A Kazakh guy who’s as mischievous as they come – just ask five Russians23 april 2012, 13:14
I like folks with an impish sense of humor – and that’s one reason I took to Almas Kamalov the moment I met him.
The first night that I sat down for a beer with Almas and our mutual American friend Jake Schubert, I learned that Almas can be as mischievous as a 6-year-old pulling the pony tail of the classmate in front of him.
That mischievous side was really on display when Almas, who is now director of the Astana branch of Agro Credit Corporation, decided to have fun with some Russians in London in the summer of 2010.
At the time, he was a graduate student, getting a master’s degree in accounting and finance at the University of Manchester. He took a few days’ break from classes to go to London to attend a conference at Westminster University.
He and the five Russians – two men and three women in their mid-20s to early 30s – were staying at the Britannia Hotel.
They met in an elevator, with the Russians greeting him with an English “hello” in the exuberant, uninhibited manner of those who have been tippling vodka for awhile.
Instead of replying in Russian, Almas replied in English, and when the Russians asked where he was from, instead of Kazakhstan he replied China.
The ruse was on.
“Come on, drink with us,” one of the Russian guys said – and Almas replied: “Why not?”
During the eating and drinking, the friendly Russians asked Almas many questions about himself and China.
“What’s your name?” one asked.
“Jason,” he said.
“No – your Chinese name,” the Russian responded.
At the spur of the moment the quick-thinking Almas came up with the name Xing Jun Son.
Asked what the name meant, Almas laid it on thick. “It means warrior,” he said. “When two swords clash against each other, it sounds like xing jun son. That’s where my name comes from.”
Almas said all this with a straight face. The only hint that he was pulling the Russians’ legs was a twinkle in his eye that the inebriated Russians were unable to detect.
At a certain point during the evening the two Russian guys had to go to the toilet, Almas said.
When they did, the women – managers who worked for the Russian guys – began complaining about their bosses. The complaints were in Russian so that their Chinese friend wouldn’t understand what they were saying.
“My boss is really something,” one of the women said. “You know he showed up at my house the other night with a rose wanting to have sex. What a cheapskate, thinking that one paltry rose would be enough for me to go to bed with him.”
Another woman confessed that she was cheating her boyfriend by having an affair with a guy at work.
During this mini-soap opera, Almas never looked up from his drink, raised his eyebrows or did anything else to give away the fact that he understood every word of the women’s conversation.
A couple of hours after the Russian guys returned from the potty – two hours during which considerable more vodka was consumed – Almas finally lapsed into Russian.
“Guys, I’m really tanked,” he said. “Ya ochen pyaniy.”
“You speak Russian?” one of his startled drinking mates asked.
“Yes – I speak Russian. My name is Almas and I’m from Kazakhstan. I was just having fun with you guys.”
The three women blanched and coughed, worried that he would expose their secrets.
They couldn’t say “Oh, puhleese, don’t tell them what we were talking about,” of course. But one did make a furtive plea.
“I hope you understand us,” she said in the best coded message she could muster.
Being the gentleman that he is, the good Almas protected the fair damsels from their office dragons.
Finally the evening was over. The Russians went to bed, and so did Almas.
I would lay a bet that he dreamed that night about pulling the pony tail of the little girl sitting in front of him in first grade.