Archive for January 20, 2008

Valery, the Ukrainian-Russian Taxi Driver

After the ballet the other night, we got a taxi ride with Valery, a Russian-Ukrainian man with a white Toyota.  The drivers side was on the right instead of the left and he had a bashed in right tail light.  That might have seemed ominous to get into such a car, but it was fine.  There are many of these cars in Almaty which are imported from Japan and cheaper I guess.


Anyway, Valery was a talkative man while Ken had to go to the Apteka (pharmacy) for some things that ended up taking almost 10-15 minutes.  That gave me a chance to practice my abysmal Russian language skills after interviewing Kazakhs in English all day.  I found out that Valery has 3 brothers and one sister, the boys names all start with the letter “V.”  His mother was from Kharkiv, Ukraine but lives in Odessa now as does his aunt.  He has two sons, one was 27 years old and the other 7 and a half years old.  This seems common in Ukraine to have an age spread of about 10-12 years but not 20 years!  I didn’t ask about his wife or maybe he had been married before.

Turns out that Valery is the same age as me and had his birthday just the day before, so naturally I had to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. He showed me his driver’s license which looked no different than a MN license.  We talked about politics, such as Pres. Bush and candidate Hillary Clinton. Seems that Kazakh taxi drivers are attuned to our American politics.  I wandered into Russian and Kazakh politics asking about Pres. Putin and Nazarbayev, whether they were good or bad.  Valery told me other things too which I didn’t understand but I did learn that his son knows English from his elementary school and that his older son was married and lived in Omsk.  I think Valery was lonely and didn’t ask too much for our taxi ride and long wait.  Ken paid him 700 tenge which is about 5-6 dollars.  I was proud of myself for passing the time asking questions and getting his answers in Russian. 

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