Across Continents

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Absolute conviction

“You may go with your bicycle” explained the border guard. Finally. A little earlier, it seemed, there was a problem with my papers. I’d need to accompany a policeman, there were forms to complete, a fine to pay. I’d half expected difficulties getting into the Kyrgyz Republic, not leaving Kazakhstan.

I’d quickly decided on a friendly but robust approach. Absolute conviction my passport, visa and immigration card were entirely in order. “I don’t understand what the problem is” I said quite forcefully, quickly adding “I have all the necessary stamps in my passport, and on my immigration card. I know exactly what is required because I checked when I got my visa. In English. So very clear.”

It was then suggested a fine would not be necessary, just some forms to complete. I could be on my way in an hour or two. But first we’d have to meet with the Commissioner. We wandered around for a while but nobody seemed to know where he was. From one dilapidated office to the next, but no sign of him. Various calls on the radio from my English speaking escort.

In the meantime I’d struck up a bit of a rapport with my new found friend. Asked him where he’d picked up his remarkably good language skills. Had he been to England? “You know the rules very well” he said after a while. “Yes” I replied, “Out of respect for your country. I wish to make sure I comply with your laws. And I have a very comprehensive guide to the rules, written in English, your Embassy kindly gave me”. A brief pause. And then I was suddenly allowed to go on my way. Never did meet the Commissioner.

[Author’s note: For brevity, I’ve omitted the lengthy discussion where I explain exactly what the rules are, common mistakes foreigners make. Tiresome enough for the border guards. And forms to complete, if ever they’d materialised? I never sign anything not written in English. Period. No matter how long you seek to detain me. Probably best to let me go]

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