Shades of blue, pesky green… and counting Ladas



IMG_3525It was one of those days yesterday, which admittedly, one can have anywhere. Although I returned to Kazakhstan only last week, the initial excitement of seeing hubby and friends had given way to a dismal Wednesday. I’ve somewhat recovered my equilibrium today; back from a ladies lunch and a market, but yesterday… oh how I longed to get back on that plane.

Trust me there have been countries over the years that yielded more than their fair share of, well in Qatar we all used to call them, Doha Days, and not in a good way. So I suppose yesterday was my first, Aktau Day.

I drift back to other countries we’ve lived in. A ‘few moons’ ago in Japan I loved teaching English, though it was definitely a bad day when rats from the upper flat visited us and scurried across the tatami mats and futons. In Holland, gloomy days were easily spun away with a good bike ride through the cobbled streets. Scotland? Too many to mention and that was before the travails of two kids coming down with the chicken pox at the same time. Oman? Bad days didn’t exist except perhaps when the water was too choppy to take the boat out… oh heavenly Oman! And the U.S? The first six months in Houston I was desperate to go back to Oman. Norway? Let’s just say my ‘romance’ with the Vikings and my work cheered me immensely and rescued me from blue days and lashing horizontal rain.

But back to Kazakhstan. There’s a honeymoon phase when you first move to a country andIMG_4199 I revelled in that last fall, but of course, it often doesn’t last. Thankfully at least, my daily routine is calm and harmonious. The ebullient staff greet me warmly at breakfast, placing my Americano on my table while I do a first sweep of the buffet. Miroslav, the chef calls out to ask if I’d like an omelette…”pazahal’sta, just a malinky,” I reply using my favourite Russian word meaning small.  The odd day, there might be the distraction of an unfamiliar guest to chat with. Today it was a lovely, and understandably jet-lagged American lady here to attend a wedding this weekend. I tip my hat to her as it’s an awful long way to come for a celebration. I have a feeling she hid her surprise when I told her I actually lived here.  It does catch a few people off guard, including myself occasionally.

Most days by this time, the ‘business’ crowd has left for work leaving us stragglers, including the striking Air Astana flight attendants who frequent the hotel. They glide past us in perfectly manicured ‘other worldliness’; thank goodness I usually dress for breakfast and with makeup! Yesterday, my eye followed them wistfully… maybe I could jump on a flight back to Istanbul with you. Predictably, the rhythmic efficiency of the staff preparing for lunch is a reminder to make use of my time, to not squander it. Look at the luxury you have, living in a hotel, no chores, no responsibilities…

And it’s interesting, even intriguing with a revolving door of different people and fascinating conversations. Going down for a cocktail or two and buzzing back up to the top floor is darn cool. The staff feel like family, I was welcomed back with hugs and genuine warmth.

But there I was yesterday, feeling restless, feeling confined. The suite had been cleaned while I had breakfasted. My quick stint at the gym was lacklustre. A short walk to the grocers garnered IMG_3839some much needed vitamin D and my two phrases of Russian elicited a few carrots and wilted coriander. Back along the rutted sidewalk to the hotel, outing complete. Not one photo snapped, not one interesting exchange, not even a glance out to the sea. As the elevator doors closed on me, I slipped back into the doldrums.

Trying to be productive, I washed our seven dishes from lunch… yes B. comes home for lunch every day, usually just when I’m caught up in my work and would rather not be disturbed.

“See you this evening,” I’m forever calling out to him as he leaves in the morning. He looks at me like I’ve lost my memory once again. I switch from being away from him for more than a month at a time, to having him home for lunch everyday, please tell me that elicits just a little sympathy ladies…

Continuing with my predictable days, I know that the very efficient Amangul will deliver our laundry at 4:30 and trust me, I longed to have this respite from housework and chores once again. Yet there is something fulfilling about a gleaming floor and dust free blinds when they’re the fruits of your own labour. No, the laundry I will never miss. And yes I admit that crawling into pristine sheets every evening is, well… sublime.

DSC04600Snap back to that restless afternoon, time is crawling by. I’m procrastinating, I have a writer’s bio to complete for some newly published work and I’m designing a writer’s workshop that I should start on. Instead, I stare absent-mindedly out the window. Oh how I wish I could open it. The view of the Caspian from our suite is usually what inspires me.  Today it’s almost monochromatic; the sea and sky melding into one dun, formless canvas.

Seemingly in a hypnotic trance, I fixate on the busy IMG_4240intersection from our upper window, watching the cars scurry below. I start counting Ladas, those ubiquitous toy-like cars left over the Soviet days. Hmm, seems there’s about one every twenty cars… yes, seems they’re all still white. This is rather ridiculous, get on with something, I chide myself.

Then something registers against the drab skyline. I suddenly get these ‘Soviet style’ buildings across the street and down the streets… those with no names.  I understand their garish colours and the slathers of paint on the low, crumbling concrete walls. Some relief, some colour DSC04672against this drab February setting.

I recall pondering this when we were out in the warmth of the October sun, the fact that so much of the city is hued in blue and green.

Do they have a warehouse full of that pesky green shade left over from Soviet times that will be used until eternity. The blue I like!

IMG_4265Blue, along with that sickly shade of hospital green dominate the colour scheme; at the markets, on signs, on flower pots and buildings. On buses, benches and especially doors. I sense it isn’t by chance and read that in this part of the world, blue is a colour steeped in tradition and of religious significance. To the Turkic people, as with Kazakhs, it symbolizes cultural and ethnic unity. It also represents the endless sky, as well as precious water (not to mention the colour of the Kazakh flag.) Yes, this light blue colour is meant to signify health, healing and as a bonus it wards off evil spirits.  Perhaps why it graces so many doors?


So, I finally rally and go to my photos that are resplendent with these two shades. There is no end to the photos I took when I first arrived, it must have been that beguiling honeymoon phase. Looking at them now has cheered me, revived me… at least I’m no longer counting Ladas!


There is a shade on the colour wheel for this sickly green – #94b21c – I learn and concede the supposed healing properties of the light blue; a lovely antidote for all it seems.

No things aren’t that bad, after all tomorrow is Friday which means there’s the weekly soiree to look forward to. The ‘gang’ will be down at the bar for evening drinks and then dinner. Last week’s tales spanned from the preponderance of luxurious fur coats,IMG_3872 to the endless bottles of vodka stacked in supermarket aisles and unbelievably, to bride stealing in nearby Kyrgyzstan – yes sadly an issue.

And it appears there will be a chat about a trip being planned to Azerbaijan. It’s supposed to be a must see… I know, who would have thought it. I’ll keep you posted!





8 responses »

    • Your writing was superb here. I loved and resonated with the sentence about buzzing from cocktails and the bittersweet tone that was in the ‘darn cool’. I also understand. How I understand. It’s normal. We all go through it, and, like you, Oman was the only place I ever lived that I avoided a single day of doldrums. Not one. But not everywhere is Oman and all have highs and lows. What your ‘naked’ writing here shows is that even in the grey there is colour, albeit ‘pesky’ but you show your eye for colour and your ability to be authentic without being sappy. I applaud you for voicing what so many others think but dare not say out loud because, after all, it makes us sound so ungrateful.

      • Thank you Jo, that means a lot. You say it precisely, the problem with being truthful is the fear of sounding ungrateful. I think we’re all very thankful for this interesting yet challenging life we lead as expats, yet sometimes it just feels right to get a little ‘naked.’ Something you’ve been instrumental in helping us writers to do.

  1. HI Terry! Well I have to say that your dull drums have produced one of your best posts! Your writing was incredible….you transported me to another place…and I truly felt like I was walking in your shoes..for a brief time. Something has it you or maybe it is me? But….this post was your best yet! The lack of distractions for you is paying off…so embrace it!

    It was neat for me…when I checked my report for my newsletter…there was an open in Kazakhstan! I love that I have friends scattered all across the globe!

    All is good here in Kimberley…still no snow. We have never seen this little amount of snow at this time of year. And Lisa is getting the winter from hell in the East. Crazy! I am busy painting. I am the opposite of you….seems it’s either one way or the other? I am beginning to get overwhelmed by all the distractions and jobs that need to be tended to. But…all I want to do is paint…so the jobs and paperwork keep piling up on my desk. When I am inspired I get very good at putting the distractions to the side and focus on the paintbrush. Today I am trying to play catch up….so I will tend to “real” work today and paint again tomorrow. :0)

    Wanted to let you know that Mom found some waffle weave shower curtains at Winners in Cranbrook. Yay! So thanks for the offer, but we won’t need you to pick them up for us. However, we may need you to pick up something else….but will keep you posted!

    Hugs from Kimberley, Caprice ________________________________________ Caprice Fine Art & Co. Inc. 65 Boundary Street Kimberley, BC Canada V1A 2H4 250-427-2556 Facebook: LinkedIn: Blog: _______________________________________

    • Thanks so much Caprice, this was a difficult one as it felt rather ‘exposing’ but I think honesty is important and we shouldn’t be afraid to be write from a place of ‘pain’ once in a while. You are right in reminding me to embrace my situation, which most days I do. I had been wanting to convey what life was like living in a hotel suite, so this was destined to be written, one way or another. Very pleased you are inspired and painting and yes, it is wonderful to know you have friends afar. Keep me posted, hugs for now…

  2. Pingback: Monday Morning Musing #40 – That ‘MME Colour’ we so adore – Monday Morning Emails

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