I’ve been in Kazakhstan for a week now. It’s been a lot of what I expected, somewhat less and a whole lot more all at the same time.
To get you up to speed...
My flight was due in at 2am on Sunday morning with the promise that I would be met by Cousin Murat and Uncle Eddie. With my plane arriving 20 minutes early, I entered the Arrivals Hall and was subjected to a barrage of offers of taxis into the city (one thing to note is that any driver can be a taxi if they want to be; if you need to get somewhere then just stick your arm out and someone will stop for you). Though I’d been told that very few Kazakhs spoke English, here I was confronted by plenty of them who knew the word for “taxi” and “hotel”, and could count up to quite large numbers in English, proceeded by the word “dollars”.
Once met by my hosts, I was whisked off into the night at great speed to Karakemer; the town I will be calling home for the coming months. As with other countries out East, seatbelts seem to be merely a fashion accessory that co-ordinate with the rest of the car’s upholstery, and not for actual use. Instead they are clunk-clicked home behind your back to stop that annoying noise cars make to warn you that you might be propelled through the windscreen were you to stop suddenly. For what it’s worth, they offer very little back support.
The “hotel” I am staying at also doubles as the function centre for the area, and in fact they’d had a wedding party there the night I arrived (and not, as I initially thought, a welcome party for me; though I did labour under this egotistical illusion for a couple of days).
I am the only guest at said hotel, which makes it a little bit eerie. In fact the first thing that came to mind was The Shining. I hardly slept at all that first night; I’m sure it was just the jet-lag and excitement.