Monday, December 27, 2010

58 and sunny

We are here!
We arrived without much hassle (finally no airport story!) to our house in Key West.

As you may recall, we were making some improvements to the lower level of our house by taking out some storage units and apartment. Well, it is finished, and we love it!
We tore down walls, put in pavers and finished off the ceilings with fans.
We still have a fence and gate to install, which we are hoping to have finished soon, but for now, this is such an improvement. It is so pretty!

I hope that everyone enjoyed their holiday. We certainly had a good gathering with our families.
Looking forward to the new year ahead of us...while still enjoying these last few days of 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm ready early!

Wow, for the first time in many years, I am bought, wrapped and ready to go for Christmas!
There are a couple that MUST wait for Christmas Eve for various reasons...
but really, other than those few, I am ready!

I am so happy to be finished. It means that now I have all of tomorrow to spend as my family and I want! We do not have to run around for anything (except to pick up a watch I had to have repaired) , think of any other presents....nothing.
Just relaxing with my husband, children and family...
(thank you to my husband for finding my Mom's was the hardest and last present that I had to buy this year!)

oh, and go to the Steelers game again!

I hope that you are having a blissful holiday season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pittsburgh times ten!

We had a Pittsburgh bonanza this afternoon!
My husband and I bought 2 tickets to see the Steeler game...
(yes, on top of the ones we had bought months ago for this upcoming Thursday!)

We had so much fun and had a true Pittsburgh feast...
Primanti's Bros. sandwiches, snowy flurries for the game, and my Steelers!

We lost, but that's ok...I was there! and it was GREAT!
Let's hope Thursday's night game has a better final score...
but the fun will be even greater because we will be sitting with family!

Go Steelers!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Airport Story #2 and #3

We did not make the flight...
not even close.

Ok here is how it played out:
the flight was supposed to leave Atyrau at 9:30.
We had a connection in Istanbul to London at 1:10.

When I realized we would not make the connection I got on the phone to make the inevitable change. We switched to a flight at 4:40...
for the measly fare of over $2,700.

Well, we missed that connection by 14 minutes. Yes, we were delayed in Atyrau for 7 hours. The flight left Atyrau at 4:30 and arrived in Istanbul at 4:40 (due to time change differences, these are all times local to the landing city). By the time I got to the transfer desk, they informed me that British Airways left 14 minutes before. Now, I am not sure why they didn't check for incoming passengers, seeing as we already had our boarding, I know of at least 2 more people expecting to go on that flight.

Anyways, got on the phone again, mind you, with roaming charges on a cell phone (can't wait to see that bill, NOT). They were nice ladies that were helping us luckily. They switched us to a Turkish Airways flight, costing somewhere close to $1,000. We got into London at 10:30 at no Lion King, no Eye...
just a hotel, midnight snack of cookies and ice cream and to sleep for barely 5 hours to wake up for the next flight.

Woke up for breakfast at 5...and woke up is relative, seeing as I woke up every half hour through the night anyways. Had breakfast and went to Heathrow Airport. Fairly calm sailing until...
the attendant could not find the flight for us to NY. So, we went to the ticketing desk for help. They claim that when the flights were being switched, they transferred us to a British Airways flight to NY around the same time. Once again, they were nice ladies and helped us get back onto our original flight to NY on American Airlines. Relatively simple right?
Well, seemed so...until we went to collect our bags in NY (you have to collect your bags when entering the 1st US city from an International destination...even if they are checked through to your final destination) bags.
So, we mosey on over to the luggage desk, and they inform us that the bags are still in London, waiting for a flight to Chicago that will get them in there at 9:30 in the evening. Then at this point, they will send them on to Pittsburgh...
seriously people, this has not been the best trip for me.
Now, my family is incredibly calm and understanding, but I am not that calm.

I am looking forward to getting to Pittsburgh and relaxing, but then, I guess I have to do some early Christmas shopping, (or quick laundry), until our bags arrive.

'tis the season

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Airport Story #1

You knew it was coming:
the start of the Christmas travel season...
and my airport stories.
I decided to number this one, because I have this feeling that there may be more than one!

We were set to leave today, Tuesday at 9:30 am. We were connecting in Istanbul and then onto London. We had lovely plans to spend the evening in London riding the London Eye

and then off to watch The Lion King musical. Then our travels would continue the following morning through JFK and finally into Pittsburgh.
Well, as of going to sleep last night, (Monday), the flight was already delayed, but only by a couple of hours, still allowing us time to make the connection. Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning to check on the estimated departure, it is delayed even further.
We will miss our connection to London.
There is another flight leaving Istanbul later, but I fear that we may miss that one also. Let's try to keep positive thoughts going so that we make that flight!
At least then we may still get to take the children on the Eye..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Shutterfly Free 50

Hello blogger friends and fans...
yes, it is that time of year again. The time when memories are cherished just a little more, warm feelings invade our thoughts and hearts, and hopefully, selflessness is a word that does not usually come in to my mind, but rather, the world becomes a bit more giving.

We all like to share our holidays with family and friends, and of course, sharing of ourselves through our blogs. So this year, I want to share with you my participation in a promotion by Shutterfly. For writing this post I am going to be able to receive 50 Christmas cards, for free!
This is not the first time that I use these cute cards that Shutterfly offers. I have used their Christmas cards for many years. I always seem to hear compliments from friends and family like...."Look how cute these cards are!" "We look forward to your card every year!"

Another favorite amongst our families are Shutterfly's calendars. Every year for Christmas we give each family member a calendar full of pictures from throughout our past year. Shutterfly is easy to use, so this calendar is as simple as uploading the pictures and finding the perfect arrangement for them. You also can personalize specific dates to reflect birthday, anniversaries and anything else you'd like to remember. Since we live so far away from our families, this is a perfect reminder of us each day when they look at our photos.

Shutterfly has also helped me in my gift giving...and not just for Christmas! My Mother and Mother in law have benefitted numerous times on Mother's Day. Shutterfly has helped me design photo mugs and even a cute purse with a photo of our children. Grandmas certainly LOVE that to carry around!

Well, Shutterfly has been there to help me! There are many more ideas for photo gifts also...
so take a look through their site, and find the perfect card, mug and gift that fits you and your family!

Thank you Shutterfly! Enjoy browsing friends!

Friday, December 10, 2010


The Ural River is starting to freeze!
I guess the weather is finally staying cool enough overnight that the freeze is setting in.

I hear that later in the winter season you can actually drive a car on this River!
Amazing, isn't it? I can't wait to have that photo opportunity!

Today's morning temp, when I took these pictures, was 19F, -7C

Thursday, December 9, 2010

counting down

I am in such a Merry mood...
I have been playing Christmas tunes and even doing some slight decorating
(all of my Christmas decorations are on their way here, so not much this year!)
with a few bits and pieces that I found at the local grocery store!

The kids had their first caroling and it was just slightly cold. Then they had their parties and Christmas concert. It is such a festive time of year, and I love it!

I think trees are one of my favorite images of Christmas...

Counting down until our travels
5 more days!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Different signs(not so wordless, though!)

Wordless Wednesday

I can only understand this to mean:

No sardines or bottles for the next 35M

From what I understand from folks that have lived here for a little longer than we have, especially during the winter months, when there is a lot of ice and snow, cold temperatures, and they are still fishing and enjoying the Ural River...
there is a lot of discarding of Vodka bottles and sardine cans!

Should be interesting!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My morning wake up

Seeing as we are 10 hours ahead of EST, I get to wake up a little early when my Steelers play an evening game.
I haven't posted about them much this year,
but last night's win was another great game between these two tough hitting football teams. I still have watched every game though I may not have enlightened you with the stats like I used to do!

My Steelers came out with the win and the lead in the AFC North:
Steelers 13
Baltimore Ravens 10

This was an important game, partially, it always is since Baltimore is in our division, but also because this year both teams were with 8 wins, 3 losses. This helped decide who is the leader going into the last few games before the playoffs.

I am excited also because we are going to the game on the 23rd against the Carolina Panthers.
It should be cold, and I am hoping for snow....I really want to be sitting in the stadium with snow flurries! I know, I am crazy right?! But that is Steeler football to me...
snowy, cold, rough and strong defense!
Go Steelers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1st

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....
I so enjoy that song this time of year!

The air is getting chilly here. The days still have been incredibly warm, hovering around 54 degrees, unheard of for this time of year!
But today, my husband sent me a note of a winter weather advisory for an area fairly close to Atyrau! The night time wind chills are expected to drop well below zero and there is a chance of snow!
I am actually quite excited to experience this...even if it does mean the start of a long winter!

There are a few decorations going up around camp and around the city...I only have pictures of these blow up figures, but there are Christmas trees and lights hanging around, too.

We have caroling and Christmas concerts coming up this weekend...
exciting times are upon us;
including getting ready to leave for the US to spend Christmas with our families in a few weeks!

I love this time of year! ho, ho ho :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So what is a camp anyways?

Camp life...what I have been talking about this past month and how we are living....
Are you thinking that we have these super high tech tents set up for us? Maybe a commune type of house similar to a Big Brother house?

No...this is our "camp".

We all have a townhome with pretty fenced -in yards. There is a large field for the kids to run and play in, as well as a playground and outdoor swimming pool for the hot summer months.

Here are the indoor tennis courts and indoor swimming pool.

There is a clubhouse that has a restaurant open a few times a week, pool tables, and a reading/craft/tv area.

The kids can ride their bikes to school when the weather allows...which, so far, has mostly been sunny and really pretty despite the cool air!

This is the school gym, which is also used for events, like tonight's Thanksgiving dinner.
We will all gather here tonight and I will post the pictures tomorrow of it!

I am thankful for my family, our health and the wonderful opportunities that we have been
given and Blessed with this Thanksgiving Day!

Hope you are enjoying you Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Intricacies of a camp life

It is different living on a camp.
I usually like to give my whole self, but sometimes maybe that's not always the best thing to do.
Like any relationship/friendship that is just starting, sometimes you find awkward moments when you are not sure how much to give or how much to hold.

Here on a camp, where there about 75-80 families, some with kids, some without, it is even a little trickier. You think that you have found friends that are willing to learn about you and give some of their selves out also....
but then you just are not sure how far to go.
Your news is spread far and wide...good or bad, happy or sad.

I have found a nice group...but still, I am a little worried that I give too much too quickly. I am who I am, and I rarely hold anything back. I think I need to learn to do just that...not give too much, and not trust too quickly.

When you live any expat life, I think you learn that you really don't want to give all of yourself. At least not in the first days anyways. You know that there will be some people that make a difference in your life, and some that you can really do without. You learn and trust fairly quickly, because at any given moment, you or they may leave.
If you don't take a chance and trust your instincts. then you may feel very lonely.

I hope that I have made the right choices...only time will tell.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two down and one to go...

The animals arrived on schedule today.
It was quite interesting...
after 7 days of travel, and 4 weeks without me,
I'm not sure Bella even knew who was taking her out of her cage!
Once she got inside the house and actually listened and turned around to see, she started howling.
Then my daughter and I gave her a bath, and she was so calm. She doesn't like the water really anyways, but she still was a very good girl. She moaned a little while combing her...I took it as she was telling me all her woes from this past month.
Now, she seems content to be home, but still very new to the surroundings. It will take awhile for her to get used to it all.

And Tiger? She ran out of her cage, found the litter box, and has been hiding under covers and under the beds ever since this morning.

It is good to have them here. I missed them.
and now, this also means that my husband will be here in the equivalent of one hand...5 days.
We are all on the countdown, and wishing we could make time move a little quicker,
just this once :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dinner is served

A lady here offered to hold cooking classes for the children.
On Monday, my daughter made smoothies. We had them for dinner that night and
they were yummy!

Tonight, my son made us dinner:

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

It was so good...
I may have a chef in the making!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The animals are on their way...

Well, at least they have started their 7 day long journey.


and Bella

flew on Monday to Sao Paulo, and spent the night in the kennel there. Tuesday, they supposedly left for Amsterdam, but I am getting conflicting reports on whether the plane left or not.
I know it was delayed, but have not figured out if it actually left yet!
I hope so, poor babies!
I would not want to be locked up in a cage while delays take place. The flight is already extremely long for them, around 10 hours I think!
They will then spend a night in Amsterdam, and fly on Thursday evening to
Almaty, Kazakhstan, arriving Friday morning.
Then they will have to spend two night in Almaty, not sure why exactly they can't fly on Saturday, but...they fly into Atyrau on Sunday morning...we hope.

Do you think they get frequent flier miles?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: Angels in My Hair

I have to write to tell you all about a wonderful book by Lorna Byrne called:
"Angels in My Hair"

It is Lorna's personal story of her experiences with the Angels and God. I know some of you are doubting me already, but I loved this book.
It spoke to me personally, touching on a few subjects that are close to my heart.

I recommend it and hope that you can see after reading this book, that we all have our Angel with us, and we just need to talk to them to let them know that we believe.
Maybe if more of us talked with our Angel,listened to our Angel, we could learn about how to get along.

There is so much war and hurt in this world; so much wrongdoing from one human being against another....we need to figure out how to live in peace with one another, respecting each other, loving each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Air shipment and roses!

Well it was an exciting day Wednesday to receive our air shipment.
This is the shipment that is sent along first, very small in size, that is supposed to contain some of your favorite things.

We packed a few favorite kitchen items, the cat toy (which made me laugh when it came bouncing out with it's balls on springy metal things), clothes, and of course, about a zillion stuffed dolls that my daughter put in!

It is nice to use our own plates again, and to feel just the little bit like the home is coming together. We will not have our other shipment for at least 2-4 that will be a long time to wait for the comforts of home!

Me being the forever florist, I also packed a few vases into the shipment and good thinking on my part because for the 2nd week in a row I have received these from my wonderful husband! We only have 2 more weeks to be apart, and I hope it flies as quick as these past two weeks have!

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 1st

Have you seen my cool, new weather widget to the right?
Did you notice what it says tonight?

Yes, November 1st, and there is a little bit of wet snow falling. The kids screamed with delight!

It is probably a little too warm to stick, but it means that the promises of snow are forthcoming!

Happy November 1st...
let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It was certainly a fun filled evening here last night.
My kids got to go trick or treating, for to house, pillow cases in hand and really receiving more sweets and treats than any dentist could be more thrilled about!

They then went and exchanged candy for silly bands and for other favorite candies, watched a Halloween movie and were so excited all the way back to the house!
So, whether you celebrated yesterday, or are getting ready for tonight, have a

Happy Spooky Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010


The sunrise this morning was beautiful over the Ural River.
The sky appeared as if it was on fire!

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I probably should think about changing my closet a little...
now, don't worry Honey, I am not going out and buying a whole new wardrobe, but...
black and tights/leggings are definitely the norm on the street.

I usually wear bright colors from living in Rio, but felt a bit awkward today, when I went out.
First of all, I should mention that I went out for the first time by myself today.
I called the driver company that works for us here, they came and picked me up, and took me to where I needed to go.
I was in my rose pink track suit...
boy, did I stick out like a sore thumb.
The good thing is that I did go to a new grocery store that I liked a lot. It reminded me of one in the US really...not as many choices or different products than the other stores here, but just bigger aisles and very clean.

Food is tricky, well...everything is tricky since this is the first foreign country that I have lived in where I do not understand the labels! I wish that I knew how to spell "salt" in Russian or Kazakh. I really prefer salted butter. There is an English type here but I can only find the "unsalted" variety!

Oh well...I will keep trying new things!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lunch, the old fashioned way

I remember when I was in grade school, my Grandma came to pick me up every Wednesday for lunch. We used to go to a really close restaurant called the Point View.
It is such a special memory that I still hold onto today.

Today, my children came home for lunch, as they will every day while we live here. It was nice to see them, hear about their day and their new friends, teachers and subjects. It was really good to see what they are actually eating for lunch.
Plus, since they ate fairly quickly, we got to finish our game of Yahtzee!

Change can be good...

Saturday, October 23, 2010


It is a word that has much meaning in our lives and in our society...

for me and my family right now, it is the pure joy in my children's voices.

"Mom, she's here!"
"Mom, I'm going out for a walk to see who is out in the neighborhood so that we can play"

They had this when they were very young, but for the last 8 years, it has been a task to call and make a "date" with their little friends, find them a ride or drive them there ourselves, and then going back for them, or having someone pick up their child from our house.

Now, it seems like they are little birds that have just found their wings and
are already experts at flight!
It makes it so enjoyable to be here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm here..and with internet and a working blog!! (and of course a few airport stories!)

Yes, the blog works!
I guess that temporary residence we stayed in the last time we came didn't have the same set up as you can get personally.

So, the internet man came this morning, hooked me up, and here we are!

So, yesterday went fairly smoothly but there is always an airport story, right?!
Leaving Rio was challenging. We had to go from Rio-Sao Paulo-Amsterdam-Atyrau.
We needed to collect our bags in Sao Paulo, so that KLM could send them striaght through to Atyrau, since our connection was only 45 minutes in Amsterdam.
Well, the local Brasilian airline didn't want to do that. They said the travel agent didn't book the flight right and that they had to send the bags to Amsterdam.

Well, after much discussion with supervisors, my husband and the travel agent, they finally decided that they could do that. Luckily we made the plane on time, were able to pick up our bags in Sao Paulo and be on our way.

The flights were fairly non eventful. My kids (and me!) loved traveling in business class. It makes such a difference on the long haul flights. the flight from Sao Paulo to Amsterdam took 11 hours...and being able to lay your seat almost flat is amazing!

The 45 minute stop was not a problem as I was worried it would be. The gates were fairly close, and we made it without too much effort.
When we land in Atyrau, everything went smoothly with the passports and visas, but we were missing 4 out of 5 bags.

I guess the 45 minute layover wasn't enough for them! So, we had to wait in line (several people were missing their luggage actually) and fill out a form. We should get them on tonight's flight....but we shall see.

So here are a few photos of the house we have...
my daughter is still sleeping (it's almost noon here!), and my son is out playing nerf gun battles with some new should be good here. I'm excited...I just hope that the month without my husband goes by quickly!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So long, farewell...

The house is packed, the boxes loaded and ready to move on...
just as I am. Tomorrow starts a long journey, a new adventure.

It is hard to say good bye twice, but I know that those that I really care about, I will see again, which is comforting.
So, me and the kids are off! My husband will join us in about a month....
the animals, well, that chapter still is to be written!

As I said before, I'm not sure if I can work out my blog in Atyrau; so if you don't hear from me for awhile, I promise to be back. I will work on it as soon as I have a chance!

As they say in Russian:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the middle of it all

As promised...
here are a couple of shots of the packers doing their thing...

The first day seemed to go well, the second seemed that brought about their bringing 3 extra people on Friday! It went quicker, but to me, there is still a lot to go.
I realized how much "stuff" we had as I keep seeing them pack, and pack, and pack...

Friday they also loaded a truck with what they had inventoried so far...
It is a bit trickier because we have things going to 2 different spots...
most of the "stuff" inside of all the furniture is going with us to Atyrau; while the furniture itself, and a few bits and pieces that we want for the Key West house, is going to the US.

I think it should work out well...I guess I'll let you know in about 3 months.
Yep, that's the estimated time it takes to receive your's hard thinking of what to pack when you know you won't see any of it for a long time.
Mostly we took only what we think we will need...
you know those weight limitations on suitcases kill world travelers like us!

Anyways, they will finish up next Monday and Tuesday, and then the kids and I are off to our new adventure! My husband and animals will join us a little later...which will be hard, but hopefully the time will pass by quickly.

More to come on the move next week! Hope you are having a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One amazing story and others

Are you watching the rescue of the miners in Chile?
I find it amazing that they have been so successful in their mission.
May God bless them and their families and help them through the aftermath of their ordeal!
Every man that comes out brings tears to my eyes...

We start packing today...I will try to snap some pictures and report tonight.

A sad part of our transition is having to say good bye to our older dog Coal yesterday. He is going to a loving home with my maid. Coal really loves her and the reality of the situation is that it would have been a very difficult trip for him. Plus, being 10 years old and trying to deal with the harsh winters of Atyrau may have been too much for him. So we made the tough decision to leave him here. It was a teary farewell but one I feel is best for him, which should always be most important when caring for an animal.
(This is not the best photo, but it seems it is the only one I can find right now)

Monday, October 11, 2010


You know, when I was at the hair dresser on Wednesday, it went too smoothly.
I went in and was out in about 3 hours, fairly normal.
I felt chicken that I didn't get my hair short right then and there...but now, I realize it was the better decision.
I went home, found the hair cut from that I wanted, with photo angles from front, side and back, and now felt more confident by Saturday.

So, I made the appointment right after one of my good friends here had her appointment.
She was scheduled for for 7. Except, where did I wake up today?
Right, the land of the perpetually late hair dresser.
My friend had to wait until 4, because he had her scheduled for 4. So I went to keep her company before my cut (secretly hoping he could cut mine while she was having hair coloring processed) but at time so he could take his time. Fair enough...
except that she didn't start her appointment until almost 5. So, I left and had dinner with my family and went back...
around 9 we finally started on my cut.

I was not worried in the least, so it must have been better for me to wait until I was really sure that was what I wanted. I really like it!! It feels different. I like to change my hair and it is really changed!
Here I am:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Houses, hair and hectic

That pretty much sums up my life right now!

I had my hair done yesterday by my favorite hair dresser here.
There is always drama with him, but he gives a good cut.
The problem yesterday was me...not the time (for a change!)
Remember last time it took 6 hours? Well it only took 3 yesterday...and really, the first 1/2 hour we were chatting the whole time!

So, the debate yesterday was do I go for a complete change and cut it short. I mean SHORT!
Well, I chickened out...but he offered me a free cut if I decide to do it before I leave in a couple of weeks. I keep looking at photos of Michelle Williams new hair can google it, and I think I'm going to do it!

See, my philosophy on hair is that it grows! When I was a dancer I couldn't cut my hair. I had to have it long...and well, ever since I stopped dancing 12 years ago,
I have always changed my hair.
I have had it short before and liked it....
I have had it long and liked it...
right now, I have had my hair long for quite some time. I know it looks pretty...
everyone tells me how pretty it is.
For me, it is not about pretty. Pretty comes from the inside, and I think I still "look pretty" with my hair short or long.
What I want is a change I think. I'm tired of blow drying it the same way every time.
I know short hair has a lot of upkeep, but I am ok with that.
Anyways, the decision isn't made yet...but it is certainly looking like a short do is in store for me! (and if I do it, I will take a picture and break my rule of no personal photos on my blog!)

My friend Carol asked about packing...
yes, it has started. I technically do not have to pack anything except my personal belongings.
I do need to start putting Post-it notes on where items are going though. Most of our belongings will come with us, but quite a bit of the big pieces are going to storage in the US.
The air shipment was packed on Monday. No food allowed, not even cat/dog food.
Uh-oh...looks like it will be some home cooked meals for the animals too!
It went smoothly though, and it should be on it's way to meet us there!
The sea shipment starts next week. Wish me luck with separating what goes where and making the gentleman understand all of it!

and finally...we found out which townhouse will be ours!

This was much anticipated news because there was a small debate going on.
(I will spare you the details!)
We are having a townhouse that overlooks the Ural River. I am very excited about this because it allows us some more privacy in our back yard. Plus, it is at the far end of the camp...which means I will feel like I can "get away" at least a little bit. Also, it will allow me some great pictures (I hope!) of the Ural River, especially once it freezes over completely!

Things are going well!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Only in Paris:
Pink toilet seat covers in the ladies bathroom!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The New Adventure (long post, but please read it all!)

On to finishing the pre-assignment visit...
So, after the extra two days in Amsterdam, we finally get to Atyrau. The flight is fairly simple, only about 5 hours (that means some great travel for future reference ;) )

The airport reminded me so much of when we lived in Maracaibo, Venezuela. It was small with only two stations open for checking passports and getting your bags, etc...
no carts to haul all that extra luggage we took. It was pretty funny to see my husband and I running back forth with the bags that we could carry!
I can't imagine going there the next time...
picture: myself, two kids, 3 suitcases (big), 3 carry-ons (small) and a dog and cat.
How about we do not even go there yet, ok?
(breath, om, going to my happy place, breath)

We were greeted by a few fellow colleagues of my husband and taken to the camp. It is close to the airport so that was good seeing as we were tired from all of our journey.
We stayed in the guest house, which was similar to a hotel, but much more comfortable. The ladies from the camp, who are wives of the men my husband will be working with, had put in a lovely basket filled with goodies and fruits, water and pops in the was a nice welcome seeing as we were tired and just wanted to relax for the evening to get ready for the next day.

The next day came and I was greeted by 3 ladies that were a sort of welcome committee for me. They took me around to the different grocery stores and even a flower shop! Boy, how did they know I needed to see that flower shop?!
I thought it funny, though, that they took me to about 4 different grocery stores, but I really found them all to generally have the same things! I wanted to tell them that I am used to this kind of shopping after living overseas almost 8 years now, and that most sights that they thought might take some getting used to, do not surprise me. I wanted to tell them that it is ok with how the meat and fish look in the cases...
how can it not look ok to least they were in semi refrigerated cases...
I mean, I usually buy my chicken and fish off a street vendor, yep...all out in the open!
They were quite generous with their time and their advice, so I just let them lead me around.
We had an afternoon tea where I was introduced to a few more ladies.

Truthfully, I think living on a camp will be the hardest felt by me. I think our children will relish in the freedom of walking/biking/scootering to school and friend's houses. I think my husband will still get up and go to work like anywhere...but for me, well, it will be different and probably take some adjusting of being around the same people every day, all day.
I will stick to my routine, though...and they have a beautiful "club" on the camp to help me do that. There is an indoor lap pool (YEA!!!!!) and an outdoor pool, as well (weather permitting obviously!). They have 2 nice indoor hard court tennis courts, a workout room, small library, restaurant and social area. It seems like life will work itself out there, and I will find my way. I always do!

The housing is quite nice. Though we are not sure which townhouse we are actually moving into, it really does not matter much. They are all exactly the same, so we are waiting for a final decision on which one it will be.

The school was great. It is quite small with combining of classes, but it was really well presented. The headmaster was very informative, honest and gave it to us as we liked it...straight forward! We heard of the benefits, like opportunity for specialized attention due to the small class sizes, to the faults, like the language program. At least this way we know what we are headed into...we already bought the Rosetta Stone French Course 1 for our son that is loving learning the French language this year! (His 12th birthday is this Tuesday by the way!)

All in all, I think this will be a great opportunity for our kids and for some great travel. I am trying not to get too overwhelmed by the "fish bowl" effect of living on a camp where everyone wants to know your business. I have my plan set in motion. I know what I want to get out of this experience, and though I am always open to changing my plan, I will stick to it and have fun in the process.
There are going to be some great travels from here!

Now, can anyone tell me how to continue blogging in a country that I believe blocks blogger? :(
Yes folks, that is a big downside...I tried to blog there, but I couldn't open my page! So, if anyone has any tips, please pass them along! I don't want to update everyone only every 6 months?! I promise to figure out a way once I get there...

but look for more crazy packing stories coming up! It all starts tomorrow with packing the air shipment! Off I go to organize! (Agh, I could use you right now Gabriela!!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

London and Amsterdam

We spent two days each in London (planned) and Amsterdam (unplanned).

London is a vibrant city, even though they mostly all wear black! As I wandered around, the first day with my husband, the second day without, I found the people to be lively, friendly and quite in the rush. They do not stop much but constantly seem to be going from one place to another.
We got to tour around the popular sites a little:

We rode The Eye which was really fun:

and just enjoyed the feeling of a big city.

I loved taking the subway and finding my way around while looking for warm clothes, coats, gloves, etc....getting ready for our upcoming move. We bought so much...even though it will still probably not be enough to get us through the whole winter in Atyrau!

and it ended up costing us in the end! Why?
Well, we were fine, weight wise, if we flew directly from London to Atyrau, with just a change in planes in Amsterdam.
But did you really read the first sentence of the post well?
We didn't get to do that! We ended up not having all the paperwork in time for the flight between Amsterdam and Atyrau. So, we waited for the paperwork and flew to Atyrau on Sunday. What does this mean?
We had to pay for the baggage because the local airlines limitations are MUCH smaller when you check in in Amsterdam.

So, we stayed an extra two days in Amsterdam.
We had both been to Amsterdam, but not together. It is an interesting city that thrives on a true European feel. The streets are filled with people walking, talking, shopping...we got to enjoy a delicious cheese and meat fondue, stroll through the streets together hand and hand.
It was a lovely stop over, even if unplanned!

We took a boat ride through the canals, were charmed by the architecture and enjoyed our time exploring this city of canals, together.

All in all, it was a beautiful 4 days. We rushed around and strolled along. We visited and took pictures, made memories and bookmarked where we would take our children!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So much to fill you in on....Where to begin

Well, how about we start at the very beginning....
as Julie Andrews told us:
It's a very good place to start! (from The Sound of Music)

The Key West house was first on our stop...
notice the luxury my husband's company spoils us with when on a pre-assignment trip, or what we all call the "look-see".
Yup, when you can use this little device,

that means you are in business class.
It is such a different experience than flying we never pay for, but are gifted by the company on certain occasions. Being able to lay almost flat, have a comfortable pillow and blanket, and actually eat the food that is served...
what a difference it makes when going on these long trips.

So we spent about two and a half days at our house. We always have so much fun and wish we could retire already!
I think the funniest part of Key West was when we went to Sears one day. We had just walked into the store, and there comes an announcement on the speakers...
for all people in the store..(at which point I was glad that I was near an exit in case something was wrong!)...but was I mistaken.
On came this gentleman describing some free giveaways near the flashing light.
So, why husband and I wander over and the man begins his presentation. I will spare you all the details, but he was a seller for Mr. Sticky....
They were only going to have this deal for all 10 of us there and only for this limited time...
so what am I getting at?
Well, we got a deal...on the whole Sticky Family.

For this limited offer, we were able to purchase Mr. Sticky, Mrs. Sticky and Sticky Jr for a much discounted price...over half off what they will be selling it for on QVC (and it will not be available in stores people!).
Let me tell you, they work. We took the Sticky family home and tried it out on the floors in our house. It picked up everything...little dust particles that I haven't been able to pick up with the sweeper, little crumbs, hair, gunk...everything!
It is really sticky, and yes, all you do is wash it off and dry it with a towel, while massaging it a little...and it is sticky again.
The whole scenario was making me laugh so much, but truthfully, I am so glad we "stuck" around. ;)

So, I won't overload you with the whole trip at once (plus my Steelers are on!)
On tomorrow's episode of my Roller Coaster Ride:
London and Amsterdam