When asked where I was going for the Eid break and I responded with Kazakhstan the reaction usually was, oh, do you know someone there? It definitely wasn’t a popular beach or resort destination but it was a chance to visit a new country and see Autum. Autum recently started at a new school in the small town of Atyrau, Kazakhstan and I was going to check it out. It was quite the trip as it took three flights to get there accompanied with long layovers. Now that I’ve made that trip once, next time I will do a much better job at booking my flights.
My first long lay over was in Dubai which I was not mad about as it’s a great airport. Once I arrived it was early morning and I had to switch terminals but thankfully it was a short shuttle bus ride. The hotel in the airport is really nice. You don’t have to walk to get to because it is literally in the middle up on the third floor. Most airport hotels you have to walk a ways to get to or are not as easy as you would think to get to. For this, I was thankful.
I had a sixteen hour layover. Now I know what you are saying, “why didn’t you get a later flight” or “why didn’t you get out and explore the city?” It was much cheaper to have longer layovers and I knew that Dubai would be a great airport to have a layover at. As for getting out in the city I’m saving that for another trip when I can come back and play tourist. I just wanted to chill at the airport, which I did and it was amazing. After arriving to the correct gate area I found an awesome spot in a coffee shop, ordered an iced latte, and started my blog. I left Dubai at 7 p.m. and arrived in Astana at 1:30 a.m. Now for future reference long layovers are not a good idea at Astana airport, there is nothing to do, nothing. I had a seven hour layover so I basically slept on an airport bench on and off for a few hours then headed to Atyrau. I left Astana at 8:30 a.m. and was passed out the entire flight since you know I had to sleep on a bench. I finally arrived to Atyrau at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Yes it was a long trip. The actual flight time was not even nine hours but it took me thirty-two hours to get there. Ahhh traveling.
Atyrau is a small town in Kazakhstan. Chevron oil is large company there so there are many expats employed there that are affiliated with Chevron. There is not much English in Kazakhstan so that makes for a lot of adventures. Luckily Autum has a taxi service that she uses and can request taxi’s via phone or e-mail so they always know where we want to go. Autum picked me up then we headed to her apartment. She lives on the 17th floor and has a pretty sweet view of the city. She faces the side to see the sunsets and they are totally worth the watch.
Autum had school the week while I was there which was perfect in that I could get my to-do list done, relax and then do activities once she was done with school. I had a pretty extensive to-do list to complete over vacation with such things as go through my bookmarks on my computer. Seriously though who has time to do that? I also helped Autum unpack her shipment from Egypt because I think that is fun and she does not. On Monday I went to school with Autum in the morning and then before lunch we went apple picking with her class. We did a few activities during the week after school but it was mainly a pretty chill break which was just what I wanted.
Fun fact: Atyrau is located in both Europe and Asia. The river below separates the two continents and there are markers on both sides of the river.
We also visited the Russian Orthodox Church which was beautiful inside and walked past the Manjali Mosque.
We also went to a local gallery, met the artist and looked through a ton of his paintings. I found one that I liked but didn’t love it enough to buy it, maybe next time.
Grocery shopping – this was interesting and a little frustrating too due to nothing being in English. Oh and also this the vodka aisle, just vodka. There were about four more aisles for wine and beer. It’s pretty much the opposite of Bahrain and stuff was pretty cheap.
I got a lot of hang out time with Hanuel. Yes, I did miss him but you know what I didn’t miss – his hair being everywhere 😉 Look at that face!
There is a restaurant called Chicago so of course I had to go. There was nothing remotely even close to Chicago food on the menu, it took forever and wasn’t that great but it was fun to be a Chicago themed restaurant in Kazakhstan.
Autum works with a lot of really great people. Many of her co-workers have been teaching for a while and/or have been in the international teaching world for a while. It was nice to talk with other teachers and get their take on the schools in the world. I know I’ve said this before but it really is true – the more teachers you meet while internationally teaching the more you realize what a small world it is. There are some new teachers at my school that a few of the teachers in Kazakhstan worked with before – small world. Friday before I left I went out with a few of the spouses. We went to the Lenin statue not to be confused with John Lennon. Vladimir Lenin was in power in Russia/Soviet Union from 1917 – 1924. He used to have many statues in high traffic areas around the city but now this statue is tucked away off of some back streets, for obvious reasons. Our last stop was the Beer House, Bavarius. We had a few beers, chatted for a bit and then I was headed to the airport to start my journey home.
My journey home was not as long as on the way there but still long, about twenty four hours. On the way home I flew to Almaty, Kazakhstan which I was hoping to be better than Astana being that the website said they had a hotel that was only a three minute walk. Once I arrived I had an eight hour layover right in the middle of the night so getting some sleep was a necessity. The hotel was close, not connected to the airport but it was across the parking lot. My plan was to get a semi lux room for $30. They were out and the only one’s available where the very basic room that only had a sink in the room. The bathroom and shower were in the hallway. This room was only $15. Now for $15 you get exactly what you pay for. I didn’t even take pictures but it was a place for me to get some sleep so it served it’s purpose. My next flight was to Dubai then to Bahrain. There was a Subway near my gate in Dubai so I was happy and it only took me thirty minutes to get home from the airport, win-win.