Qostinay, a Ray of Hope

by achuggabug

13 August, 2012; 20:38

I just woke up from a fitful sleep; despite that, it was quite restful, as I haven’t slept in a bed in four nights. Especially after last night’s drive until dawn and three hours sleep in the car, I needed the nap I just took.

We left the hotel at two with Andrei, the owner? of the shop our car is in. He took us into town to the police station where we, again, tried to register our passports. We were told to wait, and about an hour later, an officer came out and told us we were in the wrong spot. Andrei, cursing his government, loaded us back into the van and we headed around the block to the appropriate office. Unfortunately, this office was closed today, as indicated by a sign on the door.

We nearly panicked. Whatever the cost of repairing our car, in either time or money, it is irrelevant if we have to pay an exit fine to leave Kazakhstan. The cost of that fine is more than we can afford and would certainly mean an end to our rally. After we’d calmed down a bit, we decided on a course of action; however slow the response might be, we emailed the American embassy to inform them of our situation. Only then did we realize, today is only our fourth day in the country, and we have until tomorrow to register. A simple mistake, and this time, one that saved us.

Our driver for the day, Andrei, is either the owner or a manager at the shop where we’ve left our car. None of the employees there speak English, and he isn’t nearly as good a mime as our truck driver from the tow. Still, we’ve managed to communicate through a combination of hand gestures, pictures drawn on the iPad, and the occasional brakedown use of Google Translate on their computer. Today, waiting at the police station, we used the iPad to draw out our conversation, and we ascertained that Qostinay has an approximate population of 300 000, is religiously diverse (Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish), Andrei is Catholic, and he doesn’t care for Lada motors (even though Chase and I think they’re they 3rd grade ideal of what a car should look like). We also showed him Arkansas on a hand drawn map of the States, and we think he understood.

From there we returned to the hotel to eat. Without realizing, we ordered enough food for a family of ten, but it only cost us $17; we ate without regard for decency since we’ve had no meals other than splitting canned vegetables or crackers dipped in Nutella for the past three days on the road. I don’t know that I’ll have lost weight when I get back from this trip, but I can’t imagine not.

After lunch, exhausted, I opted not to join Chase and Michael on their walkabout. I laid down to sleep in our sweatlodge of a room and almost immediately passed out. I left the door open to help circulate air, and I was awoken by Andrei coming to the room with news of our car. As best I understood him, our clutch pad is worn to nothing (probably Ishmael’s fault from his crazy driving in Baku), and he needed our chasis number to try and find a compatible part; evidently, the Suzuki Ignis is almost as rare abroad as it is in America, where it’s nonexistent. I’m glad I hung around to get him the information, and hopefully we’ll be on our way sometime tomorrow. If he has to order parts, there’s no way to know, but at least this isn’t the most expensive fixe in the world.

The WordPress app is still broken, and I’ve no honest idea when I’ll get the chance to post my stockpile of ramblings, but I’m hopeful of finding an internet cafe in Astana and being able to just retype them. I don’t think we’re staying around in the city to see it like we’d planned because we’d like to get to the final finish line party on the 24th. Fingers crossed, we still have time to make it.

I feel much more hopeful of our chances of success now than this afternoon, but only time will tell the outcome of our venture. As I want, very desperately to be at home in the comforts to which I’m accustomed, I suppose this could be seen as a lose/lose stuation. However, I choose to see it as win/win. Either I get to finish this grand adventure, or I get to return to the people and places I love.