#38 (Almaty, Kazakhstan - Too Ashuu, Kyrgyzstan)

Dead birds in the gutter. Fistfights in the street. Dust in the air and diesel exhaust in our lungs and white-hot lightning bolts forking down from dark grey stormclouds above. Our departure from Almaty—from our plush hotel room overlooking the park to this—has been an afternoon of the starkest contrasts.

It gets better. We escape Almaty's urban buffer and we enter the steppe. The traffic goes from horrendous to congested to actually quite manageable; the landscape from industrial wasteland to decent to rather pretty rolling hills. We can breathe again.

#37 (Istanbul, Turkey - Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Cardboard. Scissors. Foam. Lots and lots of packing tape. Nuts and bolts and grease and grime. Papercuts and dirty fingernails. Two boxes. Two bicycles. One taxi. Several bridges and one long highway. One big airport with two security checkpoints. Two passengers, two tickets. One plane. Final-calls and jet engines and seats in the upright position. Eyes out the window. Minarets in the distance, minarets getting smaller, minarets disappearing beneath the clouds. Ten thousand feet. Twenty thousand feet. Thirty thousand feet.

I rub my tired, bleary eyes and peer out the window into the waking dawn. Kazakhstan.