The last 2 days we’ve had no hot water. Apparently that is controlled by the city. The city also controls everyone’s heat. According to Olga, when they are turning the heat on (which they are doing right now), you lose hot water for anything from half a day to a couple of days. Looks like we are hitting the 2 day mark. We think that’s why the water was brown too, though we’ll find out when the water comes back on. The last 2 nights we’ve lost power, and when they lose power, EVERYTHING is black. I’ve been asleep both times, but according to Richard and Amber it’s just total darkness. The only light we had was the light from the laptop screen.
Someone had asked if we are in a good neighborhood in one of the comments (yes, we are reading them all, and thank you!), and I would say that we are. There are some other apartment buildings we’ve seen that look nowhere near as nice as this one on the outside, but it’s hard to say. We really have no idea about crime in general in Karaganda, but I’ll ask Olga today. Every time she looks at me she says, “Questions?” I guess I just look like I’m about to ask her something which I usually am. I find the area fascinating. So here are some more things I’ve learned.
The mall that has the grocery store we’ve been going to has a currency exchanger right inside where they will exchange dollars, rubles, tenge, euro’s, pounds, etc. for each other. I’ve been changing dollars for tenge, but I saw a guy go in and come out with a large bundle of dollars, and found that odd. I guess that though people get paid in tenge and everything day to day is in tenge, people save money in dollars or euro’s at their banks, you buy cars and apartments in dollars, and due to the proximity to Russia / China there is a fair amount of that currency around too. It’s not just for us adoptive parents :). They have quite the global economy.
Kazakh has become the official language here as well, though everyone we’ve talked to speaks Russian. They all describe Kazakh as a very complicated language, 42 character alphabet, odd pronunciations, etc. I have the problem that everybody tries talking to me in Russian. I guess I look like I fit in. So I’m glad I learned how to say “I don’t understand Russian” in Russian. Very helpful. If you want to fit in, dress nice, walk purposefully, and don’t smile unless you are talking to someone else. It’s actually interesting watching reactions when I tell them I don't understand. Some find it amusing, some seem annoyed.
In the apartment we have this little front-loading washing machine that has a dryer built in too. It’s been very useful to have! The apartment itself has 2 doors on the entry. The outer one locks with this 5 bolt mechanism that probably goes 3 inches into the wall! It reminds me of a bank vault type of lock. The inner just has a dead bolt. Most TV is in Russian, with a fair amount of American stuff overdubbed in Russian. I watched some of “Scrubs” yesterday in Russian. They have the North American Sports Network as well, so I’ve seen some college football as well as some NHL and MLB. No Sports Center sadly. The music on the radio is a mix of Russian and American. We heard Brittney Spears, Ricky Martin, and even a hip-hop version of a Pink Floyd song.
Driving is an experience! Everyone has the right of way. Cars zoom around each other with apparent disregard for anything else on the road, including people! Pedestrians likewise just walk across the road taking their time, with cars coming within inches of them. Our drivers have been very nice, but they speak no English, so interaction has been minimal. If you are coming over, just be prepared to muffle your yelps of fear while riding along.
That’s it for the Karaganda update. My baby girl fell asleep in my arms for the first time today. I am putty.