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October 7, 2002

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Every car in Almaty is a potential taxi. Just stand on the street and wave one downward hand, the next car will stop and ask where you're going. If you can make them understand your intended destination (the hard part) then they'll take you there for a hundred Kyrgyz som or a few dollars. With that in mind we made an embassy tour for visas. Yesterday at the Lake Bolshoe Almatinskoe we met the daughter of the Tajik ambassador and told her about how we couldn't get a Tajik visa in time to visit Tajikistan. She assured us this wasn't a problem. Today she called her father who issued our visa in one hour. Before his intervention the staff told us that the Tajik visa process takes at least one month. Since we didn't know anyone at the Uzbek embassy we didn't have any luck. Here like everywhere else, if not more so in the CIS, it's who you know that's important.
One of our would-be taxi drivers ran out of gas midway through the trip. No problem. He flagged the next car and 'borrowed' some petrol. From our experience Central Asians willingly help each other, it seems to be culturally expected of them to do so.