And lives in a train station there.
If I thought that I went into Kyrgyzstan with too little information, I'm surprised I'm not huddled on my bed in the train station now crying in the fetal position. Although, actually, I was close last night since I put my bag at the end of the bed and didn't have enough room to stretch out.
When I went to Kyrgyzstan, to review, I didn't know Russian or Kyrgyz, I didn't know anyone, and I didn't have any plans. When I went to Kazakhstan by taxi yesterday, I didn't know Russian or Kazakh, I didn't know anyone, and I didn't have any plans. I also had all the pages for Almaty, the city I'm at, ripped out of my guidebook, leaving me without a map, without any idea where to stay, and without knowing where to go to eat.
So I'm in Almaty until Saturday night when I take a 40 hour train back to China. Yes, 40 hours. Initially, I was going to get to Almaty, then take a train somewhere, spend a day or two there, and come back in time to go to China. The nearest cities are 15 hours by train, though, and the idea of spending a whole day riding in a train each way as preparation for a 40 hour train ride didn't sound appealing. I also was intimidated by the schedule board that I couldn't read, and the fact that no one speaks English.
Before I came to Kazakhstan, every time I mentioned Almaty I heard "It's very expensive." When I arrived, the other guy riding the taxi with me wanted to be helpful, and told me that I shouldn't go directly to the train station to buy a train ticket and check out the rooms they had there, I should go to a travel agency he knew where they spoke English. I followed his advice, because I was new to the country and thought he might know best, but he didn't. We rode a bus for an hour, trekked around looking for the travel agency, only to find that it didn't do anything international. The hotel nearby was asking more than $200 for one night's stay.
So I went to the train station, worked out a train ticket for Saturday, checked into one of the rooms for a reasonable $12, and even timed my dinner with the rest of the country's so that when I went to a restaurant I could point at others' dishes to order.
I got some money changed into the local currency, Tenge ($1 to 120T), which is much easier to convert in my head than som, which exchanged at an awkward 37. I always found myself converting back to Chinese money in Kyrgyzstan, which only frustrated me at how much more it was. Now, though, I divide by 100 and another fifth and I have the American equivalence. Food seems to cost about the same as it would in America.
My room is in the International Hall of the train station. The room has three beds and a hatrack, and no air conditioning. The door doesn't close very well, but that's okay, since there's another room that attaches to ours and when those people want to leave they have to go through ours. The train station has a bathroom that we can use, and they have a plug where I can charge my laptop. My stuff isn't really safe, but it's unlikely to be stolen since this hotel wing isn't by the rest of the train station.
Today I've walked around looking for Internet and eating. I hope I can find my way back. Tomorrow I don't have plans. On Saturday I can go to a canyon with 50 other tourists and a Russian guide; it might be fun.
My whole situation here kinda sucks. I think it's a bad sign that I'm looking forward to a 40 hour train ride across Kazakhstan.