Don’t ever call a Kazakh Cop Borat….ever.
Semey, Kazakhstan to Barnaul, Russia
Now Semey has some absolutely interesting history. You might as well call it mushroom cloud Semey or Radioactive Semey or maybe gigertesting Semey, because in 1949, the city and its surrounding area was chosen by the Soviet atomic bomb programme to be the location for its weapon testing. From ’49 to ’89, 456 nuclear tests (340 underground, 116 atmospheric tests). All this being said, we headed straight into the city and decided to restock on radioactive groceries for the next couple weeks. The tin cans block the radiation right? Our most impressive find I think was 6% milk in a box (In contrast, Whole milk is 3.5%….it was basically heavy heavy heavy cream).
For lunch we picked up two roasted chickens for a few dollars right outside the supermarket and then proceeded to head outside the city. Marshal couldn’t keep his stomach from growling so we didn’t make it more than a few kilometers down the road till he pulled off to this park/apartment building and then proceeded to devour our chicken halves with bread. The meal was completed with a bag of bacon chips. Then the excitement started.
As our hands are jumping into the bag of bacon chips, a Kazakh man approached us. My theory is that he thought I was Kazakh and wanted to join in on the fun of meeting white people. He talked with us for a good bit about different things. Not exactly sure what he was saying 60% of the time as his english wasn’t so good. But from what I gathered, he seemed to identify his identity with the country’s presidents. Kind of like the old man in Croatia we met.
He points to himself and saying, “Nursultan Nazarbayev” Then into the distance, “Putin. Putin. Russia.”
Josiah, Patrick and Marshal and says, “Obama? America?” They nod with approval.
Then points to me, which I say, “America. California, Obama.”
He shakes his head in disapproval. “No no no. Where you from?”
(This seems to happen a lot. People just don’t believe I’m from America. So I have to say from Korea. Then its like a lightbulb is light in their head and then all the chaos in the world is nullified. This was no different.)
He then ask, “Who Korea president?”
(I have no idea…I know its a woman and thats about it.. ) “Umm… Kim Sumting?” (It’s Park Geun-hye..I know this now.. but I had a really good chance that the presidents surname was Kim.
He accepted this answer and repeated, “Ahhh.. Kim summing…” (We all looked at each other and smiled in disbelief)
He then invited us over to his house for chai. We passed by the Center for Radiation Therapy and the Oncology Center. Then turned into his home.
We expected just some tea, but instead got an amazing full meal of homemade pickles, kazakh cognac, other pickled garlic dish, bread, cucumbers, breaded chicken, and tomatoes that his wife made for us. It was absolutely delicious even after He brought out his family photo album with all the places he visited. He introduced us to his son (we think he’s a policeman or sheriff), daughter, nephew and wife then taught us some Kazakh words to say…
Hello — Сәлем! (Sälem!), Thank you — Рахмет! (Raxmet!), watermelon — қарбыз (Sounds like apple..)and…I don’t really remember a lot of them..
He showed us around his house and just as we were about to leave he bring out this massive watermelon that he insists for us to eat. The generosity and hospitality rivaled that of Turkmenistan. After eating some delicious watermelon with his family, we said our goodbyes and were off to the Russian border…
So maybe we were going fast. maybe we weren’t, but Marshal got caught going 92kph in a 90 kph on a highway with no signs, and nobody around. This is all a mystery. The policeman said we were still in the city limits, even though we were atlas 50 kilometers outside the city at this point. Anyways, Marshal walks back to the police car and the waiting game begins. In the meantime, the cop pulls over more people, and this guy comes over to Marshal with a wad of cash and points to it and says something in Kazakh. He gets into the cop car, all the doors of the car shut, after a few minutes he exits, then goes on his way. They clearly want a bribe. But sneaky Marshal had already emptied his wallet prior to this because he’s a smart cookie.
The cop just kept looking at Marshal then the ticket. Slowly writing stuff down. For 10 minutes this went on, a scribble here, a look there, another scribble here and the cop then starts talking to Marshal. This may have been a mistake….
Points to self, “(something indistinguishable)-urat”
Marshal confused, yet uber excited, “Borat?!??!”
Cop shakes his head furiously, ““(something indistinguishable)-urat”
Marshal still confused and equally excited, “Borat?!??!” Then points to the cop.
Cop makes an “X” with his hands then slowly says, “MMMMMMUUUUUURRRRAAATTTT. Murat. Murat.” Then makes a gesture of shooting something while saying, “Borat”
Yup… don’t ever call a cop in Kazakhstan Borat. They don’t like it. Murat finally is getting fed up with this waiting game and gestures underneath the window to a wad of cash then to Marshal. Marshal already knows he wants a bribe, but isn’t going to give him any. So he pulls out his empty wallet and then shows it to Murat. Murat is clearly disgusted and shakes his head. With an gruff “ehhhhhhh”, waves Marshal away and like that we are free to go. The game is over. Marshal: 1, Murat (NOT BORAT): 0.
After some conservative driving, we blaze through the Kazakhstan/Russia border and are in Barnaul attempting to find a hostel/hotel to get some rest. This is a problem. Its late and dark and theres lots of road construction. We can’t seem to find an alternate route to the hostel. Then Patrick pops his third tire on a curb. Patrick is our resident tire popper, but why not finish 3 for 3. After a quick tire change, we ask some drunk Russian couple for directions. This fails. Then Marshal sees some security people getting a late nice snack at a store. So we go up and ask the meanest, toughest, biggest Russian security/milItary man there for directions. He is heavily armed with pistols on either side of him. But, he turns out to be the biggest teddy bear ever. Super super nice and he gets his partner into the car and drives us to a hotel for us to stay. It surprised us all. There seems to be no rooms except what we guessed to be the honeymoon suite. Clearly marked by the ginormous red bathtub and leopard print sheets, but a bed is a bed. So we showered up and rested in warm beds.
Ready to go up to Novosibirsk tomorrow….