Spoiler Alert: No Baby In This Episode
At one point, we turned a corner, and there, straight ahead were the most gorgeous mountains. It was absolutely stunning and then I remembered that Almaty is surrounded by mountains. I had stopped paying attention to other areas once I knew that I was going to Kokshetau. It reminded me of my first time in Petra when the guide deliberately drew our attention downward until we turned a corner and then you look up and in all its glory is the Treasury.
I had my meeting with Gulzhan and I delivered the remaining bottles of Sparkling Cider to Gulbanu. Turns out it wasn’t a craving, but rather, a potential business opportunity that her husband is looking into. With the large population of people who don’t drink, sparkling cider could be a market boom. But they don’t have it at all here in Kaz so they needed some bottles to test and try and replicate. Anyway, in my meeting with Gulzhan, the most important bit of advice she gave me was “make sure to use the toilet in the Astana airport because there is nothing but open fields between Astana and Kokshetau.”
The flight to Astana was uneventful and I was met by Oleg and Inna in Astana. I followed Gulzhan’s above advice and then we headed out for our four hour drive to Kokshetau. It was unclear whether or not I would get to meet Annabelle today.
Previous families have written about the disorderly
Kazakh traffic. From their
descriptions, I expected to find a traffic situation like
Astana is an odd city. Inna said that people have
told her it’s like
I also realized I have spent way too long in
countries where people are actively trying to kill Americans. On seeing the
embassy in Almaty (a beautiful building) I immediately commented to vitali on
the lack of setback from the street and absence of concrete barriers. I had almost forgotten that we do
actually have unbarricaded embassies in some places around the world. Then in Astana, I saw a big black cloud
of smoke billowing off in the distance. I asked Inna if a pipeline had been
blown – since it looked exactly like the pipeline explosions I used to
After four stultifying hours we arrived in Kokshetau and stopped by the regional Ministry of Education (MoE) to just “pick up a paper.” We got there just as the minister was heading out but when we arrived, he took off his coat, made his minions take their coats and proceeded to absolutely grill me. Of course I was exhausted and very unprepared. He asked me if I believe in God, why wasn’t I married (echoes of my mother), who was going to take care of the baby when I was working, why did I pick Kaz, and what about all those American people killing Russian adopted babies…… Potential minefields everywhere, but I apparently managed to avoid any serious damage since he signed the document we needed for me to get in the door of the hospital.
At that point it was too late to meet Annabelle so Inna took me to a shop to buy some food for the evening and dropped me off in the apartment where I will stay for the duration. I intended to cook and unpack but sacked after shortly. Tomorrow is the day…..