Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Astana is for Lovers

Romeo had his poetry and pointy sword.  That guy from Hi Fidelity had his ridiculously oversized radio.  The prince had Rapunzel's long hair to climb up.  Here in Astana, they do things a little differently.  I've been living in this apartment building for almost nine months (for the amazing story of how I ended up here, see A Room of One's Own, parts 1, 2, and 3), so this is a behavior I've been studying for a while.  At first I was quite baffled by all the commotion, but I believe I've figured it out.

In Astana, as they say, men are men, and women are women.  And there's nothing women like more than being wooed from their 8-story windows on a brisk, -20-degree evening.  From the parking lot.  I say from the parking lot, but really once the sun goes down any reasonably horizontal space becomes fair game as parking in this city.  But the parking is essential to this form of courtship.  Like the brightly colored birds in the Amazon forests who dance around and build elaborate summer homes for their prospective brides, the men here in Astana use their overly elaborate car alarms to attract the attention of their lady-loves.

After all, who has not experienced strong, nay overwhelming, feelings when wakened from a deep sleep by the strident beeps, whoops, sirens, and even computer-generated verbal warnings of a car alarm.  I have to say, I feel especially strongly about the ones that repeat, endlessly, until someone physically comes to the car to turn them off.  The amorous men of this district can't help but attract some attention with these ingenious little devices.  And I have to say, the women in this apartment complex are rather spoiled for choice.  Come evening-time the lot is full of cars, to the point that no more can even drive through, much less actually park.  On any given night you can hear the amorous warbling of not less than five lovers a-wooing and a-waiting.  I can only guess that this complex houses some of the most beautiful women in Astana.

Cars in Astana, like in most cities, are a bit of a status symbol.  And the price of gasoline is exorbitantly low, so cars can reach enormous proportions here.  The bigger the status, the bigger the symbol, so to speak.  And these valuable pieces of pretension are always kept running, warmed up, one would imagine, to provide an inviting egress for the newly-wooed.  Also, as I understand, an already-running car provides a much faster getaway for that playful pastime they refer to here as bride-napping.  Personally I prefer the local term—alyp qashu—so quaint, so un-indicative of its actual meaning in English.  But the women know what they're getting into, I suppose.  One would imagine it's quite easy to judge a man's worth by the size of the car he drives.

And now that the weather is getting warmer, I can only imagine the courting will increase in intensity.  The days are much longer, so the men have more time for driving around and deciding on their targets come nightfall.  Not to mention it's much easier to stand outside and wait for your call to have its desired effect when the temperature is above freezing.  And bride-nappings are much more likely to succeed when one doesn't have to contend with completely iced-over roads and giant piles of snow preventing escape from already impossible-to-escape parking lots.

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