Ellen's Blog

From Dubai to Kazakhstan

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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.

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!

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.

Good Memories

Our House in Dubai

Our house in Dubai...... Good Memories!!

Dogs go to a dentist?

Living in the Middle East has its perks! One of them is the live- in maid! OK, we had one that invited all friends around for a feast in my garden, eating my food and drinking my wine – while I was working! I had one who sold the key to organized crime while we were on home leave – so we found the house completely stripped on our return. But in general it is nice to have someone who does the dirty jobs you don’t want to do: I felt like I had a wife – fantastic!

The lady who works for me now is a gem. Always happy, always willing, a brain and common sense! That she did not speak English in the beginning was a hurdle I was willing to take. With hands, feet, a little French and even less Arabic we managed to communicate! She is from Ethiopia – from a very poor area. So I am sure she has moments when she wonders about our life style, the food we eat, the ironed sheets, the home-made food for our dogs that her family back home can only dream off.

I thought this morning was a hectic one for me, I almost felt sorry for myself. One of the dogs needed a check-up for an ear infection and while I was there the vet advised me to make a new appointment for a teeth cleaning – and so I did.

Were you ever in a waiting room full of cats and dogs with a dog who even barks at a fly? So I came home sweaty, my hair up, a black T-shirt full of blond labrador hair, new ear drops and an invoice for  xxxxx dirhams! My Gem understood what was needed and the coffee machine started making the lovely noises of fresh espresso to come. I explained to the Gem my misery was not over yet, very soon I had to go back to see the dog dentist…… The Gem looked at me with the face that tells all …. and I was ashamed, very ashamed!!!

Hello world!

I agree – we have facebook, twitter, hyves and still I just wanted a site of my own. Being Dutch it had to be free as well. Apologies for mistakes – I am the kind of person who just starts something and only when desperate looks for manuals/instructions.

So, WELCOME to ellenonthemove!!! My expat life took me around the world. From New Zealand to USA to Scotland and after 10 years in Dubai it is now time for a new adventure! We are supposed to move to The Netherlands for 1 – 2 years and then move on to Kazakhstan. Supposed to? Well….. yes. In my life you just never know!!! Most people are excited for me – they assume I am going HOME. Got news for you: I haven’t lived there for 30 years and feel it will be  just as difficult as for other nationalities to move there – maybe even more so – everyone expects you to know everything. Not looking forward to climate, traffic and aggressive lifestyle that comes with too many people on one square meter and leaving a child behind. But I will concentrate on the lovely food, the dark evenings with open fires and hot chocolate, closer to the kids in London and hopefully finally places where our dogs can run around freely. Optimistic? Definitely! I will just make it work!

After struggling for years to read, write and mumble Arabic it is now time to focus on Kazakh! And with pleasure – looking forward to it. Anyone living in Kazakhstan who can give me advice – anything is welcome – would love to hear from you! Anyone who went back to Holland after a long time and needed to settle in again – just let me know what was helpful.