Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Every day observations in Karaganda

It was a surprisingly good game of ice hockey we saw the other day. It was the home team of HC Saryarkah (Burkat) against a team from Alma Aty. The Karaganda Arena is fresh, new and awesome. But it was all a bit of a surprise for us, because it took as a bus and a long muddy walk to get to the Arena and it seemed completely empty. The game was on in 30 minutes. We just stood outside this amazing arena getting ready to go home, when we saw two people walking in through a back door. So we joined them and suddenly we were setting in the VIP area and it was almost empty in this 3-4000 seated dome. 5 to 7 people started to arrive. We were maybe a 100 people watching this good game in this new arena. No away crowd at all. Neither any tackles. But standard of the game was high. Pam and me were really happy to be there, but the kids got bored after 2 periods, so we went home though the same mud. I hard later that both football and ice hockey was quite new to Karaganda the last 2-3 years. It had been part of society during the Soviet years, but gone until 2-3 years ago. And it could be on the way out again, due to the fact that the local government may not want to sponsor the teams anymore. What a great shame!


I assume it is a lot of responsibility involved being the one in charge for who goes in and out of the house and other things related to being a guard. And as regards to everything else in life, there´s good ones who do their job and like it and other ones who seem to hate their job. There´s especially one lady I bet is a distant relative of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the cruel chief of the Soviet Cheka, who has smiled about two times since we arrived two months ago. The rest she seems utterly dismissive and downright unfriendly. She just doesn´t like us. She looks at us with great suspicion and it is obvious she doesn´t like the fact that I am at home with the kids and my wife goes to work. And that I do most jobs related to traditional roles for a woman. Yesterday she banged at the door and screamed something in Russian I didn´t understand and once I was able to get all my clothes on (it is so hot inside we all walk around in underwear), she had almost forced the door down.

“The woman. Where is the woman?” she yelled at me. “She has put too much laundry in one machine. Fix it!”

So I went down and she had done my job and sat staring at me with contempt on a sofa.

“It is ready in 30 minutes.”

Now I am used to people shouting at me and it  doesn´t bother me much. So I smiled at her and said:

“Spasibo!” (Thank you)

She huffed as an answer. Now, my wife came back, happy to have avoided Dzerzhinsky´s relative and told me it was the lady herself which had put all the clothes in one machine. People who live here are not allowed to do that by themselves. I can understand that, because maintenance isn´t high on the list of things to do. (Safe for me, by the way) So things run until it is one long period of repairs. So I wasn´t too surprised after talking to couple of friends about hotels in Astana, when they said that I should only go for new ones.

“In a new hotel it will be clean, wifi, good food and fresh. Everything will work for a while. The old ones, avoid them.”


The family is heading for a visit to Astana and our great local Astana friend Raushan Mukhamejanova has helped us finding a good hotel. We look forward to going to this modern wonder. For this reason, I went up early and went to a cash machine to withdraw the maximum amount possible per time, 30 000 tenge (100 pounds) and as usual there´s a lot of instructions how to avoid getting skimmed or filmed or fooled whilst doing this. This always worries me. So I will be checking my account every day for a week again.

This withdrawal was followed by a visit to one of the local stores. After two months we have found the one best suited to our needs and where the ladies at the payment spot doesn´t talk with their friends on the mobile phone at the same time as they register the goods their customer have picked. Nevertheless, as quick as there is more than one customer in the queue, the stress is unbelievable and I always forget something in the commotion whilst packing all the stuff I have bought. This morning I lost two Gilettes. 300 tenge. (1 Pound)

We spend more or less the same money each month here as in Sweden or Manchester. The difference is the quality of the food. Some are better here, some not. Like the choice of food. So we pretty much eat the same food each day, like a lot of pelmeni….The reason for the same costs is that imported stuff, like diapers, Pampers cost like 20 pounds for 65 diapers. (A months use) Half price in Sweden and Manchester. Meat, eggs, milk, more or less the same, The stuff which is way below prices in Sweden is vodka, bread, salt and beer. 1 liter of beer is cheaper than the most expensive water. It should be said that the apartment we have been allocated and is renting, which is more than good, only have one pot. And we have been too lazy to invest in anything more. This makes prices much higher as well. Fruit and veggies, same price.


Eating out, same prices in Manchester and Karaganda if you don´t go to the market. A third of a price in Sweden, We went to the Art Café yesterday with our friends Vitaly and Yelena who has been such a help too us since we came here. And we all had chips, shashliki, a salad, about 8 pints of beer, 1 lite of coke and 1 liter of water. It all came down to around 12 000 tenge (45 pounds) Vitaly was heading for Nepal, so I won´t see him again for a while, since the girls and me are heading home at the end of the month. This is an amazing couple. They have cycled together in China, Malaysia, Nepal and run a travel agency and an organization with a deep eco-tourism touch. And they are very nice and straight forward people. They´re great ambassadors for Kazakhstan! And a mixed couple, which you don´t see too much here and which I like of course!

The Internet is working again! Yes! All due to the nice fella who is in charge of it in the house. It cuts often, so I just send him a text message and he fixes it. What a nice guy. We were black listed for downloading too much our first month here, but when I explain what I do, but most of all, that I am home looking after two daughters who can at times be occupied and calmed down by watching the IPAD, he knew and understood and since this moment, he is our best friend! (A minute after I said that, we lost the connection again, at that is 5 hours ago…) 

This is one of the best times in our Life!


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