After leaving Istanbul, it was a short (and by short I mean 12 hours shorter than the flight into Istanbul) flight to Astana, my prospective home for the next year. I have relatively few memories of that part of my trip, other than the terribly close seats, the decidedly inedible (for a vegan) in-flight meal, and the absolute difficulty of getting any real sleep. To this day, even, I’m not really sure what to make of that plane ride. Because of my lack of sleep, by this point, it seemed longer than the first two legs of my trip put together. I began to wonder if I’d got on the wrong flight after all, or if the pilot had decided to take an unexpected detour to, say, Vladivostok, or something. And then, suddenly and without warning, we were landing.
It was about three in the morning when my plan landed, to which I can ascribe some of the blame for the apparent lack of any civilization, but even at night one would expect to see city lights of some kind. We were landing in the capital city of the ninth largest country in the world. Instead, black. All around. Which is absolutely unbelievable because from the ground Astana positively glows. Paris has absolutely nothing on Astana when it comes to unnecessary and superfluous light. Each building, be it a hotel, monument, house of government, or even just an apartment building, shines with its own pattern, its own (often changing) colors, in short is an Eiffel town in and of itself.
It took many weeks, to get used to this nightly light show. Did Christmas come early, I’d find my sense wondering. Is there some holiday or special celebration going on that I don’t know about? What do you suppose is the electricity bill these places run monthly? Day and night, this city is a riot of color. And for no other reason that simply to have it. Bayterek Tower, lit up in green and purple all night long, brings to mind those hippies in Independence Day, right before the alien ship opened up with the ray of death. Then there are those office buildings, so mundane by day, with their alternating patterns of white and colored lights that bring to mind the landing strips which certain overly-celebratory Christmas decorators build on their rooftops, as if they really do expect Santa to land there come Christmas Eve.
And all I could think, riding into the city on my first night/morning there under the Arc that reminds one disconcertingly of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, watching the distant glow the city in which I’d spend the next twelve months slowly get closer, was, “Who’s going to pay that electric bill?”