Ellen's Blog

From Dubai to Kazakhstan

I’m back!

Found a house – only 200 boxes to go….
Have neglected this blog for a while, mainly because of no internet connection readily available. The times I spend in an internet cafe was cramped with email-stuff, info for new bathrooms and “how to drive to…”
But now I am back in town baby!
Got a lovely house, containers arrived from Dubai and the essentials like bed, plates and toothbrush found a place in The Hague. Many, many other boxes to unpack…..water, electricity etc to re-install, phone/tv and internet took 4 weeks (!) but the weather is gorgeous..and my first guest spend the weekend! Fantabulastic!
My dogs are a little confused and very insane: all these bikes, people on skeelers, birds and all the other 3000 dogs in the area!! We are working on that one too.
Pictures will follow my friends…..

what’s cooking?

When you know you are moving the thing to do is start eating stuff from freezer and kitchen cupboards, You only buy the essentials and as days are too short to get everything done anyway, you just cook as simple as possible and eat standing in between piles of stuff.

Not me of course. I start going through cookbooks I have not touched in 5 years and as the pictures look soooo yummy I pick a lovely vegetarian dish that is simple and quick – according to the book. Now that I am not working (read: I now work without getting any recognition or money) I pretend I have all the time in the world and slowly move through all the isles. I did not make a list because the simple dish only needed a few ingredients. I already smile when I think of the excited and surprised faces when – like magic – this beautiful delicious dish will appear on the dinner table (if there is space that is.)  Wow, this woman organizes the move all by herself , runs errands while answering emails and cooks like a chef???

The first two instructions are easy. Admit it, the smell of onions browning is a good start! Hmm whilst going through my spice rack I now regret that just yesterday I got rid of all those spices that were (almost) expired and no one used for years anyway. That’s funny, I don’t remember that I needed Mace for this dish. What the f**k is it anyway? I am sure the dish will be just fine without it! And how can it be that I don’t have parsley!! Everyone has parsley in the cupboard, apparently not me??? Well, who will notice I skipped this part? I pour myself a lovely glass of Chardonnay and want to get the grated Cheddar from the fridge – ahhhh – where did it go? I now remember that although this cheese  is always part of my weekly  shopping list I decided last Saturday (organized that I am) that from now on I was only going to buy the real essentials….hmm, I rummage through the fridge and find two almost empty containers and a small piece of fresh parmesan. I mix all together and frown. does this look like 3/4 cup of nicely grated cheddar? Come one girl, cheese is cheese!  I also find some tarragon (looks like parsley) and some thyme (can replace the Mace) and stir like crazy. It looks different then the picture, but still smells good. Some fresh pepper is always a winner, although not mentioned on the ingredients list. And voila, a beautiful dish did appear and tasted really good! What the name was……well……lets just call it “magic”.



Spent a week house hunting in The Netherlands – it is an unreal experience! You just march through a stranger’s house, make nasty remarks about wobbly shelves, rusty pipes and bedrooms that are too small whilst opening fridges, underwear drawers and musty dishwashers. I’ve seen cluttered houses which made me feel good (see, my house is not that bad) and minimalistic cold places with no soul at all. To all these people who have piles of junk and messy drawers: it is these houses that give you a warm feeling when you enter. It is these houses that appeal to most prospective buyers. Unfortunately it is also this mess that gives you this choking feeling when you know you have to sort, pack and make a reasonable amount for the movers out of all of this. I made an amazing step forward yesterday. Heard about an old friend who is now full of cancer and is my age. Complaining about too much stuff is taken of my list. Carpe Diem my friends!


For a few days in Amsterdam. From here I will attempt to do some house hunting. This is not so easy. First of all there is a lot of snow and the government ran out of salt to keep the roads safe to drive. So traffic was horrendous, the temperature was below zero and there I was, trying to find my way in a country that is really no longer mine.

I saw houses that were big, I saw houses that were old, I saw houses that were too far away from the workplace, I saw houses that were definitely too expensive.

And time is not on our side. the longer we wait with making a decision, the longer I will have to sit in a small flat in the centre of The Hague with two dogs that are utterly confused: not something I am looking forward to. Although Holland is not showing itself from her best side, I still try to be positive and make the best of it all. Life is too short to be miserable about all this, it is in fact a luxurious problem to have. We are staying in one off those minimalistic hotels that pretend to be Scandinavian, but really had no budget for proper furniture and more than one picture on the wall. Breakfast is good, but you have to sit on a uncomfortable stool and drink coffee that could double as tar for the holes in the roads.

The place is full with business guys, most of them dressed in wrinkled suits with loud ties. At night in the bar they raise their voices to be heard and drink a lot as the boss is paying for it. A few skinny female colleagues mingle – regretting that they put on high heels in the morning. I know how that is, it looks great with your outfit – makes you look taller and you think thinner, but my God they would pay a fortune now for my flat moccasins. Strange enough they try to dress like the boys, grey pinstripes with white crispy button down shirts. Always long hair, tied back in a  pony tail  – again to look like the guys really.

Not me of course, I am here on different business. Jeans, comfortable shoes but the only one who can work with a Mac computer.

Byez Myasa – ya vegetarianka

Oh dear,  a new little issue having to deal with in Kazakhstan is that I am a vegetarian. That’s right – no meat no fish.

Please don’t ask me: why, for how long, but you wear leather shoes  – I just do not like the taste, the feel of handling raw &^%$# and am convinced I do not need it.

Just received the Guide to Kazakhstan – produced by Outpost/Shell.

“If you are a guest you should be prepared to undergo the “Sheep’s Head Ceremony”. The guest is presented a cooked sheep’s head and will be asked to carve it. Each bit goes to designated people with accompanying words linking the body part to the person. The tongue for example could go to the translator or teacher. Especially the eyes are considered a delicatessen.


Well I guess I will go in the books as being a very rude person and I definitely will not mention my background in teaching.

I now know how to say  “I am a vegetarian”  (see title) but I guess I have to add that I will instantly develop a very contagious disease when joining in the Sheep’s Head ceremony – so sorry, it looks lovely!

I found a short video how the sheep’s head is carved – no way I want that on my site!  Found some sites explaining why it is good to be a vegetarian but they had too many sad animals on show.

You just have to take my word for it.

Astana: The Dubai of Kazakhstan???

Click here to read the complete article: Astana: The Dubai of Kazakhstan………

“Dubai’s downward spiral, while completely predictable and well-deserved, is still a great disappointment to fans of hubristic architectural spectacles like myself. The opening of the Burj Dubai/Al Khalifa is cold comfort as stocks sink faster than the artificial islands of the Palm. Abu Dhabi’s chastening bailout means that Dubai’s future, if it has one, lies in the safe, predictable gaudiness seen all over the Persian Gulf. Dubai was certainly reprehensible in many ways, and inherently doomed to fail, but it was one of the most spectacular architectural visions the world has ever seen. I hope its end will be met with regret as well as schadenfreude.”

The Story of the Tulip

Click: Dutch Folk Song: Tulips from Amsterdam

The tulip, symbol of Holland. But did you know that this flower has its roots in the mountains of Kazakhstan? Even in Holland most people do not know that this is the real place where their national symbol originated. Most Dutch people will tell you that the original tulip was growing in Turkey but in fact traders from Turkey brought it at the end of the 16th century from the Central Asian mountain ranges to Western Europe. In that period, the Turkish Empire was much larger than the current country Turkey.

The first reports of tulips in Europe date from 1560 and it crossed the Dutch border around 1570. The first tulips in the Hortus Botanicus of the Leiden University were planted there in 1593 by the botanist Carolus Clusius.

Greig's Tulip (tulipa greigii)

The Dutch have created hundreds of different types of tulips in the last centuries. But not only the Dutch were good in creating new types. Nature did also a good job in Kazakhstan where you can find 34 different species of this flower in the wild today. 6 of these species are present in the Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve. If you are from Holland or are interested in this flower, a walking trip in the Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve will be the best opportunity to see this flower in it’s own habitat.



Last night we had a lovely dinner at MARGAUX.

Location: Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Dubai

Cuisine: French, Italian

indoor and outdoor seating: during the winter outdoors can be a little chilly as the fountains might spray cool water over the tables on the balcony.

Vegetarian options: limited but different, tasty and well presented.

Definitely worth it!


Click map to enlarge

Click Map to enlarge

Indeed – Holland will be a perfect transition into Kazakhstan. Today the Dutch Newspaper warned the temperature in the North would feel like -17C, because of a northerly wind. January is the coldest month in Kazakhstan, with an average temperature of -5C in the south to -30C in the north. Here you go: moving there couldn’t be easier! Is it a good thing to try to prepare yourself, do research and google till your fingers are blue and the eyes watery? Hmmm ,,,let’s see? I just found a sort of official looking site which states that there is a current environment issue: “radioactive or toxic chemical sites associated with its former defence industries and test ranges are found throughout the country and pose health risks for humans and animals” (http://www.cac-biodiversity.org/kaz/kaz_country.htm)

Immediately I sit up straight and I feel a little itchy excitement creeping up  my spine. WHAT? Halleluja I will go to the bottom of this – CNN here is Ellen reporting for you… how come all these guys missed this important item? Ok we had Haiti, terrorists with heavy groins and what about Brad and Angelina? I check the website again and see that “current” means 2003. While scrolling through the info I also notice that Kazakhstan is so enormous that it is divided into three time zones! But the journalist in me has emerged: Ellengate is born – welcome to the world.

to be continued…….

Too much stuff!! I keep telling myself I can do it!!

Tomorrow the moving company is coming to give us an estimate! It is a bit scary. I did white water rafting, had gliding lessons (yes, like in a plane!), riding crazy horses on a beach, sailing in thunderstorms being 8 months pregnant, killed a poisonous snake in Texas with a spade, did a Black Belt exam Brazilian JuJitsu just before my 40Th birthday etc etc and …. was driving my car every day for the last ten years in Dubai: but this verdict scares the sh*t out of me.