How to Go to the Pharmacy

The other week, someone asked me what is the weirdest thing that’s happened to me in Kazakhstan. I replied by retelling the story of how an overly amorous graduate student found out where I lived and showed up at my apartment one day when I was dyeing my hair and eyebrows. This was an impressive feat considering that my building has security (okay, okay, they are pretty inconsistent and asleep half the time).

But what actually sticks in my mind as the weirdest thing, likely because of its longevity, is that I never get my period here. When I first moved to KZ, I had my period twice, in regular fashion and I have not had it since then. I was so panicky that in one of my lower points of life, I texted the gentleman whom I’d had a casual encounter with (I was once so lucky as to meet someone not affiliated with my workplace who was in town for business) to confirm that it was logistically impossible for me to be pregnant.

Think for a moment about the wording of the question that I had to ask this man. Then you will know how far the effort of going to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test surpassed the embarrassment of posing this question.


Low points

It was all moot in the end because though he answered in the affirmative I still felt uneasy and off I went to the аптека. I held up Google Translate on my phone with “pregnancy test” written on it, the pharmacist chuckled to herself, tossed one my way and yes, indeed, I was not pregnant. It was one of the most straightforward transactions I’ve had in KZ.

In my defense, it is really easy to blow things out of proportion when you live in an isolated place.

I still haven’t gotten my period here. But what really blew me away, was getting my period while on holiday in Denmark. Bodies are strange and amazing and I guess mine doesn’t like being here. Let’s see if it likes Japan when I go there next month.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

This somehow seems appropriate, okay?

Now here are some useful аптека/pharmacy tips:

  • There are pharmacies in every mall and they are separate stores, not attached to grocery stores. My favourite pharmacy is the one in Asia Park.
  • Things at the pharmacy are cheap!
  • This is where you’ll have to buy contact lens solution and dental floss.
  • This is also where you can buy herbal tea. For example, mint tea is sold at the pharmacy because it is considered a kind of aphrodisiac here. Once I bought two boxes of mint tea and the staff could hardly handle it.
  • You don’t often need a prescription for things. For example, you can buy birth control one month at a time for about $6. You can even buy antibiotics without a prescription! But you have to know the specific name of items like this that you want to buy.
  • You can order pharmaceutical items delivered to your house from this site. Though I find it too overwhelming to make any attempts.
  • Some things are universal, like Strepsils and Vitamin C. Other things you can type into Google Translate and show the pharmacist. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, like when I tried to buy cortisone. But I don’t really care enough to ask any local friends what the Russian equivalent is. This is one place you never have to be self-conscious of dry skin.


Everything is going to be okay (when you’re in another country)


6 thoughts on “How to Go to the Pharmacy

  1. I wonder if not having a period is environmental….? So strange that while traveling to Denmark you got it. Maybe stress…it sounds like a harsh place to live.

    • I’m guessing it’s internalized stress – KZ is rated 4/5 on the embassy hardship scale! Though I don’t think it quite ranks with Afghanistan, which I’ve heard is also a 4. I’m sure all will run smoothly again once I leave.

      • I had this problem for years! I went to boarding school and literally all three years I was there, I only got my period when I went home on school breaks. My doctor classified it as “abnormally normal” because it was actually a normal pattern and like clockwork, within a day or so of leaving school, I’d get it. it slowly became more normally regular in college.

  2. I had this problem during the 3 years I was in boarding school – literally only got my period on school breaks. my doctor classified it as “abnormally normal” because it was actually following a pattern, just not the normal one. it took a few years into college before I became more normally regulated.

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