Driving Habits – Can one have a genetic predisposition to driving a car as your ancestors rode their steppe ponies? Driving is a blood sport here for the Kazaks. Pedestrians get run down a lot and you have to be extra careful crossing the streets. You can imagine seeing a Kazak fellow on his pony say 500 or 600 years ago, wearing a fur jacket and fur hat charging down a hill side, wielding his curved sword. The male driver here in Almaty wields a horn in lieu of a mighty blade, using the noise of the horn to slash aimlessly at the cars piled up in front of him. Women who are amongst the most emancipated in this part of the world love the horn as well. We live on Al Farabi one of the main streets between Furmanova and Dostyk streets; the distance being about a ¾ mile straightaway. Imagine a Formula One race, like the Long Beach Grand Prix which has an awesome track layout where the race cars could easily clock close to 100+ mph in the short straight away; we live on that straight away. During the day our street is a parking lot, at night it IS the Almaty Grand Prix. Cars just fly down the road in both directions; wrecks at night in front of our 6th floor balcony, around 3 or 4 am are not uncommon – they can be grizzly. Historical tradition is upheld; one pony rider bites the dust and other one (maybe) moves on to the next battle, bloodied and hopefully with a new car/truck to put into the battle. Car insurance works very well here.
Status – Who Is and Who Aint: It’s still all about cars. I have never seen so many Mercedes G500 off road trucks, EVER! – even in Boca Raton which has a lot of these nifty $165,000 MB SUV’s (this is the vehicle that became famous as the basic chassis for the Pope’s glassed in chariot). In fact I’ve never seen so many Mercedes in any one town ever. The V-12 powered S600’s are like Toyota Tercels here, a dime a dozen. There are some really cool Toyota and Lexus trucks that are not sold in the States which are real chariots. Not so many American vehicles. Subaru, Volkswagen and Toyota are the more popular car for us more down to earth folk with B’mers, Lexus and Infiniti at the next rung up the ladder. There is one guy I’ve seen with a Black Mazaratti – beautiful car.
Money – All you have to remember are the words of my co-worker Nick. “Money is running down the gutters here”. A country that truly embraces oil as cash generator as Kazakhstan has, is blessed with an abundance of money and it is translating to expansion in every sector imaginable. What fun to see this former Soviet backwater thrive and prosper. There are growing pains but money is here for the taking. There is a whole generation of young people in the work force who have no recollection of the bad old Soviet system. They are well educated and willing to work their butts off. We have a whole office full of these young folk.
Beautiful girls – If you are single guy this is a real paradise. The native Kazak women can only be described as exotic; true Asian beauties. All my single buddies are invited over next summer for girl watching and a little meet-and-greet (they dress really provocatively as well). I saw the smallest, tightest pair of jean hot pants to ever be worn by a 6’2’ Russian girl in dark hose and stiletto heals just today! Amazing.
More later as the thoughts hit.