Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Almaty! - Pizza Hut and the Eiffel Tower
What country am I in?
After leaving the bazaar, Rebeca asked another random person and learned how to get to one of Almaty's centers (apparently it has several, I'm thinking it's just stretched out). We took a bus to the intersection of Abai and Furmanov Streets, which is in the "Walking Tour" map in my Lonely Planet guidebook. (That's not why we chose it, someone told Rebeca to go there.)
We hadn't walked far when we saw the Eiffel Tower down the road from us. What? Really? Then, in front of us, we saw Pizza Hut. And not a fake Pizza Hut, but the real thing.
I have no problem sticking to local food (well, as long as I can choose not to eat the kurt and other sour milk products). But for Sophia's sake, I felt we had to go in.
Sophia was quite thrilled with another American restaurant, and the quality was pretty much Pizza Hut-quality--not really the greatest, but good enough. After eating, we tried to find a bus home, and walked past the Eiffel Tower. It was, of course, not as big as the real thing, but still nice for pictures.
The block was one long hill, and I found myself singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music." Astana is not as flat as New Orleans, but it's still pretty flat. It was nice to be in a hilly city again.
A 20-something Kazakh woman saw me dancing and singing with Sophia, and decided to dance with me. Um, it's one thing to sing a Broadway song and dance with a 7-year old, it's another thing to dance with a complete stranger on the street. I realized that it was Friday night, she was probably drunk.
It took us forever to find a bus stop, and by the time we did, we weren't even sure if our bus was still running or would go by this stop. Rebeca hailed a cab, and soon we were in. The driver seemed nice enough, he was a young man in his 20s or 30s, and he knew a little English. ("What is your name? My name is..." The basics.)
When we were almost home, he pulled over. I was about to get out when I realized why he had pulled over--a policeman had pulled him over.
We were in the car for about 30 minutes while he talked to the police officer. I wondered if it would be rude to get out and walk--we were that close!!
I noticed that several other cars were pulled over while we were waiting. The police car was mostly hidden behind a parked bus, and the officers were pulling over people after they'd made their U-turn. (Left turns across double lines are illegal in Astana & I guess also Almaty--you can turn left at intersections only, I think. So U-turns are incredibly common and legal. So the U-turns were not what was causing the police to pull people over. I don't know what.)
When the man finally returned to his car, he was incredibly angry but insisted on driving us to the apartment--after all, he'd promised us that he would.
"сука!" he said ("suka") and I really shouldn't have giggled, but I did. Just a few days ago, I had noticed this word written on the elevator wall. My student "Alex" calls me that a lot, and I had been told it meant stupid. Then I looked it up on google translate and learned it means "b****". I giggled because I knew the word! (And had unfortunately taught it to Sophia, thinking it only means stupid. When Sophia started saying the word, Rebeca had to explain that it means something much worse.)
So... not a very eventful day, but a good one nonetheless. We spent half the day on a train, a couple hours shopping, a couple hours in a Pizza Hut, and another hour wandering around (taking pictures, singing, looking for a bus...) And Sophia can curse in Russian...
Tomorrow, the mountains!