Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 4: Almaty, Kazakhstan

After a short stint, we return to the post-soviet chronicles and review Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Previous editions can be found here, here, and here.


Good luck. No, but seriously... the English pronunciation is super easy and it's said exactly as it looks (Al-mot-e). Unfortunately for us, no one seems to understand when you say Almaty in the English pronunciation. They simply look at you oddly and wonder what you could be possibly talking about. So here are the variants on pronunciation I encountered there and in Tajikistan:

Kazakhs pronouncing it in Kazakh: Almatiye (Al-mot-e-a)
Russians pronouncing it in Russian: Almat?? (Al-mot-*choke on your tongue*) 
Some Tajiks pronouncing it in Russian: Almato (Al-mot-o)

Strange how one city's name could be pronounced so many different ways. Or not pronounced. Or whatever.

So, like, Almaty is... where again?
It's Almaty-- and then some! (Click to enlarge)

Coolest View In-Flight Ever

Lots of snow tipped mountains. Here's some pics, but honestly they don't do it justice. My phone just can't capture the depth of what it looks like. Pretty freaking breathtaking. You'll just have to trust me on this.

Ohhh Mountainy... and jet-enginey...

Wish that jet engine would move- trying to take a picture here!



Almaty is like. NYC expensive. Cool city, loved the heck out of it, but woahhhhhhh I did not have the funds for that.

The Shower Situation

Look honestly maybe I've just had bad luck but something about these showers in these post-Soviet countries has me perplexed. First and foremost, these showers are the kind that have two separate knobs, one for your hot water and one for your cold water. Fine, okay I went to college I get that you have to open the valves to the right amount to mix.

This is what I'm working with, folks.

Here's where the problems begin:
1) Incorrectly labeled hot/cold forever messes with your mind. You finally start to figure out that the shower you're in is incorrectly labeled (you know, hot==cold and cold==hot) and then you find a sink somewhere in a restaurant that is the same and you finally start to get it and you start reaching for the cold when you want the hot water. Oh but it's not that simple. Because apparently not everyone wants to be consistently wrong. Every time I confronted a new water contraption (sink/shower/whatever)-- and really still this is true to this day-- I really sit there and think about what my first choice is going to be. Because, you know, the thing is that if you choose hot it's REALLY FREAKING HOT. Like so hot you could make hot tea hot. and I don't like pouring that on my hands.

Oh and I'm sure some of you out there are laughing saying "Oh Nick, just turn on both at the same time so that they mix and you don't burn!"... well before you go and say that consider my next point:

2) The distance between your water feature and your hot water tank changes your ratio of hot/cold water. Yeah, it's kind of obvious but you really need to think about the ramifications of this. First, if your hot water heater is really far away, you're almost completely in the dark about which of the knobs is hot or cold because all they're producing is cold water. This wait can almost feel like hours, especially if you are in Almaty in the winter waiting for the warm stuff to come.

The truly worst part is the other way around though. When the hot water heater is so close that it's scalding, skin-peeling, destructive water comes so quickly that you barely have enough time to think "oh Sweet baby Jesus it's so hot" before your covered in second degree burns.

3) And when it's all said and done, I can never seem to get the right mixture. The water is too hot, so I open the cold water valve a tiny fraction of a millimeter and the water goes ice cold. I switch a tiny fraction of a millimeter closed and it's scalding hot again. I close the hot water valve just a tiny fraction of a millimeter and it's ice cold... you get the picture. Tinkering with my shower temperature ends up taking more time than the entire shower itself, and the worst part is that in the end I can't even find a decent temperature.

Most of my showers eventually happen with my realizing how much time I've wasted, then deciding that hot is better than cold (because seriously, it's cold and taking a cold shower when it's cold is just... cold). But what that really means is I have to stand on the edge of the water and splash water on to me. And then when it's time to wash the shampoo out of my hair (seriously the worst part) I have to psyche myself up for a good three minutes and then breathe a few times rapidly and jump in while frantically trying to get the shampoo out of my hair AS FAST AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

4) And then everything is so... steamy. You know what it's like when you pour a pot of boiling/about to boil water into the sink and it erupts in steam? That's pretty much how all my showers go. So, I leave the shower and everything (the floor, the toilet, the toilet paper, the towels, my glasses, etc.) are steamed up. And then you open the door and in comes the coldest, most arctic air, and I'm pretty sure this is how tornadoes happen in nature right? Cold air + hot air? No? Okay whatever.

But Seriously, Almaty was pretty cool

Overall Almaty was a cool city, and expenses aside I would enjoy going back sometime (when I know more Russian, for sure). It also ended up going well on the visa-front, so that's a major plus. Actually, it went so smoothly I was kind of left in shock.

After some struggles to find the Tajik Consulate (because, seriously, it's not anywhere of note and it's totally concealed), I greeted the nice man in the consulate who was really impressed I spoke Tajik and looked over my application for maybe two minutes. He then told me to pay (less than I would have paid in the US) and told me to come back tomorrow. I, per rule #1-15 of Tajik Embassies & Visas, wanted to insure that he did in fact say 'tomorrow'. He must have thought I was pretty stupid, because the conversation went something like this:

Me: "I can get my visa tomorrow?"
Him: "Yes, tomorrow."
Me: "Tomorrow? Meaning Wednesday?"
Him: [in English] "To-mor-row."
Me: "Okay. Tomorrow... right?"
Him: "Have a good day!"

Every fiber in my body was sure that I was going to show up the next day (Wednesday) and it wasn't going to be ready. But I walked up, the guy instantly recognized me, grabbed my passport, showed me the visa, and told me to have a great time back in Tajikistan. SUCCESSSSSSS!

Then I sat around a hotel for the next few days until my flight back to Dushanbe on Saturday.

Yay Almaty!

A random church I found when I was wandering/got lost in Almaty one day. By the way it's all wood. Apparently it's the second tallest wooden building in the world??

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