Uzbeks and Kazakhs are rivals since their countries were formed. There is some underlying mild hostility when talking of each other’s neighbouring country. Being a tourist in a train running from Nukus (Uzbekistan) to Almaty (Kazachstan) is therefore a bit a diplomatic chess play. Being in the region now for almost a month, I can tell Uzbeks and Kazakh apart by simply looking at their faces. But there are Kazach-looking people living in Uzbekistan and vice versa. So it is best, when asked an uncomfortable question (“which of the two countries do you prefer?”), to play the “Niet panimayou” (I don’t understand) game. It is actually surprising how many times I have been asked this question – by both countrymen.
The last day in Moscow started uneventfully. In the morning, I went shopping groceries for the upcoming four-day journey on the train to Tashkent. I stocked some fruit and cup noodles. For lunch, I went back to the hostel where two roommates, Jeremie and Mark, were hanging out with two Canadian girls from the other dorm. We all decided to visit the city together, since everyone was somehow preparing to leave – either towards Mongolia, China or Europe.