Kazakhstan Pt. 3: Almaty, where kids watch pole dancers, and joining the family

Written by Tyler Cole | 23 May 2011



“Is she doing ballet while pole dancing?” I asked Djanay perplexed, not quite able to catch on. “It seems like it,” she said with a straight face and the sort of contemplative look you might see on someone while looking at abstract art.

The handful of young kids in front of me were watching the show with 100% attention, which slightly worried me when one of the “professional” dancers fairly graphically, though always covered, started rubbing her vajayjay. The twenty-something guys in the audience were just about drooling. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten my camera. I was too confused with the juxtaposition of a five year old kid giggling and a bikini-clad girl writhing on a pole to be stimulated to an appreciable degree, and when I asked Djanay what “professional” meant, she said, “I’m not sure, a professional pole dancer I think.”



Kazakhstan Pt. 2: Astana, WTF? Diagnosis: major inferiority complex

Written by Tyler Cole | 10 May 2011


khanshatyrAstana is just strange and confusing.

Arriving into Astana tired in an overnight train from Pavlodar, I caught a cheap taxi to where my Couchsurfing host lived in the older part of the city. The taxi driver got lost, and ended up making a huge detour through almost the entire city (luckily, I agreed on the price beforehand). This was my first introduction to the bizarreness that is Astana.

Leaving the Soviet-era buildings around the train station, the taxi crossed the river (artifically widened) and made a loop around “new” Astana which was just a whole bunch of buildings with futuristic architecture and shiny facades. I could see, though, that this new part of the city was built purely by force of incredible amounts of petro-dollars. Any other city has residential areas that spread out from the center, but the “new” Astana just sort of rose out of nothing in the Kazakh steppe.

Talking later with my Couchsurfing host, Emanuel, he gave me a rough run down of what’s been happening in Astana.

Emanuel was originally from Mexico and had been working with the World Bank for several years before taking a three year assignment in Kazakhstan, so he had quite a bit of insight to the Kazakh economy. His project was assisting the government in diversifying their economy, since at this point in time it is almost entirely dependent on oil production.



Kazakhstan Pt. 1: Whoa Aunt Jemima's!, the Darth Vader Mosque, and a failed haircut

Written by Tyler Cole | 28 April 2011


darthvadermosqueAfter getting bribed on the bus from Omsk it arrived in Pavlodar around midnight, where Shannon, my Couchsurfing host, met me. She was an American working with Peace Corps, and had been in Pavlodar for more than a year and a half.

Straight away we stopped by the nearby Russian Orthodox cathedral since Shannon wanted to check out the midnight mass before Easter that ends Lent. It was packed and people were lined up outside, and in the middle of the crowd Shannon ran into someone she knew from Pavlodar. Some dude in front of us said they should be quieter when they talked, then felt bad and gave us one of the two Easter cakes he was carrying around.

Her apartment was lonely since she recently had German roommates move out, but that left plenty of space to crash. The next day there was an Easter get-together for the Peace Corps volunteers, and I met the whole Pavlodar crew at another apartment that belonged to a semi-retired married couple from California, Paul and Susan (fondly referred to as Poosan in a hilarious blog by two other Americans who traveled through Pavlodar: Herro Asia - Going Native in Kazakhstan via Americans) .

It was bizarrely refreshing to be in the same apartment with a bunch of Americans, making Easter eggs and eating pancakes with Aunt Jemima’s syrup. That’s right, I said mother$*%#ing Aunt Jemima’s, in the middle of Kazakhstan. We hung out for most of the afternoon in the apartment on a syrup high.



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