In May, something happened in Almaty that will change the lives of nearly every volunteer in Kazakhstan forever. Pizza Hut opened its first store in Kazakhstan. On the corner of Furmanov and some street (in the direct center of Almaty, according to Kyle), a magical place has appeared reminding volunteers how good food can taste. Michelle and I ate there last week. It was amazing.
At first I scoffed at the idea. Pizza Hut? I didn’t even like it in America. Too oily. Too expensive. Give me a Little Caesar’s here, and I’ll be a happy man. But Kyle sold me on it. And after he visited Tuesday, I had to try it. He had said it was a green building with pictures of pizzas all over the outside windows. It wasn’t hard to find.
The first thing that happened when we walked in was the hostess asked us in English “Smoking or non-smoking?” What? Are we that obvious even in Almaty? I was too stunned by this astuteness to be astonished by the fact that I was just offered smoking or non-smoking. What? In Kazakhstan?
The next thing that happened was that on the way to our table we ran into Alex, a PCV from Balhash. I didn’t recognize him at first but he remembered meeting me in Shymkent at Nauryz. We said hi, chatted for a few minutes, and then Michelle and I went and sat down. Of course, we’d expect to see another PCV there. We didn’t even ask each other what we doing in Almaty. It just made sense. Go to Pizza Hut, run into some old friends.
The menu was limited though. No stuffed crust. Just Pan and Hand-tossed. And no Meat Lovers. Supreme was there, as were some odd selections. Shrimp? Barbecue? Hawaiian? They all sounded delicious actually, but I wanted American pizza. We went with the large pan pepperoni. And the sodas of course had no refills (oh America!) but the half liter of Pepsi was served cold (although with no ice).
The pizza was prompt, coming out within fifteen minutes. The service was polite. The bathrooms were clean. It was almost better than an American Pizza Hut. And the price? Okay, it was expensive. Well for Peace Corps. Our pizza was 1880 tenge, about $12.50. So about the same as in America, but of course, we don’t get paid like we are in America.
And on the way out, I asked the hostess in my bad Russian (since I forgot the word for delivery) “У вас есть delivery?” (Do you have delivery?) “She answered, “По поже, мы только что открылись.” (Later. We just opened.) Later? As in by the time December rolls around and we gather for MST, we can order some pizzas to room 32 at the sanitarium? Отлично! But for now, we’re stuck having to go there if we want to taste America. Sometimes, Peace Corps life can be really hard.