When I was packing to come here, Maman gave me a choice of two hats. One was a standard baseball cap and the other was a patrol cap decorated with forest camouflage. I didn’t want to take the patrol cap because ‘fake military’ fashion makes me uncomfortable, but I took it anyway.
In Almaty there are some policemen who walk around in groups of four. They’re called ‘turtle squads’ because they look like turtles, sometimes moving and resting in formation. The turtles wear a similar uniform to soldiers, except in blue, and they have patrol caps, like mine. If they hear you speaking a foreign language (like english) they’ll stop you and ask to see your documents. Sometimes they just ask to see people’s ID without a reason. If you don’t have any ID they either arrest you or ask for a bribe. It’s not a good situation to be with so we’re advised to always carry ID with us.
Yesterday I was walking back to the hotel and I passed a turtle squad. They were stopping people, saying ‘dokumente, dokumente’. They motioned towards me and when I approached they looked at my patrol cap, and then they waved me past without checking.
I did actually have my passport on me, but I was pleased that my hat came in useful.