Kazakhstan Visit, Issue 2

I surrendered my passport today.

Any seasoned traveller knows:

  1. Never let someone take your passport.
  2. Stay out of trouble, and never disobey local laws.

So if it turns out that local laws require you to surrender your passport to the police for the duration of your stay, that’s a bit of a conundrum. But the lady organising the exchange was very friendly and reassuring about this, so let’s hope for the best.

I find Kazakhstan a wonderfully friendly place, and the people are relaxed and pleasant. Some parts are super-modern, especially the capital, Astana – don’t these pictures look like something out of the future? But some things harken back to a soviet history that I find strangely appealing. How weird to be inside one of the “ystergordyn” states, with sturdy soviet-era apartment blocks, policemen with extravagantly sloped visored hats, and with a passport somewhere in police custody! There’s a registration card inside my passport that must be stamped by my host city’s officials. I’m not allowed to travel without permission to leave, and my card must be stamped at any next destination (at least that’s how I understand it).

My impression of the old juxtaposed with cutting-edge modernity shares more with South Africa than I expected. Our first visit to the University confirmed this – everything is modernised and renovated beautifully, but there’s a counterpoint of legacy technology, tradition, and a fair amount of future shock.

I’ll tell you more next time. Coenrad and I have grown embarassingly fond of their fatty horsemeat sausages, which is a popular national food. I have some ideas for improving boerewors when I come back (although I suspect some retailers may have beat me to it without telling us).

Anyway, if I get stuck here because I can’t get my passport back, I’m at least sure I’ll eat well…


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