On getting lost in Kazakhstan

We are headed back to the US on Maternity leave later this week— no, there is still no baby, but due to airline regulations, we need to leave 6 weeks before the baby is due.  As if enough weren’t going on already, I set out this week to get papers for my dog to travel with us.  Since it will be a 3-4 month trip, of course Harley is coming with us.

I got the name of some vet from someone at work.  I had a local colleague help me call– somehow my Russian class prepared me to read the newspaper not to discuss vaccinations and pet travel requirements in Russian.  I was right. I needed help.  My friend very nicely helped translate and got me the address of the vet clinic.  She also conveyed that the very was very concerned that we couldn’t get the paperwork in time and that I had to come that very day.

It was pouring rain and the paperwork has never taken long in the past– but this is Kazakhstan, so I decided to go.  I drove home, got Harley, got S., and got the dog’s file with all of her paperwork.  Before leaving, I had gone over with my local colleague and a map how to arrive.  I had a general sense of where the clinic should be– but it was an area I had never been to.

Armed with a map, an address and a phone number, we set out.  With some difficulty, we found the right street.  Actually, it was only our second try– so I was pretty pleased.  We were told to turn right.  We did.  The numbers were going up instead of down.  We drove to the end. No correct address. We consulted the map and decided it must have been a left, not a right.  We backtracked and took the road downhill and down numbers.  Soon, we found the address.

Sitting in the car, in the rain, we stared at the correct address.  It was right.  It was also sketchy.  There was not sign for a vet or anything that looked like a vet.  There was a green gate with the address painted, next to a mini-supermarket and a auto repair shop.  We called.  Between broken English and Russian, the conversation went like this:

“When are you coming?”

“I am here now. I think”

“Why don’t you come in?”

“I don’t see your door.  Do you have any signs written outside?”

“We are right next to the supermarket.”

“Yes, I see the supermarket”

“And do you see the auto-repair shop”


“Okay. Come in.”

“Come in where? The green door?”

“No the blue door.”

“I don’t see a blue door”

“Are you at Kopernik 2?”

“Yes. That is exactly what the sign says”

“Then come in the blue door.”

“But there is no blue door.”

This went on for about an hour.  At one point, the woman came outside.  But I didn’t see her.  She didn’t see me, standing in the rain, holding my dog, next to a blue car.  I was frustrated to the point of tears and my cell phone was dying.

Long story short (am I allowed to say that at this point).  One street over was another street with the exact same name.  Not to mention, the same numbering system.  About 1/2 a mile away was the exact same address.  And the vetrinary clinic.

Yikes.  Talk about getting lost!



  1. Sounds crazy annoying. Some friends and I got lost in the Czeck Republic once and none of us spoke the language. It was a nightmare and took us two hours to find our way back to a street we knew (and English-speaking people).

    I’m looking forward to seeing you!

  2. I am so directionally challenged that this happens to me all the time! It would happen to be a lot when I had to teach classes in downtown Santiago with some of the older buildings and streets that weren’t planned out as well. Frustrating!

    Please post updates soon! I’m very excited for you!

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