The 11 Stages of Moving to Kazakhstan

  1. Reluctance. See the job posting. Tell yourself how crazy it is.
  2. Intrigue. Keep thinking about said job posting.
  3. Research. Spend the majority of your free time looking up information on Central Asia and the organization that posted the job.
  4. Confidence. You have now invested so much time and thought into your knowledge of this area, that you’ve decided you want the job and are determined to go. Your heartbreak at not getting the job would be comparable to that of a promising 3 month-long relationship ending.
  5. 60 Seconds of Extreme Happiness Followed by a Night of Panic. You’ve been offered and have accepted the position. What have you done?!
  6. Living Your Life (LYL). Drink a lot of drinks and eat a lot of good meals with all of your friends. Be generous, especially in emotion and kindness. Remember that George Saunders speech? You’ll want to leave good memories before you go. LYL even while you go through the other phases.
  7. Zen/Denial. You have so many things to do that you can’t individually stress about, otherwise you would go crazy. It’s like The Simpsons episode when a doctor tells Mr. Burns he’s indestructible because he has every disease known to man. Attribute sudden jolts of panic to eating too many kale salads.
  8. Sadness. Start having last moments. Moments in which you realize this is the last time you’ll go to Sushiyama or the last time you’ll see your friend whom you really care about but somehow don’t manage to see more than once every two months. This is a good time to buy $200 jeans that you have to try on during the peak of summer at a place with no air conditioning, while on your period.
  9. Ugly Crying. Do one thing wrong, which leads to a complete meltdown over everything.
  10. Combine #6-8. The combination looks something like this: sitting on the kitchen floor by yourself with a glass of red wine and a bag of Munchies, picking the sticker off the front of your oven (which you only half took off after the landlord bought and installed it), while watching Celebrity Masterchef UK.

I imagine #10 will continue, with #9 thrown in again (Will it be at the airport? When you’re on a two-day vacation with your best friends? Who knows?!). Let’s insert  some periodic crankiness. And then I predict #11 will occur once on the airplane:

      11.  Relief. My goodness. It’s all done and out of your hands now. Interrupt your sleep only for the layovers and the Bits & Bites/Cookies handouts.





No cat today because I’m really into this side car camel. Look how content she is!



There have been a lot of, “Wow!”s, sarcastic “Haha, that’s funny”s, “WHAT?!”s, and blank stares when I’ve told people I’m moving to Kazakhstan. In general, people have been very supportive! I find it especially meaningful that many parental type figures in my life are so encouraging of the venture – seize the moment, etc. Here are some other reactions:

  • “You’re even weirder than I thought.”
  • “All your legislation knowledge with nowhere to go!”
  • “This calls for HOT DOGS!”
  • “Make sure you’re fully stocked up on foundation garments before you go!”

My favourite reaction was in trying to make an appointment to give my notice. I asked for an appointment, without saying what it was for, and my co-worker who was arranging the time came back to me later that morning:

Co-worker: “Noon is good. As long as you’re not resigning.”

Me: Silence.







Co-worker: “NO!”






Me:  “I took a job overseas!”

Co-worker: “Ooh!! Where?”

Me:  “Kazakhstan.”

Co-worker: “Eugh! But that doesn’t surprise me about you.”


That about sums up the feelings of most people who know me well. The initial reaction is shock and then they think about it for a moment and go, “Hm. Makes sense.”


To Do:

cancel phone plan, figure out how double taxation works, breathe a sigh of relief that your sister-in-law reminded you to cancel MSP because you wouldn’t have thought of that on your own, give notice at work, give notice for apartment, clean for apartment showings, say yes to every social obligation to make the most of the rest of the time here, decide what to keep, what to donate, what to throw away, what to sell and then deal with all of the annoyances of selling things on Craigslist, buy all the clothes and makeup that you’ll need for two years, get a criminal record check, get immunizations, use up all of your dental benefits, which means five appointments and a lot of fillings, get orthotics, just because they’re covered and you can and who knows, maybe they’re good for running, return cat fostering supplies, cancel your internet and find out you were supposed to give 30 not 20 days’ notice, drop off the modem, drop off that varnish at Canadian Tire instead of throwing it out because it’s got linseed oil in it and it could spontaneously combust, get your diploma authenticated, which is a weird process you don’t really know how to do and you realize later you should’ve hired a service instead of doing it yourself, answer the same questions over and over again but appreciate how much people are excited for you and interested in what you’re doing, continue working full-time and doing all those daily life things you do, get your shoes repaired and finally take those clothes to the tailor, figure out your finances and budget, brush up on your Russian, go out of town three weekends in a row to make sure you see friends/family before leaving, buy suitcases but make sure they won’t exceed the airlines’ size restrictions and remember that sometimes the airlines bust you by counting the wheels in the measurements, buy a one-way plane ticket and make sure that it’s with the same airline for the whole journey so you don’t get charged the excess baggage fees twice, so many emails, etc. etc. etc., forever and ever and ever.


MOST IMPORTANTLY: don’t feel guilty about lying on the couch, rewatching the entire Mad Men series, drinking rosé, and eating Whole Foods’ version of smarties during any spare moment you get.

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Things I Worried About Before I’d Even Interviewed

  • Streaming TV shows. How many times will I leave my laptop open before I go to work hoping that RuPaul’s Drag Race will be loaded by the time I get home?
  • Inevitably trying horse at some point. Though I would happily try it in hot dog form!
  • Figuring out which milk is regular cow milk at the grocery store.
  • Books. Based on my experience doing a brief practicum in Istanbul, I assume any public library system in Central Asia won’t be super fulsome. Not to mention I have the barrier of not knowing Russian. It may be time to purchase an e-reader.
  • Cycling. I tried to look up bike stores and found these complicated directions. I’m assured it’s fairly easy to buy a bike, though. As a bonus, I discovered Astana has a very well known and handsome cycling team.
  • Nature: trees, mountains, and the ocean. Astana is as landlocked as it gets on the vast prairie-like steppes. There’s a big river, at least, and lots of urban greenery.
  • Vintage clothing. Astana is such a new city, there’s probably not a lot of vintage clothing to be found and so I stocked up in the last couple weeks.
  • Fast food. I will miss Dairy Queens, A&Ws and Taco Bells. Apparently, there are McMagic’s, Big Mamas, and my old favourite, KFCs!
  • Makeup and face stuffs. I’m bringing two years’ worth with me. Hair products are too much of a burden though, so looks like I will be using something similar to this (as found in Georgia by pal, Lauren!). I’ll let you know if it solves my scurf problems.

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