Last night, I finally lost all patience and left my travel partner in the village of Taraz (read about that below). I am kinda proud of my escape. I got a cab to the train station where I shared no common language with anyone. Nonetheless, I was able to conclude that there were no tickets left on the midnight train for the city of Almaty (a large European style city in eastern Kazakhstan near the Chinese border–I’m trying to get back to China). Unsure what to do, I noticed a man going through the crowds whispering “Almaty, Almaty, Almaty”— a scalper!?!?! He was in fact a ticket scalper! I was elated! Through amazing, and I am sure hilarious, hand gestures we managed to communicate that I would give him money and he would bribe the police on the train to let me stand the 9 hour train ride to Almaty. I was excited. Ten minutes before the train was to arrive I was hustled to the far end of the train station where a middle aged woman was standing. As soon as the train pulled up were rushed on, and put in a small conductor’s room that had two beds and a small window. This was an amazing score! I was going to be able to sleep through the night on a clean bed! A man came in the room and asked me for about $35 which is slightly more expensive than what a train room like this would go for, but again, this included the payment of the scalper that I had just gotten to bribe a police officer, who I think may have bribed a conductor of the train. Either way I was set! I had a good nights sleep and arrived this morning in the city of Almaty.
There are two train stations in the city of Almaty and I wasn’t sure which one to get off at but decided I would get off wherever more people got off, figuring that would mean I was closer to downtown and hopefully closer to the US consulate. I left my luggage in the luggage storage at the train station, bought a Russian-English dictionary from the kiosk and went outside and started to walk until I saw a group of police officers. Using the dictionary, I got them to help me find the embassy. They hailed a cab for me, negotiated the price with the cab driver, and I was off. I arrived at the US consulate at 10am. The consulate, refused to see me until 3pm (they were absurdly unhelpful and stupid but that is for another post). I am hoping to get in there at 3pm and register that I am in the country and get more sheets for my passport, as I have run out of pages. Anyway, I’ve hustled my way out of rural Kazakhstan and into the big city. Hopefully, I’ll get a bus tonight that will take me to the Chinese border city of Urumqi. From there I hope to catch a plane to Hainan.
I may sound like I am complaining a lot…because I am; I am exhausted, dirty, angry and ready for a good rest. However, I really have enjoyed Kazakhstan. The people have been hospitable like no other country I have ever visited.