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In the nick of time (9/12/05)

(CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES) It has been a very tough week after a very tough month. The uncertainty, the prospect of losing my whole team of animals due to bureaucracy keeping me awake at night and in a constant state of uncertainty and stress. Been fighting every inch of the way by phone, fax, interpretation and persuasion. The toughest feeling is that someone who has no interest or understanding of your situation has the power to put a stamp where it needs to be, a word on a piece of paper, that makes all the world of difference. To leave the animals behind due to bureacracy gone mad would be a disaster. In this case all that had to be added to my permit was the word 'by horseback.' Today was the very last day when a decision could be made. my visa expires on Monday and then I will have no choice to leave Kazakhstan anyway. By Lunchtime everthing was looking very grim. Moscow faxes and phones were either busy or not answering. The mysterious 'Mr Nyepoklonov' who had the power to issue the stamp was 'missing' as usual. Whats more the letter sent the previous evening from Astana had become lost in the Ministry system, and now that it seemed after four days of negotiations, Mr Nyepoklonov's office was not at all aware of what was going on! None of the info had filtered through! 'Call back after lunch' they kept on saying, but this is what they had been saying all week. At 12.30pm the Ministry of agriculture in Atrau was closed for lunch and I tried desperately to call Moscow but no one picked up the phone, and then my phone battery died and I lost one of the important numbers stored in the phone. I walked through the mud to the cafe at 'Caspi' bus stop and ate a bowl of borsche soup in a state of nausea and total despair. It was crazy! No one understood the urgency of this! What did they expect me to do with the horses, just throw them out onto the steppe? Anyway I came storming back to the Ministry at 2pm ready for a last tirade of calls. I steamed into the veterinary experts office where i have become one of the staff it seems and was shocked to see a smile on Damesh's face. She handed me a piece of paper" "They just said press start on the fax, and here it is!" I couldn't believe it. I hugged her much to her embarassment and did a bit of a dance. I honestly thought they were just joking. But no, now at this last hour on a Friday afternoon some common sense had prevailed: 'In addition to original permit we allow Tim Cope to travel on horseback and with one dog.' Damesh and all the other ladies in the department gathered and we downed a bottle of wine in a flash of smiles and toasts. It is the third time I have said my 'last goodbyes' to everyone in this ministry. So finally I had all my veterinary certificates re-done and said goodbye to Kosibek, the chief of the Oblast department of agriculture who had been at the very core of the support for me. 'Why don't you stay in Kazakhstan. Surely you are due Kazakhstan citizenship by now?! We will find a wife for you no problems!" he joked. Now I have a very quick plan to get myself and the horses on the move again. On that note i haven't seen the horses for a month- hope they are alright! Tim. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES)