Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gypsy Cabs: An Excerpt from "How Much to Almaty?"

“How much to Almaty?”
A grungy ex-Soviet bear boxed inside his Lada threw his cigarette out the window and leaned over to the passenger window to get a better look at me. “Three.”
“Forget it,” I casually looked down the dirt-covered Silk Road towards the ex-capital of an ex-land. My Russian wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t coming from the mouth of a tourist. Two years in this place can teach a person a lot of things, especially when a gypsy cab was ripping him off one hundred and fifty tenge (about a dollar).
“Okay, one-fifty.” The bear grumbled and opened the door without looking at me.
This routine was almost daily. I would walk across the dusty highway, pose in such a way as to appear to be pointing to something on the road. A bug? Road kill? My past life as a painfully optimistic smiling American boy? I would assume this pose until a car would slow and stop ahead of me, usually a Lada, but sometimes an aged Lexus or worn-out Mercedes. Luxury from a past life in a different country now exported to this developing world, on this stretch of road, a run-down Kazakh running these ancient machines to a rusty graveyard. Would I miss this when I would be standing under the infinite stretch of supermarket lights of the West?"
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