A nice unorganized update

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2009

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Flag of Kazakhstan  ,
Thursday, October 16, 2008

Step 1 - get to Kazakhstan - check.
Ever been on a plane that didn't actually fly straight to it's target, but instead flew around a mountain range? Well thats what I just did. There are several mountains in the Himalayas that rise above 25,000 feet, so rather than risking dropping a few thousand feet and hitting Mt. Everest, my airplane flew parallel to the range, and then spun around and flew back to Almaty. Whacky.
Anyways. I've been here 2 days now. Its pretty cool, if you're into not knowing what anyone is saying, and things like that. Seriously, no one here speaks english, they don't need to know it. I spend a lot of time staring at the people I'm with, having no idea what they're saying. They say that something like 90% of communication is non-verbal, or at least not in the word choice, but I don't think thats true. I haven't a clue what anyone is saying, at any time. I am learning Russian though. I taught myself how to read this morning... I can now read Russian, guaranteed - unfortunately, even though I may be able to read it, unless it sounds just like the English word, I still have no idea what it means. Luckily, once I can read a word aloud, hearing it allows me to figure it out: example - "business" in Russian is "бизрес" - sure doesn't look like business, does it? Well, after teaching myself to read, I know that word sounds like "biznes" - helps a lot. The hardest part about reading is that backwards N makes the "i" sound, backward E makes the "z" sound, "P" makes the "N" sound, and "C" makes the "S" sound, in addition to others similar to that, as well as completely new characters, such as this one - ж.
Enough about the language. Other things. So far, I've been to the Krygyz embassy, and I paid $90 for a visa that I had been told was free... c'est la vie. I've walked around the city, saw the main hotel during the Soviet era - called "Hotel Kazakhstan". I had dinner at the mall in Almaty, called MEGA, a fitting name. At my apartment, we had a bible study the first night I got here - aka I sat for 2 hours and listened to Maxim teach from John 15 about friendship - unfortunately it was all in Russian :-) I went to an orphanage today, not quite what I was expecting from a government-run, post-soviet orphanage... kids were running around every where, it was nicely decorated and furnished, clean, and relatively new. It was large, and had a carefree attitude about it. Now, don't get me wrong, I had to leave my cameras at home, and I wasn't allowed to talk, because I would then stick out as a foreigner - but it was still much "nicer" that I expected.
A bit about the lifestyle. They drink a lot of tea. Some of the food is good, some of the food isn't - all of it is expensive. Most people do not have cars, yet the streets are packed almost all day. To get the the orphanage, and the embassy, I took a taxi - but not the kind you're thinking of. Taxi here means, hold your hand out in the direction you want to go on any major road, and random drivers pull over - you tell them where, and how much you'll pay - they say no, yes, or a higher price - after negotiation, you get in their car, and they drive you and drop you off. Like carpooling with strangers - may not be the safest thing in the world, but it's definitely more environmentally friendly. Another note about driving - people drive like mad-men, and everyone honks like crazy (I think it's that angry russian thing). I rode on a city bus at 8 - I don't know how the thing even started up again once it stopped - it was that packed. Not everyone at the bus stop could fit on - it was the most crowded space I have ever been in my entire life. There may have been 70 people on a small bus with 20 seats. My first night here I slept on a couch from the 70's that has been sat on a few too many times, and then some. Then last night, Maxim showed up with a mattress - Awesome.
eeehh-waaa eh-oh-eh-oh-eh-oh waa waa waa waa hkhzzzzhsh beep beep beep ggkkkzzzkgsszz - DIAL UP INTERNET.
The weather here is great - it's like Ohio in November, a welcome break from hot Thailand. The mountains are huge, snowcapped, and utterly gorgeous. They overlook the city. It's incredible. I think I may get to go up and hike around a little bit tomorrow!
German cars rule the streets here, and it's an incredible thing. Much love for the men who let me oogle at their audi, mercedes, porsche, and BMW beauties.
Down to 2% battery on the laptop, I think I'll call it quits for tonight.
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