We left for Astana, KZ today! We caught a flight from Kansas City at 2:40, travelled to Chicago, then on to Frankfort, Germany and finally reached our destination of Astana. We arrived at 10:45 p.m. on Monday, May 29th(KZ time) which is about 11 hours ahead of Iowa.
Our flights were all on time and went well. We only had brief layovers in Chicago and then in Frankfort but managed to pass the time shopping and eating. Go figure. Hey, we didn't know what to expect for food so we were storing up!! Our trip to Chicago was on a regional plane and we were in the very last row. Good thing it was only an hour. The flight from Chicago to Frankfort was the best. We had good seats, the flight crew was great and took a special liking to us and the time passed fairly quickly because we were up and down talking to people a good part of the time. One of the flight attendants had also adopted a little boy and was a little older than us so she knew all of the hoops we have been through. We also met some young men who were from Kazakhstan that were attending college in Rochester, NY. They were very helpful and offered to assist us with anything if we needed them. It was fun to talk to them.
Once we arrived in Frankfort we walked around looking for a watch for Bryan in the Duty Free stores. Boy-he's worse than a girl. After we looked in every single shop(they were all the same)he finally found just the one he was looking for. I of course was only interested in the food and was finding all kinds of good things to sample. Yummy soft pretzels!!! Very tasty.
Our flight from Frankfort to Astana was on Luftansa and while the service was great, the plane was very crowded. We were very glad to arrive. This is where we started to experience the difference in culture. There is no "courtesy" of letting people go before you-it's every man/woman for themselves and you just forge ahead-taking out whatever is in your path. Very harsh but no one seems to mind. Just their way. We had one couple on the flight that had the center seats(5 across). The Russian woman had the one aisle seat and the man had the opposite aisle seat and some poor guy(very large man) had the middle seat between them and they made him move. Forget the fact that they didn't buy 5 seats-they didn't want him between them and later told him it was "nothing personal". Bryan and I think we might try that on the way home. We also began to experience where the locals get the "vodka" reputation. We think it is true. This flight had free alcohol so everytime the flight attendant passed by he dropped off a bottle of wine or champagne or something. We didn't want it but that wasn't even a question. Either that is just their way or they thought we were honeymooning??? Honeymooning in Kazakhstan-now that is something to think about.
We arrived into Astana on time and proceeded to our Passport declaration spot with immigration and then on through customs. I, of course(Maggie)filled out our customs forms incorrectly but didn't know it until we got in line to be inspected. I was just feeling good that I found some english forms to complete, but they don't have much of a sense of humor when you goof something up. Finally our coordinator, Dina, came to our rescue and got us all straightened out.
We got settled in our apartment. It is very modest but clean and according to Kaz standards very nice. Tomorrow will be our visit with the Ministry of Education and then on to the Baby House for our interview with Dr. Alma. Here is a picture of our travel day. It is taking about 15 minutes to load one photo so we'll spare you and only send one or two a day. Also, please forgive my grammer and spelling errors. No spell check.