Continuing my rant about policemen all over the city of Almaty who stop, hassle and then extort cash from drivers for no reason whatsoever I would like to share with you some advice I was given by Wise Old Owl, a long-time expatriate who has coped in regimes worse than this one before now and is utterly inured to coruption.
"When you're stopped," she said, taking a break in her sentence to inhale deeply from a menthol cigarette, "Just say 'Ya-Nee-Pon-Ee-Je-Nick'. It's easy."
She is as cool as a cucumber, I suspect, in most situations and facing the local constabulary would be a walk in the park. I was new to town and did not know any Russian at this point, so she explained:
"You see, the police will think you are trying very hard to speak Russian but you are completely crap at it. 'Pon-Ee-Je-Nick' means Monday. But 'Pon-Ee-My-Oh' means I understand. So you say 'I don't Monday' and it sounds like you are trying to say 'I don't understand' but you can't even get that right," she chortled.
"Works every time!"
"Brilliant!" I thought, "I will give it a try."
Husband was away in Europe one weekend and so I took to the roads for the first time by myself. I had not driven for weeks and weeks anywhere, and had not tried out the new car at all. The whole unpleasant afternoon (forced upon me by a total lack of anything to eat in our temporary apartment) was one of heightened-experience for me, never having been behind the wheel of a 4.2 litre automatic V8 engine before (they go very fast very quickly, by the way) and not having clocked up many miles in Almaty at all.
Making my way slowly around a corner (yes, I was on the correct side of the road), a policeman started waving his little red traffic wand at me, and trying to catch my eye.
"Bugger that," I thought, and put my foot down avoiding catching his eye.
"Mummy, that policeman wanted you to stop," came First Child's observation from the back of the car.
"Yes, darling, I know," I said through semi-gritted teeth, "But I haven't done anything wrong and so I just pretended I didn't see him. He probably just wants me to give him some money."
"But Mummy," she continued. "It's easy, you just have to tell him that you don't Monday!"
Big Beluga Baby lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan (her fifth country in 10 years) and is a seasoned expat. She has lived in Brazil, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea. She has three daughters and they seem to be enjoying the journey, don't even comment if the loo is a squatty and will eat anything as long as it is not actually alive.