Monday, 26 January 2009

How to make money in Kazakhstan or The Kings are naked

Yesterday I nearly bought two tickets to the Gipsy Kings concert. As you see on the picture, the famous band is coming to Almaty. Gypsy Kings and Manolo. Wait, who is Manolo? Never heard of him... Whatever, I thought to dance to the original "Bamboleo" anyway...

On the local forum I read that these guys are not the REAL Gipsy Kings!
I called the organizers of the concert and they tried to convince me that the real Gipsy Kings will come to Almaty! The ticket prices were between 45 and 210 USD and it made me almost believe them!

The official website of the band does not say a word about their tour to Almaty and they will be performing in Orlando instead. I read also that so -called "Gipsy Kings and Manolo" are fake and it is not the first time they posing as Gipsy Kings. Who knows, maybe next time we will have a chance to see and hear Elvis Presley live ;) Nothing is impossible in Kazakhstan!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Green Bazaar has everything!

The central market, known as the Green Bazaar and "зеленка" in Russian, located in the center of the city is a must if you are in Almaty for a visit.
For those who are from Stockholm, it looks like a huge Hötorgetshallen with negotiable prices and wild atmosphere. Here you can find everything: traditional eastern spices, mobile phones, gold, sushi rolls, pirate DVDs etc.

The Central Asian market is nothing without dried fruits and nuts.
This is a guy from Tajikistan selling dried fruits. Yesterday he told me what raisins are best for plov. I get really good advice for cooking here.

There is even a sex shop and the entrance fee is 50 tenge ( about 0,4 USD) ;)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Diagnosis -- pregnant

Last two days I spent in the clinic doing lots of testing and visiting all kind of doctors for my pregnancy check. I have dual experience of being pregnant in Sweden and in Kazakhstan and the approaches to pregnant women are veeeeery different. In Sweden I was just pregnant, in Almaty I have a diagnosis.

This is my little pregnancy journal with different notes and stamps:
We have chosen a private clinic in Almaty having quite good conditions and some smiling doctors. After signing a contract I was told to do a complete medical examination. So here is the list of examinations and doctors:

1. Blood test for everything, even for my testosterone level. In Almaty mandatory HIV- testing is done twice during the pregnancy.
2. Ultrasound of thyroid ( Щитовид железа), kidneys and abdominal cavity
3. Gynecologist
4. Endocrinologist
5. Oculist
8. Dentist
9. Surgeon (!)
10. Neurologist

It still puzzles me why I should to be checked by the oculist during my pregnancy...

Usually you go to different clinics to do all these checks, but I was lucky they had everything in one building. Still I had to wait among other pregnant women and kids for my turn to every doctor.

In contrast to Sweden where the doctor meets you outside the door ( usually all visits are pre-booked) shakes your hand and presents yourself, here you enter the room where the doctor in white rock sits behind a robust table making notes in his/her journal, looking at you above the glasses the way you feel sicker then ever before. Everybody has a computer at their table, but all notes were made by hand in the journals. Even in good clinics there are these left-overs from the Soviet time.

Well, some of the doctors were really talkative, making funny, often unnecessary comments. The oculist told me that my hip size was perfect for giving birth, but my face was swollen and need more rest. Then she took my bag and said that it was too heavy for me... Then she measured my blood pressure... Finally she said that my sight was good.

From now on I will visit my doctor every week for a control check. She also left me her personal mobile phone number and said I can call her any time of the day and night. I hope I won't need to call her at night, but it feels good to have her number in case of emergency.

Monday, 19 January 2009


I have seen another famous movie about Kazakhstan... no, not "Borat II". The movie is called "Nomad" or "Кочевник" (2007), historical epic about the great Kazakh leader Ablai Khan who defended Kazakh people from invaders in 18th century. The government of Kazakhstan has invested 40 million $ in the movie production making it the most expensive Kazakh movie ever made.

Well, I liked the nomadic scenery and the costumes but the rest... the acting is poor, the plot is boring, naive and somewhat pathetic. Hold on, the movie starts with the title "by order of the President of Kazakhstan" and ends with the presidents patriotic speech. Let's imagine any other president do that.

Most of all I wonder why the main characters are played by white guys who do not look like Kazakh at all. Ok, if it would be a 100% Hollywood production, but the movie is made by a Kazakh-Russian-American production team and directors Ivan Passer, Sergei Bodrov and Talgat Temenov. Anyway better then "Borat" being produced in Romania.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Felices Bodas de Oro!

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be.
Robert Browning

Yesterday was a very special day. It was the Golden (50th) Wedding Anniversary of my parents-in-law who live in Lima, Peru.

Imagine spending half a century in love with one person! It is very true about my parents-in -law. It is enough to look at them to see they are in love. I hope I can publish some nice pics of them later, so you will see what I mean.

When I asked what the secret of their eternal love was, they answered with one word: Patience. So simple but not easy at all. R and I have smth to practice upon.

We wish we were together with "la familia" at the ceremony to share lots of nostalgic moments.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Smoothie to keep the doctor away!

Each morning I make kind of smoothie and believe it or not, it keeps me healthy during influenza-time. Being pregnant I 'm especially proned to some unpleasant winter diseases. So here is my variant of a breakfast smoothie:

150-200 ml Kefir or Plain Yogurt
One big slice of pineapple (to set the flavor)
2 dried plums
1 dried apricot
1 piece of fresh beetroot
1 piece of pumpkin
1 little slice of fresh ginger
1 spoon of dried goji berries ( bought in Sweden, haven't seen them in Almaty)
3-4 hazelnuts
1-2 drops of sea buck thorn oil (havtornsolja/облепих масло)

Blend everything until smooth and drink for breakfast. Sometimes I put frozen berries ( blackcurrants, raspberries, or strawberries) instead of pineapple.
If you want your smoothie to keep your energy level high during longer time, add 1 scoop of whey protein powder.

Hot weather forecast for cold winter

This is how the weather forecast looks in Kazakhstan on a special channel called MUZ-TV, kind of prototype of MTV. Girls in bikini probably keep their ratings high, I don't know. The only thing I can think about while watching this is to leave Kazakhstan for some warm place.

This girl concluded the winter forecast: "Just look at me and it will warm you up"...

Monday, 12 January 2009


If you don't know what chak-chak is -- you better taste it once. It disappeared at once when I made it for my farewell party in Stockholm in December. Once you get one bite, you cannot stop, yummy! The only thing that stops me make it often is its total unhealthy nature. Now you will know why, here comes the recipe:

5 eggs
2 teaspoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups or 8 dl flour ( approx)
650 g honey
1 cup or 2 dl sugar

Vegetable oil for frying
Walnuts ( optional)

Break fresh eggs into a bowl, add brandy, salt, flour and make soft dough. Divide dough into pieces each about 100 gramme, roll them out about 0,2 cm thick. Cut slim stripes, spaghetti-type. I used James Oliver pasta machine to make very thin pasta. Fry pasta in vegetable oil. Don't go away, pasta takes few moments to be ready.

Mix honey with sugar and boil the mixture in a separate bowl until all sugar dissolves. Pour still boiling mixture into the dough, put some walnuts and mix everything. Shape chak-chak as you wish, it can be a pyramid, a cone, a star. Use cold water to wet your hands so you won't get burn and and the mixture won't stick to your hands. you can also decorate chak-chak with dried fruits. Chak-chak is ready to eat when it cools down, usually takes 3-4 hours. Enjoy!

Originally, chak-chak comes from Tatar cuisine made from small dough balls.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

High heels everytime, everywhere

How tall am I?
Honey, with hair, heels and attitude I'm through this damned roof.
Drag Queen RuPaul

Even when I put my super comfortable, definitely not so sophisticated Ecco-shoes, I feel insecure to walk in Almaty. First of all, some pedestrian sides are uneven and covered with pure ice. Secondly, most of the entrances to the public places are made of polished marble which makes it incredibly slippery when covered with snow. Thirdly, you have to be able to run from all crazy drivers who sometimes drive on the pedestrian side or don't bother to wait on the crossings.

Most of all I admire Kazakh girls and women who wear heels with incredible skill on uneven surfaces and ice. They manage to wear really high ( at least 10 cm) heels every day, basically all the time, not only on formal occasions. Personally, I love high heels with my 178 cm height, but I think I won't risk my unbroken bones during the Kazakh winter.

BTW, I've heard on the local TV today that the main goal of any woman is to attract men... Hmm. I hope that high heels in Kazakhstan are  matter of personal choice and attitude, not just another, pretty uncomfortable tool of male attraction.

Friday, 9 January 2009

What to drink in Kazakhstan?

Needless to say that Borat has set Kazakhstan on the world map at least for Americans.
I wonder if people believe that Kazakhs drink horse urine...
R almost believed Borat when I brought a bottle with some suspicious liquid in it. You can see it on the picture to the right.
So, what do you think? Actually, I love this drink, it is very very healthy, made from wheat, rye and corn crops fermented naturally according to the ancient recipe. The taste reminds a little of beer or slightly Russian kvas ( svagdricka fast inte så sött). Excellent source of vitamins and minerals. We used to drink it in Bishkek during hot summer days.
Big bottle in the middle is kind of feremented sour milk drink, very good one too.
Traditionally, Kazakh drink Kumis, alcoholic fermented mare's milk. I'm not so fond of it, but you can also find different types of kumis in the store:
Here you can find good selection of Georgian and Moldavian wines, smth you cannot legally buy in Russia for example. Lucky you, but I will skip the wine for a while ;)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Kok Tobe

Curiosity is the best guide

Today I took a short trip to the Kok Tobe mountain. The mountain is connected to downtown Almaty by an aerial tramway. In 10 minutes it takes you to the top of the mountain. It also shows you how polluted the city is. On the picture you can see the skyline divided by grey and blue zones.
The Kok Tobe mountain is a typical tourist place with number of restaurants serving all from national dishes to pizza and burgers. There are also art galleries, a mini-zoo, amusement activities and souvenir shops. Most of the places were closed but I enjoyed being in the park almost alone.

You can also find ... a bronze statue of the Beatles surrounded by the speakers playing the Beatles music. Some fans of the Beatles raised some money to get the statue up on the Kok Tobe. Sorry, I just don't see any connection between the mountain, Almaty and the Beatles.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Merry Crisis?

Kazakhstan has been called the emerging " Dubai of Central Asia". It has gained entry into the exclusive club of the world’s ten largest exporters of crude oil, and caught up to the living standards of Central European countries...Oil and metal make up about 90% of all Kazakh export. Good time with high oil prices seems to be over.
I hope the crisis will in the end serve as an incentive to change the Kazakh economy from the raw-materials oriented to more diversified, lead to less consumption of luxury goods and promote investments into the social sector. Personally I hope there will be less and smaller cars to mitigate air pollution.

"Anti-crisis offer from the Hungarian Chef". The restaurant branch in Almaty adapts quickly to the new conditions.

Day and night from my window

As I wrote before, we live on the 11th floor and this is the view from my window. I wonder how it looks like from the highest 22nd floor.

In reality is looks facsinating, especially at night. I have to be better in taking night pictures, leave me some space for improvement.

The Television tower you see in the background is 370 m high and the highest one above see level (1000 m). Since Almaty is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes , the TV tower was designed to withstand earthquakes up to a strength of 10 on the Richter scale. I've heard that the tower is a popular look-out area over the city. We have to go there and take some nice pics!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Food diversity in Kazakhstan

- Waiter, why your napkins are greasy?
- I have no idea why you use the pancakes to clean your face

It is simply impossible to stay hungry here. This delicious plov we can buy at any time ( for 24 hours) just around the corner of our house ! As you see plov is traditionally cooked in a deep metal kettle known as a "kazan". Originally plov is a national dish of Uzbekistan, but here in Central Asia you can really find a fusion of Uzbek, Uigur, Russian, Tatar, Korean dishes. Kazakhstan's food is a reflection of a unique ethnic and religious composition. With people of more than 100 ethnic groups one can only imagine a wide variety of cuisine art and cultural rituals.
So, let's see what they have next to plov. It is Russian bliny or pancakes -- really good ones. The women makes thousands of pancakes every day non-stop and amazingly they are all sold out. There is also Uigur manti cooked in a huge steam-cooker. Korean spicy salads are sold next to the stand in the shop. So, just two pictures show you the diversity of Central Asian food that i missed so much.

To conclude a food joke in Russian:

Кухни народов мира

Украинская: в качестве начинки для торта возьмите две свиных отбивных и сальные шкварки.

Русская: приготовьте что угодно, лишь бы получилась закусь. Залейте майонезом. Грузинская: приготовьте что-нибудь, засыпьте кинзой, залейте кинзмараули, добавьте сулугуни.

Французская: как-нибудь поджарьте мясо, залейте его соусом, с которым вы напарились 3, 5 часа, украсьте шалотом.

Итальянская: соберите все остатки еды из холодильника, разогрейте, посыпьте моцареллой. Подавать на блине или с макаронами.

Китайская: соберите умерших мух и тараканов, нарвите травы во дворе, обжарьте на быстром огне с горой специй и литром соевого соуса.

Японская: поймайте что-нибудь живое в море, немедленно разделайте на куски, подайте к столу трепещущим и с васаби.

Мексиканская: добавьте перца. Все остальное можете не добавлять.

Ливанская: намазать кунжутным маслом, залить лимонным соком. Подать к столу через 20 минут, чтобы не все поняли, что там было в начале.

Индийская: смешайте карри с перцем, перцем и перцем. Добавьте к карри. Украсьте горошком.

Греческая: подайте к столу дешевые продукты, просто нарубленные кусками и даже не смешанные. Гордо повторяйте: "Натур продукт!"

Monday, 5 January 2009

Twilight in Almaty

Here are some pics from yesterday

Almaty has its own Eiffel Tower, located in front of the so-called " French House" where they sell perfume.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

After 100 days I can be a mom to a little boy!

Q. Should I have a baby after 38?
A. No, 38 children is enough.

Today I have 100 pregnancy days left! The belly is keep on growing and I wonder where it will stop ;)

We did ultrasound last week and it is a boy! I met so many people who tried to predict the sex of the baby... It's amazing that most of them were 100% sure it was a girl. Even if there is 50% chance to guess right, I wonder how some people can really be sure.

I did also an online test to define the sex of the baby by your apperance and cravings. The test gave me the following result:

You have a 50% chance of having a boy. And you have a 50% chance of having a girl.

And Here's Why...

You are carrying the extra weight out front, so it's a boy.
The hair on your legs is not growing any faster during your pregnancy, so it's a girl.
Girls are carried high. You are going to have a girl.
Sleeping in a bed with your pillow to the north indicates that you will be having a boy.
Your feet are not colder than they were before pregnancy. You are having a girl.
You refuse to eat the heel of a loaf of bread. You are having a girl.
Dad-to-be hasn't been gaining weight along with Mom-to-be, so it will be a girl.
The maternal grandmother doesn't have gray hair (dyed or natural), so a girl will be born.
You had morning sickness early in pregnancy, so you are expecting a girl.
You are looking particularly good during pregnancy. Therefore, it must be a boy, because girls steal their mother's looks.
Since the sum of the mother's age at conception and the number of the month of conception is even, it will be a boy.
A needle on a thread held over your belly moves in circles, so you will have a boy.
Your urine is a bright neon yellow color, so you will have a boy.
You have a craving for salty or sour foods, which means that it is a boy.
Your nose hasn't changed during pregnancy, which indicates a girl.
You have been craving fruits, so it is a girl.
Your baby's heart rate is below 140 beats per minute, so it's a boy.
You must have orange juice every day, so it's a girl.
You are having headaches, so it's a boy.
Your belly looks like a basketball, so it's a boy.
You show them the palm of your hand, so it's a girl.
You use the handle, so it's a boy.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Another trip to the mountains or how to escape the pollution

Турист обращается к сидящему у сарая местному жителю:
- Любезный, не подскажете ли, как мне побыстрее попасть вон на ту гору?
Житель задумчиво посмотрел сначала на туриста, затем на гору и отвечает:
- Хотите, я собак отвяжу?

Today we went to the Butakovka Gorge ( Урочище Бутаковка), a scenic place famous for its waterfall, located at 1860 meters.

We didn't reach the waterfall. After 40 min walking uphills we were more then exhausted.

We did enjoyed the surroundings and fresh air. If you don't want your lungs turn black, you have to leave the city for a while. First I thought it was fog covering the city, located BTW in the valley... Now every time I look out of the window, I see the smog obscuring the Almaty skyline. Considering the number of cars in the city it is not strange at all. Won't Almaty need to start dealing with it?

This is the apartment we live in

I felt in love with this apartment from the first site. It's spacious, modern, has floor heating system and three bathrooms. I like the minimalistic style, few furniture items and things. I just wonder where I put all our stuff that will soon arrive from Sweden.

"The jacuzzi" -- really big one with DVD and a bucket for champagne. Imagine the amount of water to fill it up. I think that's why we haven't used it yet.

Here is the entrance into our apartment-house guarded 24 hours

Skating in the shopping mall?

In Almaty you can go to the shopping malls instead of museums. First of all it's entertaining, secondly most of them are open at least untill 22.00 and you can find shopping centres of different styles and sizes with some extra stuff, like... skating. Good idea to make your partner and kids busy while shopping ;)

This is the house we live in

We live in the apartment-house called "Stolichnii Zentr" in the city center on the 11th floor. The house was built in 2005 and has lots of facilities that I haven't explored yet. The view over the city and mountains is magnificent when it's clear weather. So far it has been foggy and I hope for the better weather!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Лучше гор могут быть только горы

"There is one thing that's better than mountains
And it's mountains that we haven't climbed."

Vladimir Vysotsky
Russian poet, actor and singer.

Today we went to the mountains to take a dose of fresh air and a huge portion of sun.
Almaty is located at the foot of Tien Shan Mountains and it took us 30 minutes by car to get the the ski-resort called "Chimbulak" (2300 m above the sea). Now i get why people drive big cars here, mostly jeeps. It is much easier to drive jeep to the mountains. R went to ski and I took a long walk in the mountains. You have to be there to feel the magic of this beautiful place. I wouldn't mind to have a "dacha" there. Here come some pictures from the today trip.