Sunday, October 21, 2007

On the Beach


Of course I'm not on the beach. I'm infact in the largest city of Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world and a very landlocked country. An increasing number of people now know that apples and tulips originally come from Kazakhstan. But not so many people know that Chris Rea, the popular crooner actually comes from Kazakhstan too. Well we're pretty sure it was him. We were finishing a slow evening at the Guinness pub in Almaty, drawn in by the promise of live music. Well niot much else was live in there, two other punters and a staff who'd clearly rather be home asleep. But as promised we were intoduced to a popular local duo, man and wife, brother and sister, or two strangers who'd met that night, we were never told. It certainly seemed that it might be the latter when they ignored the fact they were in an Irish bar and launched into a particularly moving rendition of "I'll be Washing You" by The Police. Yes English pronunciation was a big issue, and with only every 7th word unslurred it did sound abit like drunken karoake. So it was probably a mistake to cover the Clash. Up to this point we'd only heard the wailings of the female member of the duo, it was only when the guy began to sing that we realised he sounded like a Chris Rea after 10 too many vodkas (or how we imagined this might sound). Immediately a very spooky thing happened as the guy played too (nearly) instantly recognisable Chris Rea songs. And then it was over. No time for autographs or to ask why his command of English seemed so much better on CD. But I guess this sums up nights in Almaty, still not quite what you'd expect.

What I probably did expect was that my bank would refuse to send my new credit cards abroad (despite me having an insurance policy that covers this), it would then mistakenly send the cards to my bank so I'd have to spend the day searching for a fax machine to send authority for someone else to collect them and that for some reason they couldn't hear key phrases on the internet phone when I called to give them further instructions.

So that was Almaty and now there's more terrible roads, more chances for freak wind storms to blow my tent away, more opportunities to view plagues of insects that block out the sun, and of course the ever present local guy who wants to drink a bottle of vodka with you in the middle of nowhere in particular. I can't wait...
This was originally written on 28 August 2007. It is from my summer trip from Beijing to Birmingham.

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