My bid to assure my friend Jake that a smelly situation would come up roses31 august 2011, 01:11
It wasn’t Jake Schubert’s week.
It started with an immigration problem.
Jake, a resident of Valentine, Nebraska, in the United States, had stayed for more than 90 days in Astana without registering at an immigration office.
It’s a trap that catches many foreigners doing business in Kazakhstan.
When foreigners arrive at an airport here, they receive a small white immigration registration card to carry in their passport.
What they aren’t told is that the card is good for only 90 days. Before the 90 days are up, foreigners must go to an immigration office to register for a period that coincides with the length of the visa that Kazakhstan has stamped in their passport.
The immigration card they get at the airport says nothing about having to register if they want to stay more than 90 days. Neither do Web sites that list Kazakhstan’s visa and immigration rules, Schubert said.
So, basically, many foreigners never learn about the 90-day rule. Until it’s too late.
When Jake tried to fly out of Astana International Airport recently, an Immigration Control officer told him he had been in the country more than 90 days without registering at an immigration office. He would not be allowed to leave Kazakhstan, the officer said, until he went before a judge to clear up the matter.
Jake builds structures that help ranchers make their operations more efficient and safer. He came to Astana in the spring of this year to help Kazakhstan with a key goal: becoming one of the world’s top beef-producing countries.
And he’s really enjoyed it. “This has been quite an adventure,” he said, “and I like the Kazakh people a lot. They’re been very warm and friendly to me.”
But after 3 ½ months in Kazakhstan, Jake was anxious to see his wife Mindi and other family back in the States.
His immigration problem has delayed those reunions. It’s also been costly and time-consuming.
Jake has had to round up all sorts of documents, hire a Russian-speaking lawyer to represent him before a judge, pay the fine that the judge assessed, pay a fee for having to reschedule his flight out, and shell out additional tenge for miscellaneous expenses.
In total, his failure to register has cost him about $1,500. And he lost a week gathering documents and hanging around a courthouse for hours a day, several days in a row, waiting for a hearing on his case.
When it rains, it pours, of course.
Late last week, Jake told me his water had been off for three days.
Anyone whose morale has already been sapped by a problem like Jake’s will verify that the lack of a hot shower makes the problem worse.
“But you haven’t heard anything yet,” Jake told me. “On top of everything else, someone peed in my apartment elevator.”
I was having pizza with Jake at the Tsum shopping center as he was recounting the latest chapter in his tale of woe. We have become friends, paratly because we both grew up in Nebraska and thus can regale each other with stories about America’s steppeland.
I had been clucking sympathetically as his tale unfolded.
When he got to the part about the guy emptying his bladder in the lift, I was overcome with another emotion besides sympathy. I burst out laughing.
The kidney episode, on top of everything else, made Jake’s week look a script from a TV comedy. It was so absurd that it was funny.
Luckily, Jake joined me in laughing. He, too, was able to see the humor in his misery. And thank God – he’s a much bigger dude than I am.
The good news is that Jake is on good terms with Immigration again. In fact, by the time this blog is posted, he’ll be back in Nebraska.
But he’s going to return to Kazakhstan in mid-September, owing to the business opportunity here and the fact that he likes Kazakhs so much.
To make put the best spin possible on his impending return, I cast about for an upbeat message for him before he departed.
“Jake, my man,” I said in the most helpful tone I could muster, “just think that by the time you come back, the smell in the elevator will be gone.”