Keep calm and love Kazakhstan

Keep calm and love Kazakhstan

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From the time we left Wroclaw, Iza was wondering when we would be finished at the Police station. We had read stories about other travelers who had been arrested and interrogated for long hours. They were usually accused of being spies. Fortunately, these situations always  ended up fine, but we didn’t want to find out for ourselves. While we were not accused of spying, we were forced to remain at the police station for several hours.

When we thought we were over Kazakhstan, our thoughts were far away in China.  Our visa consultant brought us back to reality. In his opinion our Kazakh visa was invalid. We weren’t sure if he was right, but we decided to check it out at the migration office. We thought it was odd since we had applied for double entry visa (valid each time for up to 30 days) and had this in our passport. But we trusted the intermediary and we went to the immigration office to clarify our immigration status. Obviously no one there spoke English. They didn’t care at all. Our passports were returned to us and we were sent to the immigration police without any explanation.

We were informed that we had a very serious problem. We exceeded the time of our visa. But we were lucky that we noticed it within 3 days, as we could not be put in jail for this. They didn’t want to listen our explanations, they just kept showing one date which implicated that the visa lasted for 27 days.  Kazakhstan doesn’t even issue this type of visa. But it seemed that only we cared about it because the Policeman listened to these explanations with pity and a look of amusement on his face. He told us not to worry about the documents. He promised to take care of it in exchange for money. He told us it was just a matter of one report.

We had no time to be angry. Iza responded daringly (as it turned out to police the commissioner) that we are not like the others Kazakhs and would not be paying any bribe. You could tell from his face that it was not the answer he expected.  We knew that this conversation was leading nowhere, so we then went straight to the Polish Embassy.

When the counsel heard our story, he agreed with us, but unfortunately he summed up it in one sentence saying “This is Kazakhstan”. He didn’t say anything else but we knew what had to be done.  The next morning, we withdrew money and came back with “loser face” at the police station. This time we got a surprise.  The chief refused to take any money. He felt offended because of our attitude from the previous day. Our “loser face” turned into “are you kidding me”. However, he was definitely not kidding.

The problems were just beginning. Half of the staff was checking our passports. They want us to call the landlord of the flat with which we were registered.  To our dismay, because we never met her, we were forced to stay with Curtis, our host who was just renting the apartment. We didn’t want to create any problems for him, so we just told them that he planned a trip to Bishkek, and that we were not at his place since the week prior, which was true, though we knew he was in town. Unfortunately, the chief was so determined and angry at us that he checked things out and discovered that Curtis had never left the country.  That didn’t help with negotiations.  The Commissioner started to shout at us, accusing us of lying, saying we knew where Curtis was and that if we didn’t cooperate we would end up in jail. He even implied that we were able to speak Russian and were trying to avoid responsibility. This was false. Neither Iza nor I have ever studied Russian. But because Polish and Russian are both Slavic languages, we could communicate on a basic level. So at any given time we were unable to understand what was being said. We refused to answer, as we didn’t want to continue conversation without understanding the language.

So we called our consul and he spoke with the guy, but he was unable to do much. He just translated to us that the chief felt quite offended. He explained that he just wanted the best for us, but we were rude and didn’t want to cooperate. Yeah, right…. We couldn’t do much, since the commissioner had a right to hold us there. We didn’t know what he planned to do and for how long he planned to hold us.  So we found ourselves in the waiting room again.

Suddenly they grabbed us and put us into an unmarked police car and decided to drive to Curtis’s house. The first thing I did from the backseat of the car was send a  warning message to him, telling him to turn off the phone, close door and be quiet. We were unsure what the police planned on doing, but they were laughing in the front seat so we felt less afraid.  When we reached 3rd flood of the apartment, they knocked on the door, shouting “Curtis! We know that you are in there!”. After 2-3 minutes they gave up and start to knock on other doors.

We all knew that inhabitants were there. But all the doors remained closed save for one:  An  elderly woman opened the door.  The police officer asked her about Curtis’s apartment.  She did not answer the question but instead began to spin the story, which was just hilarious. She got back to ’60 when she was young, hanging out with the owner of the apartment, but he had sold it. She also sparked some rumors relating to the family. However she actually “couldn’t remember’ who was living in Curtis’s apartment.  The Police man wrote some notes in his notebook and asked no further questions. We were about to leave, when this elderly woman said something close in mining “Good luck” :)

When we arrived  back at the Police station, where we were asked to stay in the waiting room once again. After a while, we were approached by a young girl who informed us that everything was going to be fine,  but that we needed to leave the police station for 2 hours because it was their lunch break. Yes a “lunch break” had solved our problem. They had to give us any answer before their break, otherwise they would have to spend time with us during their break.

When we came back around 3pm, the girl was waiting in her office. She told us that we needed to sign one paper and we would be finished. She handed over document written in Cyrillic. We said that we would not sign it until our consul translated it for us. At first he said “Do not sign up anything!” but when she explained the situation him, it turned out to just be a warning – the same one that commissioner had offered us to write the day before. This time without any fee.  When we filled out all the documents, the police man was sent back with us to the migration office, where we had to pay $3 for new visa.

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We've met each other during classes the least associated with our faculty at the university and it couldn't be an accident. Silly grinning at our English teacher telling about his hitch-hiking adventures, we haven't known yet that we will begin to travel together. The series of unfortunate events made us share a tent, a camera and memories. Now almost nothing can stop us from hitch-hiking.

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