Sometimes I like to walk
I know I'd planned on telling you about having tea (shai), but transportation seems more interesting to me today. There are lots of ways to get where you want to go. It's about 3 miles from my village to the Training Hub Site in Ecik (Issyk).
Sometimes I take a bus. A couple days ago, Ryan, Jon, and I were on the bus on the way to Esik. This driver was better than most and hasn't contributed to future spinal problems, but the roads were busy. Oh, the roads: they vary in width, but very few have any markings. There are no stop signs, no speed limit signs, no nothing. So, one often finds onself as part of a phalanx of cars (2 or 3 abreast) going 50mph toward other cars on what ought to be a one-way road. Fortunately, there's always a shoulder. Regrettably, people and animals are often on that shoulder.
The bus Ryan, Jon, and I were on was a pretty responsible bus. It is - as they all are - unique. This one had blue curtains and a camel toy dangling from the rear view mirror. Kazakh rap for once was not playing loudly. We gave old ladies a wide berth. However, as the bus pulled up to make a left turn, a donkey cart also drew up to turn. There were two donkeys, one of which was unmistakably Rasta Donkey (he'd been lying in the street looking pretty dead last week, so I was glad to see his shaggy little head). Rasta Donkey is an erratic steed(he munches on hemp all day). He took an unexpected turn into our bus, and the cart made an awful sound grating up against the metal. So, the bus driver and the donkey cart driver shouted for a while. Much to our relief, the donkeys are fine, and the donkey cart was undamaged.
Today, Tim and I got on a bus with red curtains and were doing fine until the driver stopped the bus on the main road in Koktube. He opened the hood. People are always opening hoods around here. A car that is not being driven (and some that are) have their hoods open. But, apparently, he really couldn't get it to start again. He let it roll backwards down the hill for a while, then jerked it into second gear. He did this maneuver several times, before everyone got off and walked to the main road to pick up a cab.
Anything with wheels is a cab here. All you have to do is stick out your arm until someone pulls up. You ask how much to the gymnasium, and if it's reasonable (up to 40 tenge, or .3 cents) you get in the back, often with others. Tim managed to flag down a Mercedes. The driver was thrilled to have us. He asked if we were Americans, then turned up the music and flew down the road, humming to himself . . . until he was pulled over by a bunch of policemen. They asked for his papers and looked under the hood. I needed them to hurry; I have food poisioning, and was really wondering what would happen if I needed to run for the woods. They wrapped it up, quite legally, it seemed, and we were on our way. The driver wouldn't let us pay. Among the 7 of us Kazakh speakers, we've had quite a few free rides. People are very very hospitable.
There are also marshrutkas - private vans that we take to Almaty, but these aren't as remarkable as local transportation.
Okay, I'm off to buy bananas.