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Putting the ugh in "Cheers!"

travel kazakhstan \ 2010-07-22

Some of you may know me as a relatively straight edge Cornellian, some of you may know me as a raging alcoholic (Can I get a shout out to Blackout in Beijing '94!!). Knowing this, away from home and away from drinking age limits, my drink of choice is milk tea. Although, apparently horse milk is mildly intoxicating - so who knows, tea could become the next college cheap intoxicant...

But anyways, knowing that I've been drinking mostly tea for the last few weeks, my body is not ready for alcohol. Which makes the Kazakh custom of providing alcohol to and toasting to the guest a...physically trying custom. Cue Mr. Kuzembayev the Grandpa.

"Would you like vodka, whiskey, or Kazakh cognac?"

Not being one to pass up an opportunity to trying new things (read: not being allowed to pass up opportunities to try new things), I opted for the Kazakh cognac. As soon as I saw Ilyas say no, I knew I shouldn't have accepted.

Cognac hurts.

I felt that shot in places I wasn't aware I had nerve endings. However, I did drinking to my family's health. So you all better be healthy. Seriously - please don't make me do that again.

These past few days have also introduced me to a some other aspects of Kazakh culture, notably, their inability to creatively name things. I have eated at "Czech Tavern" and "American Bar and Grill." As you can possibly guess, one is a Czech tavern the other is an American bar and grill. I'm not going to tell you which is which though.

We went to American Bar and Grill for ZZ's birthday. It is as weird as you can imagine seeing Route 66 signs plastered next to Russian signs. As soon as I got home I did a search for a Elvis Presley cover of Гимн Советского Союза (Hymn of the Soviet Union) just to complete the image. At the grill we played a game called "Sniper." In the game one person is the sniper, one person is the cop, the rest are citizens and no one knows each other's roles. No one is allowed to talk and you must always be looking at people. The object of the game is twofold. As the sniper you try to make eye-contact with someone and then wink at them. This means that player is dead (after 5 seconds). The cop tries to guess who the sniper is before being killed. It's a really fun game. Plus, if you've ever had an urge to wink conspiratorially at a girl (or guy), here's your chance!

On that note, games in Kazakhstan are pretty much the same as games in America. They have Mafia etc. There is one crucial difference though: they're all in Russian. If you're a normal American your Russian vocabulary is something along the lines of Putin, Dostoevsky, and Czar (and you're probably pronouncing it wrong - damn rolled r's!!). As an intrepid explorer, my vocabulary now also consists of several types of curses and my name. This does not make playing a game based on conversation any easier.

Hopefully my Russian can improve a little bit more in the last three days I'm here. Damn...time really does fly. Gotta pack the next few days filled with Kazakhstan - I really don't want to leave. I like this place a lot.