Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ballroom dance competition

"Love Story" was the name of the ballroom dance competition that took place in Almaty last weekend. We went to see the final show but the competition took four hours in the evening and we were already tired to stay for the show. Four hours were more then enough to enjoy waltz, tango, chacha, rumba paso doble etc. Here come some snapshots:

The moves)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Glimpses of Almaty

One sunny day I took a picture of the the Ascension Cathedral. It is said to be the second tallest wooden building in the world (54m).
Entrance to the Uzbek restaurant "Kishlak". Good food and entertainment programme.
Arasan Baths with three types of bath : Russian, Finnish and Turkish. We have to go there one day. The birch beating and massage in the Russian sauna are very popular.
Twin Towers of Almaty.
Karaoke Bar "ZAPOI". Well, if you understand Russian, you get the double meaning ;)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

What Sweden and Kazakhstan have in common?

Answer: Blue and yellow flag colors.
The Kazakh flag was adopted right after the independence in 1992. The Swedish flag is believed from 1442, exactly 550 years older.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Cultural life in Almaty

R and I have set record for theater and opera visits in Almaty. Each week we go to new performances and enjoy our cultural life make-over. On the other hand we don't have many options for other kinds of social activities. There are almost no restaurants, pubs or other public places with non-smoke area. The sound level in the cinema is very high and I feel that my baby doesn't appreciate it.

Actually, it's cheaper to go to the 2,5-hour performance in the Drama Theater or 3-hour opera then to go to the cinema. It's still communist prices -- 5-10 dollars for a ticket to the theater. And as you see, the closest theater of opera and ballet (the yellow building behind the blue one) is just across the street from us:

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Hearts and roses for breakfast

That's what my dear R got for breakfast today. These sausage hearts takes just few minutes to make. That's why you can make it every day for your beloved, friends and why not for yourself.

You need to split a sausage in two parts leaving one end unsplit. Then you connect two spare ends together by a toothpick. Now you can fry eggs in the sausage. I took quail eggs, three for each sausage and some green paprika. Garnish with dill and leek ( green onion).
That's what I got from my dear R. He knows I like flowers ;)

Friday, 13 February 2009

Schtraffmen and parking

"You know, somebody actually complimented
me on my driving today.
They left a little note on the windscreen,
it said 'Parking Fine.' So that was nice.

If you are looking for parking lots in Almaty, don't waste your time. You can park wherever you are able to put your car. Parking on the pavements is also ok, as you see. Just be careful, your safety is not guaranteed.
On the other side you see Almaty traffic police, called informally "schtraffmen" among expats.
Later I will tell you why, it's a separate topic for discussion.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Spring is in the air

It smells spring in Almaty!Probably too early, but you can already find the first sign of spring --SNOWDROPS! Look at my pretty bouquet of snowdrops. I took two pictures on white and black background. I like both )

Monday, 9 February 2009

Saturday walk among wedding couples

You you take a walk in Almaty biggest parks and squares on Fridays or Saturdays you won't miss a caravan of wedding couples taking pictures and leaving flowers at historical sites. Here are some pictures from the Saturday walk in the Panfilov park of 28 heroes.
In 20 minutes we have seen 8 wedding couples. Can you see three of them?

The necessary part of the wedding ceremony in all post-soviet countries is a wedding train of several cars. Usually the couple rent limos (hummer limousines are very popular, the more the better ;)) for a tour around the city sights with the guests. The cars are decorated with ribbons and flowers.

In Almaty the couples lay flowers at the so-called "eternal fire" place in memory of people who died in the World War II.

Even if there are some couples who live together without being married it is not always accepted by the society, especially of they have children. So the average age of getting married in Kazakhstan is 24 for women and 26 for men.

The traditional Kazakh marriage usually takes three days with lots of different rites. There are three important aspects: marriage is forbidden to any couple related over the past seven generations. In addition, the male should be older than the female. Finally, the nomadic tradition of stealing a bride is still practiced, although rarely, by some Kazakhs.
The Snow Queen

There is no way back ;)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

How Kazakh people became poorer in one day

Yesterday the National Bank of Kazakhstan devaluated the tenge by 25% from 120 to 150 tenge to the dollar. Officially. On the black market there were crazy rates up to 180 tenge to one dollar. One might think that it was a predictable trend and that Kazakhstan would sooner or later follow the devaluation of the Russian ruble. Yes, the story is very similar to Russia but way too extreme. In Russia the devaluation went gradually but in Kazakhstan everything was done by one step creating enormous panic...

An interesting fact, that just a couple of weeks ago, Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Bakhyt Sultanov had promised that the tenge would be devalued by less than 10% in 2009.

Personally I had a déjà vu from the Soviet times when I saw the empty shelves in the grocery store. The grocery store didn't sell some products, they simply took away them. Another big supermarket, opened 24 hours was literally invaded and people bought everything to spend their tenges before the prices went up. The stores selling electronics and electrical goods suddenly closed for a " re-calculation".

It was said, by the Kazakh officials, that the devaluation was necessary to boost the national economy and "support the local producers" and that the prices for the local products won't go up. The biggest lie ever:

1. The goods produced in Kazakhstan are marginal, most of the goods are imported.

2. The goods produced in Kazakhstan are made from and depend on the imported commodities.

3. The prices have already gone up.

Most of the people who get their salaries and pensions in tenge are 25% poorer today. The biggest losers are ordinary people, as usual.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

30 weeks!

Here I'm 30 weeks pregnant, 10 more to go! I seems I've been pregnant forever at this point.
It is really funny watching the belly moves, kind of belly dancing from inside. Sometimes I see a hard round lump sticking out, I guess my baby demonstrates his bottom to me ;)))

This is my message to all pregnant women: Be proud!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Sushi school

If you are looking for McDonald's in Almaty, you won't find a single, in fact, none in the Central Asian republics. And I don't care when some people measure development level of the country by the availability of McDonald's fast food restaurants. Should we measure development at the expense of people's health?
There are healthier fast food alternatives and for me its sushi. Today this simple Japanese meal is conquering the world and Kazakhstan is not an exception. There is even a sushi school in Almaty. I couldn't miss the opportunity to take a lesson in making sushi! Here are some pictures from yesterday:

Sushi school

The first rollsHere you see how to make Philadelphia rolls. You wrap cream cheese and cucumber in rice, the upside-down technique. Then you wrap the roll into tiny spices of salmon with help of the plastic wrapPhiladelphia roll wrapped in the plastic wrap. Cut the slices with the wrap on, then take off the plastic. Invented in Russia, Philadelphia roll is the most popular sushi type here in Almaty.Sushi made by me ;)
Aren't they beautiful?
Philadelphia roll, nigiri sushi and karai unagi ( eel spicy sushi)

After sushi we learned how to make salad Syake-Sarada, fried rice with vegetables and chicken teriyaki. Here is the salad: