Well Nadia and I have reached a cultural divide in our Kazak experience. One of those breaking points when we expatriates recently relocated, have to blow off some steam. This is not a HUGE thing but it is indicative of cultural adjustment.
As I told you in an earlier Blog, there is this thing here with blowing horns in cars. The Kazaks are intelligent people and they blast their car horns, the Italians are intelligent people and they blast their car horns, the French are almost intelligent and they blast their horns as well. Americans are what I characterize as light-moderate horn users except those in New York who would fit in nicely here in Almaty. But the Singaporeans who are confined on a very small island/peninsula don’t blow their horns unless there is an imminent collision that needs to be avoided. What makes them so disciplined I think was the sense of British order that was imparted on their society living under British rule for so many years. The Kazaks are wild, quirky and unpredictable and have no such affiliation with the Brits.
So, here we are in our 6th floor perch on Al Farabi Blvd – the Kazak Motor
Speedway between 2-6 am and a major patch of gridlock the rest of the time. When gridlock hits the frustration mounts and the “Durok Syndrome” takes over. Durok is an all purpose descriptor in Russian mean “jerk”, “ass”, “clown” “butt-head” or it can get worse depending on your voice inflection and the amount of teeth you bare when you utter the word.
In all fairness there are a number of public works projects in the final stages here in Almaty that are adding to the frustration. These are major “must-finish-before-the-snow-flies” projects like underground electrical infrastructure, new track sections for the trams, road paving, etc. But even so the level of horn use has breached my psyche and that of my beloved four year old, the ever-perceptive and occasionally acerbic-tongued Ms. Nadia.
She heard me muttering something about “Duroks” the other night. She inquired what I was upset about as she already knows some of the meanings of this wonderful all-purpose Russian word. I explained very calmly that I was really frustrated with how Kazak people increase their frustration level and that of innocents like me in traffic by laying on their horns. Nadia I find out doesn’t like the noise either.
We discussed what they needed to do. We know they love their cars like Americans, so they are not going to give them up. And, they have a cultural bent on being spontaneous. I told Nadia Kazaks also have a police establishment that understands bribery and extortion. I had to take 15 minutes in a side-bar explaining to her what bribery was. I told here about how you see lower middle class cops here who are making the equivalent of $300-$400/month driving around in Mercedes Benz; there is no Amway or Mary Kay here, so ya gotta wonder, right? Our plan is to marry up the horn blowers with the cops on the take.
The police announce a major crackdown on “noise pollution” in the city and say they are going to ticket each horn blower $100 for each offense. The cops hit the streets and the tickets begin to be written; but they don’t get finished because the motorists end up settling for $25-$50 “out of pocket” to the nice officer who is writing the ticket. I think we have the elements for a perfect plan here! The horn noise diminishes and more cops are living better – it’s a win-win for this growing nation. Kazaks have a high threshold in tolerating graft amongst their officials. This will work and will be a total success.
Since Nadia understands about bribery we have an expatiate child who can live in almost any country on the globe and empathize with this curve ball of human frailty. Now we can only hope the cops will actually implement the plan. While they are at it, how about $1,000 fines for speeding on Al Farabi Blvd. between Furmanova and Dostyk Streets between 2-6 am?
When the noise rises to unacceptable levels Ms. Nadia and I utter our favorite epithet at the gridlocked motorists of Almaty…………”QUIET DUROK!”…..Not too loud, not with too much “force”. But my child does go out on the balcony now and then so she is “closer” to the cars and they can hear her more clearly.