There have been several experiences in the last few days that confirm to me that I am back in Kazakhstan.
These experiences began with the required trip to the banya. Once I got there, I found out that the pool was closed for 'remont' (repairs), so only the sauna was open. That was okay--I was really there for the massage. They have wonderful face and head massages there--but I don't recommend the regular massage--it will leave you feeling bruised and beaten up for days afterwards. I arranged for my treatments from the devyushka (literally, girl--but also means any woman working in a particular place), and gave her my name. Her response? "Christina! We haven't seen you in so long! Where have you been?" Then, as I waited for my facial, I made the mistake of putting my feet on the low table in front of my chair. Another devyushka walked by and snarled "Nelzya!"--literally, it is forbidden! It was good to be back.
Yesterday was another set of experiences--having to yell at the waitress in the restaurant 4 times in order to get a pot of tea, and another 2 times for a juice glass. She was busy putting her makeup on and didn't have time. What a great way to start the day. (I should note that in many areas of Kazakhstan, confrontation can be a way of life). That evening, we went to a restaurant not far from our hotel. Ordering for 7 people was a bit of a nightmare, and we didn't know what would show up or when. There were things we didn't order, and then some of the things we did order took over an hour to appear. When it was time to pay, I requested a copy of the bill for accounting purposes. The conversation went as following:
Me: We need a copy of the bill, please.
Waitress: Why? (glaring at me)
Me: We need a copy of the bill.
Waitress: Why? (again glaring)
Me: It is required (abyazatilna)
Simply needing a copy is not enough. It has to be required.
I love this country! You never know what to expect, and it always exceeds any expectations you might have. It's good to be back.