My mother compiled the following list and posted it on her Facebook. She said I could share it here as well.
You know you are in Almaty…
When you get through customs and head out with your luggage only to be mobbed by a large group of men in black yelling “taxi, taxi” while navigating though a tiny opening and dodging black pointy shoes.
When you wake up to the constant sound of jack hammers somewhere nearby.
When little old babushkhas (grandmas) sit on the street selling beautiful spring flowers. (Funny that the lilacs grow all over and could be picked for free).
When you walk outside and your shoes are covered in dust in a matter of minutes.
When you wake up the the most beautiful view of snow capped mountains that only disappear as the day goes by due to the heavy cloud of pollution that engulfs them!
When you can stop almost any car (gypsy cab) to use as a taxi for a few bucks.
When you also pray as hard as you can that the gypsy cab driver won’t kill you as he speeds though the streets and makes his own lanes to get you to your destination.
When you have to listen to the most disgusting music in English because the gypsy cab driver doesn’t understand a word of the horrible song.
When your cab driver explains why it is important for everyone to learn Kazakh because the President said so.
When you hear more and more people speaking Kazakh, but almost every other word is still Russian.
When you have to keep your eyes on the ground so you don’t trip on the uneven pavement or a random piece of metal sticking out of the ground.
When girls wear the highest and skinniest heels and you wonder how on earth can they do that on the uneven pavement and sidewalks. (And in winter, on the ice. Guess the heels are used like ice picks.)
When you go to bed hearing so many dogs barking that they almost put you to sleep.
When your husband comes home with the most horrid breath due to eating a lot of garlic in a salad or something.
When you are amazed at how so many cars can fit on a road side by side and move almost as if they are in a dance.
When women dress to kill or either wear a bath robe to go to the local store.
When you get super excited that new American restaurants are coming and you never ever go to them when you are in America.
When you expect each persons meal to come at different and random times while eating at a restaurant.
When you hear kids at play, even after dark, on warm spring evenings.
When your meals at simple cafe’s come looking like gourmet meals even though they cost a few bucks.
When you don’t get any free refills even on iced tea!
When you don’t ever get free water at a restaurant.
When the waitress constantly walks by and clears any trash or used plates so that you never have a messy table.
When every table at a cafe has toothpicks.
When some cafes take the time to cut napkins in half to save money, but then you end up using even more, so it doesn’t really matter.
When there seems to be a holiday almost every week and you never know when it is until the day before or that day.
When the vegetables tastes as if they were just picked from the garden.
When everyone seems to carry their things in a large plastic bag (like what you would get from a store when you buy something).
When so many people walk to get somewhere.
When you are in a technically Muslim country, but Easter is more celebrated than in America. Everyone greets you with “He has risen” and you respond, “He has risen indeed!” (in Russian of course).
Additional experiences posted in the comments:
When you go to buy flowers for a special occasion and the florist won’t allow you to buy an even number…that’s bad luck, you know!
When you go grocery shopping and you have a lot of things, you get weird stares and then you always get someone who has to try to explain why they should go ahead of you in the checkout line because they only have a few things. Then several people will try to do the same.
When you go grocery shopping and someone runs over your heels with the shopping cart in the check out line, you know you are home.
Emily (That’s me!)
When there is always an employee whose sole job is to push the button at the parking gate and hand you your ticket – even though the parking gate was designed for you to do this yourself – while inside the mall/store there’s always an employee whose sole job is to ignore you and concentrate on her private phone conversation.
When you come to someone’s house for just 5 minutes and you end up staying there drinking tea and eating delicious food!
When you are sitting outdoors in a steamy hot jacuzzi, looking at the beautiful mountain side covered with hundreds of apple and other fruit trees while an elderly woman soaking next to you shares her story of climbing them for the last 60 years picking off all the fruit she ever needed in life.
When the locals find out that you’re American and that you want/wanted to move to Kazakhstan and they ask “why would you ever want to move to Kazakhstan?” You respond “it’s beautiful and I love the people” and they say quickly “well, yes of course it’s beautiful”.
When an American invites a local over for tea and they get offended because there isn’t any food.
Where all apartment buildings have new magnetic keys but you don’t need them because the magnetic door never works anyway.
You know it’s true. Ah, Almaty.