The Kazakh adventure is underway. The cats and I arrived safe and sound at 11:45 pm on Saturday July 29 just like my itinerary said we would. We got the cats into the country even though they were missing THEIR “passport”. Sophie and Nadia were just outside the reception hall at the airport and could see that the thing with cats was not going well. I suggested in my broken Russian that they let my wife in to assist in the discussion on the cat’s documents. Sophie overwhelmed the customs fellow with a lot of the US paperwork and told the guy that the US ideas of a passport for animals was lots of pieces of paper and not a little book; it all seemed to work. We got home and to bed it was about 4 am. The cats feel right at home and were none the worse for wear from the journey.
Our family reunion was limited to a day and a half with Sophie heading back to Moscow on Monday afternoon. Nadia and I are settling into a routine. Her kindergarten is downstairs on the first level from our apartment. I drop her off at 9 am (everything starts late here) and pick her up at 4-5 pm.
And it seems I have a job (still waiting to see my contract) with Scot Holland Company with the task of developing income streams in the property management sphere. It will be fun and a lot of work. Nick one of my new coworkers and an ex-pat American from San Diego has been here for 12 years. He had originally come here working for Raytheon on the nuclear waste decontamination projects back in the early 1990’s. He was a contracts manager working on the equivalent of the Rocky Flats clean up only the Kazakhstan clean up was ten times bigger in scope. He graphically noted that today “money is running in the gutters here”; Almaty looks like a provincial city and is not remarkable in many ways (come to think of it it’s kind of like Denver), but Almaty has been a cross roads city for thousands of years, going back to the trading caravans that plied their wares between China and Europe. What makes it remarkable right now is oil money. Life is good here – fast – but good. You just have to be extra aware of trying to do things in an ethical manner so there is no mistaking motive.
And then there is Debbie. One of my recent trips after dropping Nadia at school was to buy a new steam iron. I first went to the local McGukken’s/Whole Foods where they wanted 8,000 Tenge (about $68.00 US) – for a freek’en steam iron! So, being the thrifty shopper that I am, I head out to “ZE-LO-NIE BAZAAR – literally Green Bazaar – kind of an entrepreneurial Wal-Mart, I mean great prices. Ze-lo-nie Bazaar is housed in a hideous Soviet era exhibition hall out on Gogalah Street. And who do I run into but Debbie Toteev – I mean this woman was a dead ringer twin of Debbie only she had red hair and was attired in a lime green t-shirt and matching lime green Chuck Taylor All Stars high top basket ball shoes. Like I said Almaty is a cross roads city – who knows there may be some of Debbie’s long lost relatives here in the Land of Kaz.
The Bazaar is a huge facility with anything you can image. The food side of the bazaar (my favorite of course) was incredible with the sales area kind of divided along ethnic lines. The Muslin Bros. run the nuts, dates, figs and fresh fruits and veggies departments and the Kazak-Russian merchants run the meat department and dry goods. All beef, lamb and pork (the Islamic merchants in the name of making a living turn a blind eye to the pork department) is fresh slaughtered right out back; and it just looked grand. Some of the nicest meat I’ve seen in years.
Being a pedestrian is a hazardous undertaking. I think back to the overly polite drivers in Boulder who stop and let pedestrians have the right of way – when pigs fly here in the Land of Kaz! The car is king and you better not get in the way. Bicycling seems to be a past time of American corporate types here. I see several guys cycling into work in the early morning before traffic builds; they too are shown no quarter by the car operators. I can imagine each cyclist has a small alter in their house and they light candles and have a vigorous prayer session before heading into work each morning. It’s all a sport to see how close they can get to you and how fast they can go.
A couple photos of Sophie and Nadia are in the new gallery. I will try and get some shots of the Bazaar the next time I go out there……….more later…….Das Ve-Don-Ya!