Friday, November 26, 2010

summit fever

i planned to write about this before the summit fucked up my travel plans, but this country has gone crazy over the fact that it is hosting the OSCE summit. it's the biggest deal ever! kazakhstan has never hosted a real international summit like this and it is viewed as a major feather in the country's cap.

other countries host summits now and then, and manage to get on with their lives at the same time. but the kazakhs are going totally nuts because this is the biggest thing ever and they don't want to screw it up. so instead, they are going to screw up the lives of everyone else in kazakhstan. the entire government is coming to a complete stop for the duration of the summit, and astana will be under an effective lockdown (with residents required to stay at home and people with license plates from outside the city banned from the streets). the airspace over kazakhstan will be closed (which is a big deal, KZ is the 9th largest country in the world and happens to own airspace that is right between europe and india, china and southeast asia).

the kazakhstanis are literally bending just about everything around this summit. while i was in astana i asked one particularly well connected person i met (her grandfather is in the cabinet) what will ordinary people in astana do during the summit and she said that everyone must stay home. "stay home?" i asked. "yes, it will be dangerous to go out. they could be shot for violating the curfew."

was she exaggerating? who knows? the other thing is that no one seems to have a clear idea of what they can or cannot do during the summit, what rules apply only to astana and what will happen in the rest of the country or what exactly the penalty will be if they do it wrong. but everyone knows that the government is taking this very seriously to avoid embarrassment (never mind that shooting some grandmother who decided to get some fresh air would be pretty embarrassing).

so while my flight was canceled this morning and i am allegedly on a new one at 4am tomorrow morning, there is a chance that i won't get out of here until summit fever is finally over.

also, blogger is now unblocked. i'm guessing some of the free speech criticism might have embarrassed them into lifting the ban. at least for now, i can post this post without hiding my ass!