Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase

*I wrote this post just before leaving Kazakhstan in February. I was a little hesitant at first about publishing (I try my hardest to keep negativity out of my blogging world), but I really wanted to share my true thoughts about the three months I spent there. As a precaution, I decided to wait to publish it until Marc was no longer playing there and we had received all of the money that was owed to us. I haven’t changed anything I wrote since I wanted it to be the most honest representation of how I felt when I left. Anything in italic is newly added.

It’s hard to believe that I’m already leaving Kazakhstan for good. It seems like just yesterday I arrived all bleary eyed and jet lagged to spend some time with Marc. It’s been a crazy adventure and an experience unlike any other. I figure it’s about time that I tell you a little bit more about my time here.

I got here in November with the intention of only staying a few months. I met Marc in Astana. He had played a few games there and the team had the next few days off so he rented us an apartment and waited for me to arrive. We spent the next day/night hanging out in Astana with some other team people. I was high on jet lag and happy to see my husband. Everything seemed great. Different, but great. I was excited to get to Kokshetau to see what my life would be like for the next three months.

We took a taxi to Kokshetau and I attempted to settle into the less-than-lovely apartment that Marc had been living in. I know I may sound like a stuck up American, but the apartment was just really terrible. The kitchen had a strange smell, the hot water heat wasn’t even big enough for me to take a full shower, the floor boards were separating and then furniture looked like it had sat in a thrift store for 15 years – without selling. The longer we stayed in that apartment the more hysterical I became. Days went by as I slept my way through the jet lag and cried to my mom over FaceTime. It wasn’t good. I threatened to leave. I tried to get Marc to quit the team. I didn’t eat for days. Yes, some of it was the jet lag, but a lot of it was just me not being okay with the situation.

Marc convinced the team to find us a new place to live, but it took weeks. Weeks of me being alone in a disgusting apartment with super slow internet and furniture I didn’t even want to sit on. When they finally showed us the new apartment, I did a happy dance. I started to feel better about things. Here’s what it looked like:

Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase

The kitchen was pretty ideal. I loved having all the counter space and the cabinets were really nice. I could have done without the interesting curtain, but I definitely can’t complain about the kitchen.Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase


I didn’t take any pictures of the living room, bathroom or the entryway. I meant to do it, but I guess I just never got around to it. You can sort of see the living room – with all of our laundry hung to dry and our electronics rigged up for television watching – in the background of the following picture. The bathroom was to the right and the entry/kitchen was to the left.

Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase

Our bedroom was definitely big enough, with lots of “closet” space, a dresser and a vanity, but the bed was the worst. It was absolutely the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever slept on. Behind the window was an enclosed balcony, which we used as extra storage space.Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase Our apartment in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan | Love in a Suitcase

We had been going out for meals because I wasn’t ready to tackle the whole grocery store thing yet, and I was pleasantly surprised by the establishments in Kokshetau. Some of the restaurants even had English menus. Going to Marc’s games kept me reasonably busy, and I made one friend who was teaching me how to read in Russian – not an easy task.

Eventually we found a good grocery store and the market, and we stocked up on kitchen equipment so I could work on recipes and keep blogging. Everything was going great until the winter really hit. Suddenly things seemed to be falling apart. I had no one to go to the games with so I started staying home. The team had extra long road trips with seemingly endless flight delays, and I was alone for days on end. Produce at the grocery stores started dwindling, and I would come back after a shopping trip to realize I couldn’t make even one of the meals on my weekly list.

I tried to counteract these problems to make life easier. I attempted to keep myself busy while Marc was away. I watched marathons of Parenthood and Criminal Minds. I did some yoga and spent hours on Pinterest. I started altering my weekly meal plans to include dishes that I knew I would find the ingredients for – that’s how I got stuck on making all of those soups and stews I’ve been posting. I translated ingredients and looked for substitutes. I listened to episode after episode of Joy the Baker podcasts because they made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I researched for our trip to Thailand. I started a new blog. Even though I did all that stuff, I just can’t help but feel like my time here in Kazakhstan has been wasted. Days would go by without me leaving the apartment (you wouldn’t leave the apartment if it was 20 degrees below zero either). The few times that I ventured out didn’t really cure my loneliness anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I came. I’m glad I got to experience something new. I got to see a part of the world that not many Americans will ever see. I’ve learned to appreciate the luxury and comforts of home – we really are lucky. I’m happy that I learned to read a little Russian. I was lucky enough to go down an ice slide and see a beautiful, broken down Ferris wheel. I got to see my husband excel in his hockey career. But, the best part about being here has been the time I’ve gotten to spend this time with Marc – even if it came at the expense of being alone for days on end. Our ‘struggles’ here have brought us closer, and it’s going to really, really suck to be home without him.

Sorry if this post was a bit of a downer, but I just wanted to be real here. I don’t want to sugar coat things and say I loved my experiences and life in Kazakhstan because that would be a lie. I really struggled with things while I was here, but maybe that will make me a better person someday – who knows?

Have you ever struggled to adjust after moving to a new city or country?

Last Updated on April 24, 2018 by Melissa Belanger

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