Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Almaty (Sunday)

The trip from Amsterdam to Almaty went smoothly. I got a few hours sleep and arrived somewhat refreshed. Customs was well staffed and I managed to get thru in about 40 minutes. My luggage was a different story; I was there for a good hour. There were three luggage portals one from Moscow, one from Cairo, one from Amsterdam. Everyone from my flight had picked up their bags and left, but mine never came out. So I started walking around looking for a “Lost and Found window” of some sort and I happened to spot my bag on the carousel from Cairo, so I grabbed it and then started looking for Rebecca’s stroller. I eventually found it riding around the Carousel from Moscow. It was difficult to recognize because it had taken a real beating, was wrapped in several layers of plastic shrink wrap and one wheel was torn off, which someone had tried to reinstall using a half a roll of duct tape another wheel was taped to one of the handles. I grabbed the stroller and headed over to the “Baggage claim window” where there was another person, who seemed pretty upset and was yelling. I looked down at his bag which seemed new and was originally rectangular now took on a more Trapezoidal shape and was held together by several layers of shrink wrap and tape. It was quite apparent that the guy who reattached the wheel onto my stroller used the rest of the roll of duct tape to repair this guys bag. I decided to move on and not complain because the guy in front of me had the advantage of knowing the language and didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I found out later that the wheels just pop back on so no damage was done.
Oleg was there waiting for me and we headed over to the Hotel KazZhol. The hotel is hidden away and down a small alley and first impressions proved to be very favorable. The lobby is newly renovated, the receptionist spoke some English so Oleg said good bye, I finished checking in and headed to my room. The hallways were very dark and in need of paint and new carpet, which appeared to be in progress. The elevator was out of order so we, the bell captain and I, proceeded to walk up to the 3rd floor. The 2nd floor took on more frat house feel to it with the smell of stale beer, my guess is that it was a wedding party of some type based on the balloons and color of the debris in the hallway and on the doors. The 3rd floor was very dark but clean. The room I was in was newly renovated and very nice. I unpacked got some rest for a few hours and then decided to take a walk to see if I could find a market. I walked about 3 blocks and came to an intersection where you needed to walk under the street to get across. It seemed a little dark and I was somewhat apprehensive about walking down there initially, but finally followed a few other people down. It was interesting there were several shops (very small) selling toys, books etc. under the street and they were closed. As I emerged on the other side there was a very large in-door/out-door market with lots of activity, food being cooked, purchased and consumed along the side walk. I picked up some bottled water, fresh bread, tooth brush and pepsi Light (as they call it here) from the indoor market and then headed back to the hotel. The driver was scheduled to pick me up at 4:00 am for my trip to Astana so I watched a little television to tire me out. They had the Sopranos on and it was dubbed in Russian. The voices were very different and Tony Soprano sounded a little like Dick Cheney which put me to sleep.

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