WRITTEN BY ERIC TWACHTMAN
Today is my 30th wedding anniversary (and my first separate from Barb). I was able to call Barb briefly.
Since last night was late, everyone slept late. We all finally started getting a move on at about 10:30.
Beck said that she needed a few items, so we thought that a trip into town might be in order. The local ‘Target’ is called Ramstor. Since no one was available to take us, we would hitch a ride, Kazakh style. There are very few Taxis in Astana, so when people need a ride, they stand on the side of the road and flag, like you would for a cab in NY. The only difference is that, instead of a cab, a regular driver stops. You then negotiate a price for your destination. If all is in order, you hop in and away you go.
Since we needed a Kazakh speaker, Altyn’s cousin Nurik came with us. Nurik is a young man of 15 or so. Since he speaks no English, Altyn told him where we wanted to go. So Beck, Sterling, Wes and I headed off to town with Nurik.
Our first stop was, as planned, the Ramstor. This turned out to be only a food store. We got some drinks and looked around, then sought to head off to the Astana Mega-mall. This meant that we had to call Altyn to tell her to tell Nurik our wishes. In a matter of minutes, off we went. The only hitch in our hitching rides was that our group was too big for most cars, so we had to break up into two. The trips cost about 200 Tenge (about $1.20) per ride.
The Mega mall was nice, and very Americanized. Many signs were in English, and I could find no shirts written in Kazakh: only English. We made it home at 5:00 or so and had some Plof (rice and meat) for dinner. This was a dish that Altyn had made for us at various times.
The plan was for us to head to the northern mountain lake country to a picturesque town called Barevoye. Adlet and Altyn both waxed rhapsodic about its beauty. It is about a 2 hour drive.
We got off at about 8:30 PM. Altyn and Adlet both drove. The retinue consisted of Granny, Beck, Wes, Sterling, myself, Altyn , Adlet, Adlet’s uncle Buribay, cousin Nurik and Altyn’s cousin Aynura (a young lady of 17 or so.) The highway was very modern and well maintained. Most of the drive was through open country of rolling hills of farms and some sheep. As we approached the hill country, it became more heavily wooded. We passed 2 casinos, then a small town, and turned down a rutted dirt road to find Altyn’s step dad’s cottage, nestled along with 25 other similar cottages on a field on the outskirts of town.
It is actually more of a compound than a cabin. The compound is: two good sized 2 story houses, 2 small 1 story houses and 6 one room cabins built within a metal fence. Many of the other ‘Dachas’ are similar, if not larger. There are no roads among them. They all seem to have been built with little oversight from officialdom.
We arrived at 11. Since we were a tad puckish after our trip, Altyn went back to the nearest store and got some bread, pickles, sardines and bologna for a late night snack. Then off to bed by 11:30. The Americans and Buribay stayed in one house, Altyn and the other Kazakhs stayed in the other. We had to be a bit quiet, as it seemed as though there were some others staying in our house. (Altyn’s step dad, Yurik, rents out rooms to people as a bit of a sideline.) Since we were tired, that was not a problem.