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Kazakhstan Travel Guide...
The following list of "things to know when adopting in Kazakhstan" was compiled as a result of our personal adoption experience through All God’s Children International. Please understand that when adopting through different agencies or from different cities, everything could be opposite from what we exper-ienced. To learn more about other family’s experiences, please click on the Adoptive Family Links page above.

.......Table of Contents

General Overview
A Word on Agencies
Traveling With and Using Money
What to Pack
Internet Access / Phone Service
The Language
Sights to see in Astana

General Overview of Kazakh Adoptions
Our adoption from Kazakhstan was a wonderful experience. We discovered that the people were hospitable, the children were well cared for and the country
was facinating. Our adoption required us to stay in the country for two months, with the first month being the visitation period (going to the baby house for two hours every day to bond). Currently, the adoption requirements have changed so its best to check with adoption agencies to find out the current requirements.


The agency we used for our Kazakhstan adoption was All God’s Children, Int.(AGCI). Because AGCI had just started their Kazakh program, we were one of the first families to complete a Kazakh adoption through their agency. Throughout the whole process, AGCI continually impressed us with their efficient communication, their Christian ethics and their personal relationship with each family.
One thing we learned through our process is that while AGCI communicates with the families and collects all the paperwork, they are actually just contracting through another agency called Little Miracles Int. (LMI). LMI is the agency that is licensed in Kazakhstan and is responsible for arranging the translators, coordinators and drivers. From our experience, we have only great things to say about this agency, even through we’ve never directly worked with them.
While we were in Astana, we met many other couples from different agencies, including World Partners Int. and MAPS. All of these couples seemed to be having the same experience as us, with the exception of two things. First, all the other couples were encouraged to complete the adoption with two trips where as our agency (AGCI & LMI) encouraged us to stay the whole time and do it in one trip (a much better, and more affordable option in our opinion). Second, and most importantly, we received our invitation to travel in time to arrive when our daughter turned six months old (which is the minimum age for international adoptions in Kazakhstan). In addition, the other two families we know who used AGCI were also invited to travel in time to meet their children while they were also six months old. This differed from all the other couples we met who received referrals for children between 8 and 12 months old.
Many agencies exist, but you need to research them carefully. Make sure when comparing fees that you get a breakdown of how the overall cost is figured. Some agencies might figure housing/food into the total cost where as another agencies might not. Ask lots of questions and be aware that many details which are advertised (i.e., age of the children when adopted) are not concrete.

(The following info was current as of June, 2005)
-Bank in Astana Tower takes AmEx travelers checks
-In larger cities, most restaurants accept Visa
-Traveling with large amounts of cash should be done with money belts
-Eating in saves lots! (Groceries here are much cheaper but eating out is about the same.)

What to Pack
Since the weather in Kazakhstan can range from below freezing with snow and wind to 100 degrees and humid, it is hard to give recommendations for exact items to bring to Kazakhstan. The following is the most complete list that we could come up with for things that we felt were essentials no matter what time of year you are traveling.

Baby B’jorn (or other front pack)
Umbrella Stroller (not easy to find or cheap to buy in Kazakhstan)
Diaper Bag (backpack diaper bag worked great)
Formula dispenser
Rice Cereal
Plastic infant spoons
Plastic Bowl with lid
Bottles (with disposable liners)
Bottle Liners
Pacifier strap (works great to clip to toys too!)
Medicines (Tylenol, Motrin, gas meds, cold/cough meds, teething meds)
Toys (quite ones, crinkle book, photo book, interactive toys)
Changing pad or disposable changing pads (the brand name is Pee Wee pads)
Roll of plastic bags (found in baby aisle either “Diaper Duck” or the red ones, we used them all the time)
Clothes (warm but comfortable clothes, onsies are very helpful and versatile)
Hats (every child in Kazakhstan wears a hat at all times)
Formula (we were able to buy her formula in Kazakhstan at a really good price)
Diapers (we brought a few and bought the rest there)
Diaper wipes
4-5 Blankets
Fingernail clippers
Diaper rash medicine
Baby shampoo (travel size is plenty)
Burp cloths or washcloths

Dark clothes (they are a must and will help you to not stick out as much)
Comfortable walking shoes (slip-ons are great because there are no shoes allowed indoors - no sneakers)
Black blazer (works well for court and for a cool jacket in the warmer weather)
Some comfortable clothes for around the apartment/hotel
Clothes that wash and dry easily without a drier (test your clothes before you leave)

Travel TP (when you need it you will be thankful you have it)
Medicines (Advil, allergy meds, Pepto, Imodium, Tums, first aid cream, bug bite cream, etc.)
Bug repellant
Compact umbrella (we forgot ours)
Power converters
Digital camera (we couldn't have lived without it either)
Laptop (if you can it is a must!)
Blank CD-R's to back-up all your pictures
Rope and clothes pins (there are no driers)
Bottle/can opener
Notebook and pens (do as much journaling as possible)
Games (we found that it was nice to sit and play a game like cards or yahtzee to break up the evenings)

We found that it was always a good idea to have snacks with us while we were away from the apartment because it is not always convenient to have to stop for food. There is no fast-food there so if you need to eat a meal while you are out, you will have to go to a sit down restaurant. Some snack foods that we found helpful to have with us were, peanut butter crackers, protein bars, gum, cookies, granola, jerky, fruit snacks, etc. Basically anything that travels well and will sustain you is good. Also you will always want to travel with a couple water bottles.
We also brought a few foods from home so that we would have some familiar foods when we first got there like peanut butter (it is very hard to find it there), Pasta Roni (worked great for a couple of nights before we went grocery shopping), mustard (OK so we didn't bring it but if you like yellow mustard, bring some because it does not exist over there), packet of dry salad dressing (works well if you mix it up or even if you just sprinkle it on your salad, which is mostly just cabbage), pancake mix (get one that you just have to add water to) and macaroni and cheese (don't bring the noodles, just the cheese part, it helps give some variety to the lunch menu).

Internet Access and Phone Service

It would be an easy mistake to think that Kazakhstan would have less technology than the United States or other large countries, but nothing could be further from the truth. While in Kazakhstan, we saw just as many evidences of modern technology, and often we even saw more (such as plasma/LCD televisions and cell phones). Because of this, finding ways to communicate are not that hard.
Our largest form of communication was through the internet. There are two possibilities for internet use in Kazakhstan. The first option is to use an internet café (we found them in Astana and Almaty) but it might cost you quite a bit if you write long e-mails to lots of people. The second option is to bring a laptop and use the modem to connect to the internet (NOTE: Wireless internet access is extremely rare; we heard that the Ramstore in Almaty has it, but other than that, we never found any!).
Since we brought a laptop with us, we had our translator help us buy an “i-Card” made by Nursat (available at almost every store). An i-Card is a pre-paid internet and long distance card that gives you a pin number which allows you to connect to the internet for as long as you have paid for. They come in varying amounts of “units” which will give you different lengths of time, depending on when in the day you connect (after 8 p.m. and before 8 p.m. are the best rates).
To connect to Nursat (the internet service provider) you have to open up a new dial-up connection using the “New Connection Wizard” in Windows. The i-Card will have an access number and an initial username/password to use while you establish your account. (NOTE: have your translator come over and help you read the Russian dialog boxes during your first connection so you know where to enter the appropriate information!) After getting your new user name and password established, you’ll simply need to click “Start Menu” – “Connect To” – (the name you entered for the connection).
Since you are paying by-the-minute, it is important to use an e-mail program that will allow you to download and upload e-mails as opposed to reading and writing them only when you’re connected to the internet. If you do use an e-mail account that requires you to log-in to a website, see if it allows POP3 access so you can use a program like Outlook to send and receive your e-mails. If you use AOL, you can select the “Automatic AOL” feature to upload/download your mail, but you will need to set it up so it will connect through a “broadband” connection. This will allow you to connect to the Nursat dial-up first, then AOL can connect through the internet. (NOTE: Trying to use an AOL dial-up number in Kazakhstan will cost you a fortune, if it’s even available in your city; only use it once you already have a local internet connection.)
The other option for internet access is renting a broadband satellite transmitter and paying for service. While this will cost you a lot more, the connection speeds are much faster and you can supposedly use VoIP with it. This might be a good option if you have to continue “working from home” while you’re in the country. To find the companies that currently offer this service in Kazakhstan, just do a web search with the words "satellite", "broadband" and "Kazakhstan."

Something we really liked about our agency is that as soon as we arrived in the country, we were handed our own cell phone to use in the country (we had to buy a prepaid card to make it work). In addition, every place we stayed had a “land-line” so there were always two ways to send and receive calls. Having a cell phone can make it much easier to get a hold of your translator when you need him/her most; it was very reassuring knowing that if we ever ran into any trouble, we could call our translator and have her communicate with the police, store employees, etc. It also let our translator find us at any time incase she needed something.
For international calling, we were told that it was impossible to make outgoing calls (although we never tried). However, we were able to receive lots of incoming calls from home. Have your friends/relatives look for an international, pre-paid calling card so they don’t break the bank with one phone call. Just remember to expect a long delay when talking on the phone internationally. Also be aware that it might take a few attempts before an international call actually goes through (people calling you will often get busy signals and/or recordings, but they just need to keep trying).

In Kazakhstan, the standard spoken language is Russian. In addition, many of the school children and older people know Kazakh (a different language but with the same characters as Russian). Whenever you go to a government building or public area, you are likely to see things printed at least twice (in Russian and Kazakh) and sometimes you will also find things printed in English, although it is much rarer (we only saw this at the museum and the airport).
When it comes to getting around, you can not expect that you will find English speakers, like in other foreign countries. If you can learn some common Russian words, you should be able go to the store or to a restaurant by yourself. A great way to do this is by purchasing a Russian language self-study program as soon as you know you know what country you’re adopting from. (A friend lent us the Pimsleur “Quick and Simple” audio program which did a great job at reviewing what you already learned in each lesson.) In addition, you should obviously purchase a Russian/English dictionary and/or flip chart to take with you.
Below is a list of words that we found extremely helpful while in Kazakhstan. We wrote the pronunciations our own way since the ways they were written in our dictionary didn’t sound right.


Thank You Spa-see-ba
Hello Zdrafts-vootuy
Bye (formal/informal) Das-ve-don-ya / Ba-ca
How Are You? Cock-vasha-dilla
Excuse Me Iz-ven-ieet-che
I don’t understand Russian Ya ne pon-i-my-yo pa-ru-ski
Do you understand English? Vuy Pon-i-my-eta Pan-glee-ski?
How much (does it cost)? Skoy-ka (etto-stoyet)?
Yes / No Dah / Nyet
Where? Ga-dee?

Sights to see in Astana

-Cultural Museum; A great museum with a full size Yurta replica, preserved clothing, tools, jewelry and instruments from ancient times. Also has displays with recent history.
-Aquarium; Although there is no ocean nearby, Astana has a great Aquarium, but its much cheaper to go in the evening.
-Main Park (summer only); located right on the river, this park is full of rides, restaurants and vendors. Mainly, it is good for long walks and people-watching.
-River Walk: Along the river that runs through town are miles and miles of walking paths. This is a great place to get out and breathe in some fresh air.
-Tree of Life; This is a giant glass globe held high in the air. Elevators take you up to the top where you can explore all three levels and see the entire city.
-“Left Side”; The new part of Astana where many city squares and government buildings are being constructed.
-Eurasia Market; This shopping center features three stories and hundreds of vendors/shops. The bottom level is produce, fresh meat and groceries. The second two levels have shops selling clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, traditional outfits, books, music, art and so on.

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