On our recent All-American Peace Corps Grand Tour of Kazakhstan 2010 (Kaz69), we spied on just about every Volunteer’s bookshelf their Corps-required copy of David Werner’s Where There Is No Doctor, a detailed (and very graphically illustrated) guide to facing dire health emergencies — like birthing a child in a hut, avoiding rabid villagers, etc. — and educating the public on how to prevent them, as in not shitting in their drinking water or hacking off the legs of albinos to ward off evil spirits.
However, after a month of hearing their tales of life with the Kazakhs — and tasting a bit ourselves — we realized our tax dollars could be far better spent providing them, the moment they learn their two-year contract will be spent there, with Blunden and Kaye’s Where There Is No Reason. Since it is currently out of print, we’ve been kind enough to reproduce some content here, free of charge.
In Kazakhstan treating a nosebleed is simple, as long as there is someone else around to assist the victim. Here are the steps, in case you are ever that someone:
- Sit the person down anywhere but on the ground (see below) and tell them to remain calm.
- Have them tilt their head back so the blood all drips into their mouth (that way it is out of the nose).
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Shred a cloth into strips and tie one around the victim’s left pinky.
- Eventually, the pinky tourniquette will stop the flow of blood.
- If it does not, take a second strip and tie it around the victim’s right pinky. This most definitely oughtta do it.
WARNING: If the nosebleed does not stop — or even if it does — this event could be the sign of a far more serious health concern, such as the Evil Eye. If concerned, see below for further action to take.
If you find yourself suddenly overcome with the desire to whistle — whether it be a showtune, jingle, theme song, or latest Akon hit — STOP IMMEDIATELY. In Kazakhstan, this melodic mistake will cause everyone within earshot mysteriously to lose all of their money, thereby sapping their opportunity to blow it all each month on knock-off clothing, mobile ringtones and notarizing things. In some cases, you may not notice your ailment until it has already advanced to the mid-tune stage, recognizable most commonly by the following symptoms: scowls from everyone in the shop, tram or bathroom; hushed but harsh-toned Russian or Kazakh epithets, definitely directed at you (often accompanying previous symptom). Whatever the stage, halt the song abruptly or at least trail off, smile and, if one is readily available, point at your travel companion accusingly.
Sitting On Things
In Kazakhstan, sitting on things, a seemingly unimportant and physiologically-beneficial activity, is in fact rife with danger. For instance, steps, stoops, retaining walls, ledges around fountains and especially the malevolent forcefield that is the ground all have the power to:
(A) If you are a woman: magically incinerate your ovaries from the inside out, rendering your womb barren, lifeless and unattractive to potential bridenappers
(B) If you are a man: make you look like a hobo
(C) If you are either: also get your favorite Dolce & Armani jeans all slightly dirty
A good rule of thumb is, if it was manufactured specifically to look like a proper sitting surface (i.e. a bench), it is probably safe. When no such surface is around, find and spread a thick material between you and evil, like a newspaper, or just pop a squat. Some readers may feel this caution seems a bit unfair to women, but hey! This is Kazakhstan; you’ll get used to that. Remember, you’re here for two years! Count ’em. Twoooo. Yeeeaaars.
There are none. If you are a female, you will be abducted by a group of young men and coerced into marrying one of them by his friends, his family, your parents, and your fear of irreversible social blackballing. Why? It’s tradition! Pretend you’re in junior high school and it’s your birthday and you’re in your PJs and you’re going to Denny’s before class. In fact, these things may all be true, except that instead of Denny’s, it’s a room filled with scolding local women and a prostrate baboushka blocking the doorway and your escape to a fulfilling existence with the power of shame and the threat of a lifelong magical curse. However, you need not worry if you are (a) over the age of 23, for you are past your prime or (b) American, since you are undoubtedly a slut.
If you find yourself one of two proud new parents, congratulations on your first rush towards the Gold Medal zone! (*See next subject.) And if you are the female unit of this diad, good job on not sitting on bad things. In most nations of the world, it is culturally appropriate to name your children. Kazakhs take this special parental liberty to a whole new level, and name their children just anything they want, sometimes in ways that would make even the hippy parents of the 1970s cringe. Sunshine, Meat Cake, Steppe Ibex, they along with any other favorable animal, natural phenomenon or object all fair game (in Kazakh, of course). But if you speak English, consider naming your child something that, should they ever visit an English-speaking nation, will sound really, really funny. Such as “Ass-hat” or “Kumshot”. However, if these names are too common for you, keep in mind that the word for “grapes” is pronounced jizm, and that for “sugar”… cunt.
Other texts take a more extensively medical approach on this subject, so we’ll just give you the good news. If you squirt out no fewer than ten brand new loyal Kazakh citizens… PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV WILL GIVE YOU A GOLD FUCKING MEDAL.
The Evil Eye
Indeed, this scary stuff is alive and well here. Nevermind the mosques, ignore the head coverings; if you haven’t figured it out from the miniskirts, Ramadan brunches, and booze on every corner, we’ll inform you here: Kazakhs aren’t very good at being Muslim. Accordingly, if it’s not bad enough that you may be cursed by the Evil Eye, consider that the One True God can’t even save you from it. Luckily, there are other things that can, and you can usually find them at the bazaar.
Of course, the most effective way to fight any disease or supernatural terror is through prevention. It is obviously impossible to pinpoint all sources of the Evil Eye, but one is for sure: baboushkas. Don’t fuck with them. They may be old, nearly crippled, raisin-complexioned, shuffling at a 90-degree-angle and viciously caning you out of their way onto a marshutka, but it is best to keep your “bolzhe moi!”s to yourself. The reason being: they may possess the power to make you or your child ill, dead or even gay. Other preventative measures include:
- painting all your windows blue, the color of impermeability;
- affix weird little blue painted eye clips to your baby stroller or similar hangy bead thingamahooches to your rearview mirror (if your Audi came equipped with one).
- invoking the name of your holy text as much as possible, despite not being able to understand, or willing to follow, a single word of it
If you fear you are in imminent danger of contracting the Evil Eye, immediately begin waving your hands in a strikingly shocker-like gesture to counteractively pink-and-stink that spooky bastard back whence it orginiated. Identifying a case of Evil Eye affliction is at best difficult, since it can be blamed for just about anything.
Eradicating Bad Energy
Moving into a new apartment can be exciting. Not because it looks or feels any different than your last one – thanks to Soviet high modernist architecture, it won’t! — but because of the new energy that will now surround you. Unfortunately, due to things beyond your metaphysical control, some of the energy left by the previous tenants may be bad energy. This is not good; however, it is treatable.
- First, temporarally suspend your apathy or even antipathy for its species and find yourself a cat. Try luring one of the two dozen strays that linger around your building’s rat-infested indefinite garbage storage facility with a piece of tuna. Or simply retrieve the kitten your neighbor’s toddler son recently hurled against a treetrunk, allowing time for its broken spine to heal and its vision to return, and use it.
- Next, before you enter the vacant apartment, insert the cat and let it walk from room to room so it can swallow any the potentialy injurious bad energy possibly lurking therein.
- After some unspecified amount of time, go inside. When you find the cat napping in a corner, do not chalk this up to its boredom and disinterest. It’s telling you exactly where you should put your bed.
This one’s easy: dont be one!*
Every Kazakh male knows nothing in this world is more reprehensible than being a goliboi. So don’t even joke about it. Especially not on the dance floor of a trendy club, even if a group of suave young dudes has just requested “Pokerface”, or you can expect to be later called a “Goliboi”, cut or shot with rubber bullets. Instead, in the interest of the Peace Corps full immersion experience, strive to be a tough, cool, masculine, manly Kazakh dude like your peers. Here are some healthy places to start:
- Pack your cell phone exclusively with dance singles. Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and The Backstreet Boys are all safe bets, as well as highly appreciated by everyone else within earshot on your multi-hour train or bus trip.
- Spend all your extra Tenge on your hairstyle and knock-off designer clothes. Remember, the more brand names on a single article the merrier.
- Buy an expensive pair of patent-leather shoes; keep them shiny at all times; and diligently tiptoe around puddles, debris and other gunk that could mar your efforts.
- Get drunk and kiss your friends.
- If you’re looking for a laugh, cross-dress. Because what’s funnier than that? Certainly not irony.
*On the contrary, lesbians are safe. Definitely not because they are accepted into Kazakh society and culture, but because they simply do not exist in their cosmos. How could they? It’s impossible. Don’t be ridiculous.