Morning Drive

Almaty, Kazakstan, on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

I’m in a stranger’s car (one of my host’s friends) and we just got pulled over by the cops. I’ve only been in Kazakstan for four hours.

 


Earlier that morning, I met Murat, one of the friends of the host of the place I’m staying, in the living room. He had just arrived after being out all night. He offered to show me around, but I told him I’d just walk around the city to get my bearing. However, after some thought, he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

“I won’t be able to sleep when it’s light out,” he said. “I will drive you around the city. I want you to go home and tell your friends we are friendly here.”

“Uh, okay.”

So I hop in his Mercedes and we start driving around the city for a little city tour. He makes a left turn on a yellow, but that’s enough for a cop to pull him over. I remain calm until he says, “This will be a problem. My documents are not in order.”

Murat goes back to the cops and I see them interact through the rear view mirror. It takes a good fifteen minutes for things to happen. I see Murat on his phone and documents around. He finally comes back as the cop pulls away.

“MOTHER FUCKERS!” he yells. “These guys are always looking for money.” He explains how cops in Almaty will pull cars over for the most benign reasons to ask for a bribe; it’s cheaper to pay them off instead of the ticket, but that’s no excuse. “They’re always asking for a… what do you call it?” he asks as he rubs his fingers to his thumb.

“Bribe.”

“A bribe.”

Fortunately Murat had friends in the police department and called them to get out of the bribe request, which apparently worked.

Later that day, we notice plenty of cars being pulled over for minor traffic offenses or car appearance, and there was always a pair of cops appearing to ask for a bribe.

 


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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

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Up in Smoke




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