After the about-face from Semey back into Almaty, we had our final night in Almaty staying with our host John again, who provided us with access to a much needed shower and washing mashing. John is an American expat teaching journalism at an institute in Almaty and one of the most hospitable American expats we’ve met.
The next day it rained practically the entire day and despite this, I was hell-bent on finding a t-shirt for a souvenir. As a 6ft tall American traveling in this part of the world, that is impossible. Furthermore, throughout the entire CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) you’ re much better buying a mobile phone or fake designer clothes from China as a gift. They’ve got plenty.
Waiting for clothes to dry and the dismal hope of Jon getting a new credit card sent from the states, we passed the time by being lazy and checking email as John’s internet cut in and out. So it goes out here. To kill more time, at the Almaty International Airport, I shaved my beard with Leatherman scissors, one razor blade and hand washing soap. Waking up at 5:00am to board our flight to Kiev, we would not be without one last hurdle. Unaware of the fact that after more than five days in Kazakhstan, one is required to march one’s self into the Ministry of Internal Affairs and register. We had been there 10. On the list of things one does not want to hear at 6:00 am by Kazakh passport control, “Maybe you not fly to Kiev today. Give me $200.” is clearly near the top.
I looked over to see what Jon’s situation was in the booth next to mine. Quite similar, they had taken his passport and walked across the room and come back. Then, by some fucking act of God, they scanned my e-ticket, stamped my passport and the registration after my guy had placed a call on his mobile and the next thing we knew was we were through security. Shit, had they researched even further to find out that those passports had expired exactly one day earlier, we’d a really been fucked. Woohoo, we’re now in Budapest.