top of page

essays | places | Kazakhstan

Astana (Nur-Sultan) / The Surreal Deal

arbitrary travel moments you never would have guessed



   Throughout my travels I found the grand moments the least surprising. After all, they were on the agenda. And while the realities of these moments weren’t exact mirror images of my preconceptions, the experiences themselves were expected: I went to Botswana to see the Okavango Delta and then I did, even though it might have looked a tad bit different from what I had pictured; I went to the Philippines to snorkel with Whale Sharks and then I did, even though I couldn’t have anticipated the feelings it evoked. These moments were undoubtedly fascinating, but their sober, factual existence in my itinerary (and many people’s itinerary) was predictable.

"Taking the extra out of extraordinary often leaves you with more."




The unexpected moments were the little ones in all their arbitrariness and ordinariness and uniqueness. Taking the extra out of extraordinary often leaves you with more. Usually, it was the partaking in mundane local moments of a given people and country. Like playing board games at a bar with two young Kazakh women at 3am on a random weeknight in a frozen city in the middle of the steppe.


Let's backtrack a few steps.

I had arrived in deep-winter Kazakhstan without any plan or reason. The Stan-countries were a part of the world I’d never been to and that was good enough. Arguably, winter wasn’t the most inviting season to stop by, but, considering that it is a large part of people’s year and life, it was authentic or something.

"That’s when Aida came to my rescue, riding up the escalator on a horse which we ate a couple of days later, but not all of this is true."