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First day in Almaty and lookedy what happens!
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jonniboy



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 684
Location: Riga, Latvia

PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:26 am    Post subject: First day in Almaty and lookedy what happens! Reply with quote

Got here on Wednesday. I'd only been here 10 hours when I got stopped by the cops at the metro station. They took me into a side room and searched my bag. I'd just been to the supermarket so they took out all my groceries, among which was an unopened bottle of beer that I'd bought to drink at home to celebrate my arrival. They decided that this was an offense and started threatening me with deportation and 15 days in prison. I knew that this was a load of nonsense and knew what they were angling for, especially when the word "straf" popped up. However they caught me at the most opportune moment. I'd just arrived, was tired from travelling all the previous day, jetlagged and tired from walking round Almaty. Worse I was carrying a lot more cash than normal as I'd just changed money and had my video camera. My mobile didn't work as it was underground and they wouldn't let me make a phone call. In the end we settled on the "fine" of 4000 tenge (about 21 euros). They'd wanted 15000 to start with but I haggled them down just to get out of that situ as I was worried about them simply nicking my money or camera.

I was fairly impressed with the response to it all though. The school were furious, said that that was the first time it had happened to one of their teachers and sent me along with 2 school reps to the police station to make a formal complaint. The police were not happy either and 2 days later, the cops responsible were hauled into the police station, identified by me, given a serious dressing down and then apologised to me and returned my money. They then had to hand in their id and warrant cards and the police told us that they will be fired as it is not the first complaint against them. I wasn't so happy about that aspect of things as I didn't want two disgruntled ex-cops with a grudge against me walking the streets. The police chief then came to me, apologised personally and gave me his assurances that it would not be repeated and i had to contact him straight away if it did.

I'm not sure what to make about all that? Speaking to other teachers I seem to have had bad luck. I was worried though as I'd only been here 10 hours when it happened.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crikey! That's one cracking story! Thanks for sharing.

Sounds like you did OK. Don't know much about the coppers over there, but I'd be very, very surprised to hear of an equivalent one for the Russian militsia, or whatever they are called today.

It all almost sounds reasonable, in the end : )
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Lukas



Joined: 11 Jul 2010
Posts: 15
Location: Istanbul

PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Police corruption in the 'Stans is world (in)famous. I am really impressed by the response though! Kazakhstan is getting classy!
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ecocks



Joined: 06 Nov 2007
Posts: 855
Location: Gdansk, Poland

PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I'm sorta shocked by this.

I was in Kaz for three weeks last month and I am the quintessential American expat touristy type - chubby, camera-laden, big grin/smile while I walk around snapping pics of everything in sight plus I crossed the Kyrgyz border over and back. The only thing I didn't do was put on my Bermuda shorts......all with nary a hint of a problem.

The other "only thing" I didn't do was venture into the metro (had friends with cars and used taxis). Thinking back to the Ukraine years, the guys I know who had troubles like you had all happened down in the metros as well.

Thanks for the reminder through sharing your story.

How's the job shaping up sand what's your take on the city life ahead?
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jonniboy



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 684
Location: Riga, Latvia

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sasha and Lukas, it was a baptism of fire. Having lived in Latvia for 6 years I know what cops in ex-USSR countries are like but I never had any bother in Riga, cops there seem to mainly target motorists. I had it rehearsed in my head what I would do and say in that scenario but nothing really prepares you for being stuck in a room, underground and incommunicado with two guys with guns, sticks and handcuffs. Speaking Russian to them was possibly my biggest mistake as well.

Ironically despite the threats, the 2 guys were actually friendly and personable, if that makes sense. After I'd paid, the main one even told me that the beer I'd bought wasn't the greatest and gave suggestions on the best Kazakh beers and vodkas to buy, talk about surreal!

Ecocks, good point about the metro. Almaty metro is very new (December 2011) and although they have big expansion plans currently underway, it has only 7 stops located along 2 of the city's main avenues, which are already covered by numerous bus routes. Ridership is therefore low, foreigners stick out even more, especially in the suburban station I took and what better place for the cops: convenient side security rooms and lack of mobile access?

I start teaching tomorrow, initial impressions of Almaty have been positive, but really I'd need a month to give an accurate impression of it all.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9313
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a fascinating story with a very unexpected ending;-) and I can't help wonding how a newbie to the whole living abroad experience would have reacted. Tough enough for the experienced, but probably enough to send lots of newbies into a real tailspin about the whole endeavor....

congrats that it all seems to have come out well in the end (hopefully you're not wearing a bulls-eye now!). Keep posting, so that we know you've survived your run-in with the coppers long-term!!
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ETA



Joined: 14 Jun 2010
Posts: 34

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

interesting how PC volunteers had different experiences in KZStan... http://www.eurasianet.org/node/64566
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ecocks



Joined: 06 Nov 2007
Posts: 855
Location: Gdansk, Poland

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Initial comparisons are just that, initial. It makes it more interesting to read the one week, one month, one year reports when you can contrast them with expectations, changes, etc.

Let me/us know, I might come back over sometime.
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ComradeBL



Joined: 28 Aug 2010
Posts: 70
Location: 'stan!

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:41 pm    Post subject: WOW! Reply with quote

That is surprising! Never once have I had such run-ins with the law in either ALA or here in the oblast capital, although being on a first name basis w/ the chief of police for the two major districts doesn't hurt, I'm sure...

Glad you made out OK!
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jonniboy



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 684
Location: Riga, Latvia

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Comrade, yes from speaking to other teachers, I really do just seem to have got unlucky as none of them have had any problems.

ecocks wrote:
Initial comparisons are just that, initial. It makes it more interesting to read the one week, one month, one year reports when you can contrast them with expectations, changes, etc.


Exactly. The early weeks are a mixture of excitement at being in the new place, giving way to frustration at times at things not being quite as you want them to be and some of the local ways which may have seemed cute at first start to grate.

For what it's worth, first week done and so far so good. Really great students, polite, respectful, keen to learn. Workwise if nothing else I'm hoping for a good year here. Almaty's a bit of a bizarre place, lots of Asians speaking Russian and with a bit of a Russian mentality but with more smiles. The city's pretty green and had a great backdrop, with snow capped mountains. The pollution is fairly bad and the traffic is real chaos. Prices are a bit higher than in Riga where I was before. One thing I do like is that things seem to be a bit more decentralised. In Riga, all the nightlife, restaurants and entertainment where in the centre. Here, there's a lot more going on in the various microdistricts, which is good as it means that you don't have to trek into the centre for a night out.
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waxwing



Joined: 29 Jun 2003
Posts: 719
Location: China

PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The subtext of this story, which seems not to have been noticed, is connections. Your new boss seems to have them.

Still, very interesting story whichever way you look at it!
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waxwing



Joined: 29 Jun 2003
Posts: 719
Location: China

PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On a slight tangent, jonniboy, hello again - I remember asking you about Riga a year or two back.
I'm going back to Latvia in February and maybe in the summer, for a longer time - what's the situation in Riga and environs nowadays? Is the exodus of people continuing? As far as I know, there is a slight improvement in the economy since 2009/10, but not huge - would you agree?
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jonniboy



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 684
Location: Riga, Latvia

PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got stopped by the cops on the metro again this morning. This time though they were quick and efficient, glanced inside my bag and sent me on my way with a horosho, spasiba and even a salute Laughing They routinely seem to stop guys between the ages of 16 and 40 carrying a backpack.

Waxwing, the economic situation in Latvia has picked up. Hell, it's even become the poster child for the IMF and all other advocates of strong austerity measures, this though cheerfully ignores the fact that the recovery was achieved in part through 10% of the population leaving, something that's hardly practical in the UK or US.

2009/2010 was actually my best year teaching wise. Tonnes of work as people planned to go abroad. Now emigration has slowed and I got the impression in my last years there that wages in ESL were flatlining. On the plus side, there still is lots of work around. I started looking in August for privates and in the end, had to turn people away. There's no way that you'd get that in southern Europe.
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jonniboy



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 684
Location: Riga, Latvia

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know if I've spoken too soon or not about things picking up. Last night with my housemate, we went across to the local bar for beer and shashlik. We'd barely blown the froth off our beer when this drunk Kazakh guy (one of the other 4 customers at the place) started abusing us from across the bar, presumably because we were speaking in English. With his friend they started ordering us to leave. While we tried to ignore them, the bar staff did absolutely nothing, just stood around nonchalantly, it was only when the guy came up and started wagging his finger aggressively in my face that a bouncer came and told him to sit down. However he continued to abuse us from his table. We quickly finished our beers, cancelled our food order and left. That's two big negative incidents in less than 2 weeks. I thought I was fairly experienced, having travelled and lived abroad for nearly 10 years, but this is starting to get a bit much. I'm going to give it a while and see what happens, but lurking in my mind is the thought that I've possibly made a big mistake coming here.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Things can happen in bars in many places. Fairly typical in Moscow too. Not much one can do about it. Many idiots everywhere. You probably handled that situation the best way possible. A bar fight wouldn't look good in anyone's eyes.

With regard to the metro, can I ask how you are dressed? I only ask because, in Moscow at least, I have noticed that travellers who are reasonably well-dressed seem to sail past the militsia, whereas those wearing jeans and t-shirts and looking foreign usually are the ones who get stopped. Anyone with 'alternative' clothing seems to come in for scrutiny too. Hippie, emo, punk - whatever. Even just obviously touristy clothes, i.e. bright colours, can be enough.

Sorry, not suggesting that you are scruffy! Just interested if there is a similar situation in Kazakhstan. Wearing slacks and a shirt is usually enough to avoid unwanted police attention.
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