed for a one night stay. It is all here and all recognizable name brands: soap, shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, feminine protection, deodorant, etc.

A quick note about food (I’ll be writing a much more detailed entry on this wonderful topic): we’re surviving just fine on instant coffee and haven’t had a craving or need for anything from home such as snack bars. These will just take up more valuable space in your luggage. The food here is incredible and diverse! I’m sure I’ll be gaining weight from this experience!


Entry filed under: Kazakhstan Adoption.

Water AND the Internet Our Little One

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan  |  September 14, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Great post! although, I am very glad we did bring snack bars, especially having a 10 year old son with us, and having visitation during our lunch hour, 10 year old boys get hungry. We ran out,and found other things for him to eat, but I am glad we had the snack bars. Dad arrived with some more and Starbucks coffee too.
    I like the instant just fine as well, but nothing beats Starbucks in th e morning for me !

    I am totally stuffed from our lunch at Dolce Vita though!

    Love your digs….it looks very nice. They all look rather similiar! Our washing machine has an economy cycle that only takes 30 minutes. Our first washer took 3 hours though. 🙂 But hey, what else do we have to do? 🙂

    Joe is here! so, let’s try to get together before Thursday!

  • 2. Tricia  |  September 14, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Cool to see your apartment and hear your take on things. I am so happy that we don’t have to sleep on a 2 inch thick mattress at home. The mattresses and the couches were the most uncomfortable things there. I was never able to find zip lock bags (I wish I had brought some), although I did find some bad saran wrap at the outdoor market. I found matches in the little “magazine” near our apartment, so maybe check one of those and demonstrate what you need, like for a cigarette. I never found peanut butter in Kostanai, but found Safeway brand, of all things, in Almaty. Have fun on your search for things. It sounds like you two are enjoying yourselves.

  • 3. Carol  |  September 14, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    You really give so much information about life there–it’s so interesting! I’m learning so much from your blog!

    I just have one tip for you. I think you should go red like the woman on the tv. It would be a great color for you.

    Enjoy your week with your little one! Do you get to go in on weekends, too?


  • 4. Ellen Norton  |  September 15, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Sounds like you’re settling in just fine. It’s great to see some photos with your posts.
    You should write a book!!
    Rained all day today (Sunday).
    Back to school tomorrow. Open house on Wed.

    Aren’t little kids soft, warm and cuddly?? Enjoy!


  • 5. Phillip and Lanetta Gobble  |  September 15, 2008 at 3:46 am

    thanks for all the good info… it’s so interesting to hear all those details….

    wishing yothe best..

  • 6. Lee & Jeannie  |  September 15, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Hi Guys,

    We are keeping track of your adventure. Hope everything is well.

    We Love You,

    lee & Jeannie

  • 7. Ibone  |  September 15, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Hi, IWe are a couple from Spain and adopted a group of 3 siblings last autumm in kostanay. The smallest boy was in dolphin house and the other two in rudny, 45 minutes far by car. Reading your blog makes me remember our adoption trip. Just in case you want a good coffe italian style, try the Egoiste, near the blue mosque in front of Tsum commercial centre. Fell free to ask for our help if you need some advice. best of luck, ibone


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