23 April 2013

Spring in Astana - Don't remove your coat!

Our two intermediate seasons do not last long, a month at most, and we are almost at the end of our spring.

Astana, Spring, Baiterek
Crowds enjoying the warm sunshine
All the ice has now melted but our temperatures are still fluctuating.  Two weeks ago we enjoyed a spell of beautiful weather with temperatures soaring up to 28 degrees.  Last week temperatures dipped below freezing and we had snow.  Today the temperature was up to 18 degrees, the sky was blue and the sun warm and people were enjoying the sunshine in the city gardens.

Ice free Ishim
It is now warm enough  for me to be able to start my regular runs once more.  I like to run along the Ishim embankment because it is safe, clean and I can gauge my distance very easily.  It is also a lovely place to walk the dog and I have been enjoying somewhat longer excursions with her.  Many other people enjoy the river and the embankment is home to skateboarders, cyclists, roller skaters, families and joggers while the river is home to an active rowing club.  The pleasure boats have not yet started their tours but it will not be long.
Ishim, Astana, Pyramid and Ak Orda
Ishim embankment with a view to the Pyramid and Ak Orda
I have never quite managed to get used to the English habit of eschewing coats and warmer clothing (even in winter it is not uncommon to see English people wearing only a light jacket and no hat, scarf or gloves) but we do not bother with coats when the weather gets warm.  This can lead to some amusing interactions with our neighbours or even strangers on the street as people here tend to wear coats and warmer clothing until well into May.

I have noticed that familiarity with a danger or hazard does not breed contempt but rather serves to create a real respect and sometimes dread.  Before we moved to Nigeria when I was a child I expected that the local people would not be at all afraid of snakes (they terrify me) and would be able to deal with them easily.  As it turns out, because people know just how dangerous a snake and a snake bite can be, they are often terrified to the point of paralysis.  My mother, who knew no fear, was often called by friends and neighbours to dispatch snakes and was regularly seen cycling through the camp, hoe in hand, to do the deed.

As in Nigeria for snakes in Astana for the cold.  Children are swathed, head to foot, in a sweltering array of clothes even when the weather is fine and warm.  Two weeks ago I arrived to collect the children from school, our daughter was playing outside under a blue sky and a warm sun of 25 degrees wearing her winter coat and a jumper.  The poor child was boiling but the supervisors were very concerned for her health when I removed the coat - it is April and therefore, so the thinking goes, a coat is necessary even in the warmest sunshine.  It is not uncommon for strangers to stop me on the street to tell me that I should put more clothes on the children.

A mother and child enjoying the sun on the embankment
 - well wrapped up in the 20 degree temperatures.
I was amazed, last year, to watch the trees burst into leaf.  They seemed to become green overnight and all at once.  A few days ago a weekend walk in the park revealed a scattering of small shoots on the trees and, when I looked out of the window this evening I noticed a corona of green on the trees in the park.

spring leaves
Leaves budding on the trees
Astana spring
Trees bud overnight
Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat


  1. Lovely to see spring on the way. Looking forward to seeing the 'green' on our return. x

  2. I love reading your blogs, they are so descriptive and really capture the essence of Astana! Jo

    1. Thanks Jo. Astana is such a beautiful and inspiring place to live.

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    3. Hi! do you know where I can rent traditional Kazakh costumes

  3. Hi David

    Imanova Street 18/1, just round the corner from the Barley has a wide range of costumes incl traditional Kazakh clothes. With the Barley on your left walk down the side street. There is a small supermarket on the left hand side - the costume shop is in that building.