Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three families: Chingiz' version

Today we are hosted by our last family: Chingiz, his wife and his parents. If you still remember from before, Chingiz is the guy with the military coat. He's always happy and as Ilona says, also looks a bit like an Anime character.

We take forever to get away from Kairad partly because it's really hard to separate me from the internet. Chingiz had an idea:

"I told my wife she doesn't have to cook today," he says, "because you two are cooking traditional Czech food."

We don't even know what the ingredients are called in russian, actually we don't even know if they exist. Most of them don't exist and Ilona is switching recipies. After a while she decides to cook chicken on paprika but with curry instead of paprika.

We overeat again and again with Ilona's food and our food. Me and Chingiz repair the starter.He shows me how to dismantle the old grudzavik, truck from soviet times which eats 30 liters per 100 kilometers. He is sick of having to start it with an iron bar, he would like to use a key as a normal person.

We exchange stories while he repairs the car. Chingiz has studied at a university to be some kind of engeneerin logistics. He's worked for the state for some time, building roads I think but here, there is no point of working for the state. If you added up Chingiz' expenses at that time and his salary, he was paying more than he was being given. The state doesn't care about salaries low to the point of nonsense because people usually compensate by being corrupted or making they own resources on a farm. Chingiz wants to go to America to have a better job, work fora year, return home and build a house that would really be eurostandart, even more than Adlet's house.

"I want a house with a toilet inside the house!", he says proudly. Here, toilets are located in the cornet of the garden. They are just shit pits and this one is pretty far. In the summer, there is no problem getting there but in the winter, with the snow and all, it must be pretty unconfortable.

Chingiz talks in russian but he knows english. Deep down, somewhere in his mind, english is there in an archive and wants to get out. So we speak english, russian and more and more english. He's smart, the language comes back.

"Aren't youa afraid about your relationship when you and your wife will be separated for a year?", I ask. Chingiz says that if she cheats on him he'll kill the guy but we both know he wouldn't. He is just saying that not to lose face according to Kyrgyz standarts. He's fine with me, I won't judge him because he doesn't kill people. Chingiz is actually a really sweet guy. He is honest with his friends and he considers us as such. He says we can trust him and we do, completly.

He's 23, he says but later it turns out that that's a lie, he's 22 and a little complexed about his age. He doesn't have anything of a 22-year old in europe. This guy is an adult with a  job and family, he knows how to get his way in life.

He explains to us how he used to be a playboy with Kairad and Adlet. Not Edil though, he was too shy, never had a clue about how to get a girl. Now they're all married and these days are over. They figure they have tried everything, why destroy their family now. For Chingiz and I think for all of his friends, his family is important. We really can talk about everything with Chingiz. There is the language barrier of course but our russian is getting better and his english too. I tell him about our travels and he wants to travel too.

"I'd leave with you on the spot if I hadn't had a family to take care of."

That's one of the reasons that marriage doesn't make sense to me. Except one with Nata because we have exactly the same view on relationships. The rare thing about Nata is that while everything is hard, everything is possible.

We actually talk about Nata with Chingiz. She says the village just lost their english teacher and they need a new one. But good english is rare among these people. I don't know if Chingiz american dream is realistic. Working in America is a common wish among these people, they don't really think about other countries. We promise to help Chingiz if he comes to europe. We really have to. He is smart, motivated and hard working, he has the right to succeed. But everybody has the right to succeed don't they?

We go buy ingredients for dinner. Ilona tries to describe them and the locals shake their heads in surprise: what does she want, is that girl crazy?
Chingiz wants to pay for everything and Ilona too. They make a compromise by buying some stuff at the market and taking the rest from Chingiz' shop (his family runs a local shop situated just outside of his house).

Of course, Ilona also wants to pay for the stuff we take from Chingiz' shop. Chingiz starts feeling a little embarassed. That's the eternal struggle between Ilona and hospitality. Ilona doesn't feel right if she doesn't pay and the locals feel insulted if she pays. But as always, me and Ilona talk about our problems, we rarely hold a grudge. This time is no different. We have an amazing communication. In the end, I win, we don't pay for the food from the shop.

"You need your money more than we do.", says Chingiz. It is true now but we better remember it will be exactly the opposite when he comes to Europe.

Ilona makes dinner. It takes a while to combine all the exotic ingredients and cooking tools into a Czech meal. She says despite everything, Kyrgyzstan is the closest country to Czech republic judging by the fruits and vegetables that grow here.

The dinner is a complete success. The whole family is thrilled. Chingiz is displaying the anime smile he is known for.

The first night we sleep great, we have our own room, everything is perfect.

The next day we're still at Chingiz. We can't get away from him, he's such a great guy. He isn't our exotic Kyrgyz anymore he's a friend. I'm not afraid to joke with him and the other way around. Well, the other way around was always there, the Kyrgyz cannot live without sarcasm.

We go to the lake. By foot. By foot? Chingiz cannot believe his ears. It's 4 kilometers by foot, that's unthinkable! He has a sportive silouhette of a hard working healthy guy who probably knows Kung fo better than Jackie Chan  but he cries when he has to do a kilometer without his car.

"You know if you were my Kyrgyz friends from Bishkek I'd just tell you you're crazy and you'd go alone!", he later says after we go back under the shining sun.

We drag poor Chingiz to the lake where we swim (the water is cooold, says Chingiz) but he likes to take pictures. We talk about a lot of things, including Kyrgyz girls. Chingiz says the Kyrgyz female openness is somewhere between Turkey and France, Turkey being the absolute minimum and Russia probably being a sex paradise.

Ilona thinks girls shouldn't have sex the first night as some Kyrgyz girls do (it's a more rare behaviour in Czech republic and France), she sees it as a lack of respect to herself. Chingiz can understand that but he is surprised when Ilona things the same thing about men.

"Cultures are different", he says with his anime smile.

I on the other hand would never critisize nor dare to spoil the local fantasy of the russian girl. Every person does what they want, there is no need to shame anyone. No need to complicate any type of relationship, they are complicated by nature. Later however, instead of putting Kyrgyzstan between turkey and france in terms of female openness, I would put it between France and Czech Republic.

Chingiz' wife has some friends over. One of them speaks Kyrgyz and Russian and the other one speaks German and some english. She is just great. Smiley girl full of energy, she is curious and just shines at everything around. It's hard to speak german though. My brain just hurts from all the languages.

Some friends come over

We are going shooting again with the guys.

"Can we go with you?", says the German speaking girl, "I'd love to shoot!"

I wouldn't bet much on it. Guys organize activities between guys, usually girls are not allowed. Sometimes, even Ilona is not allowed and she is a host! But this time Kairad says yes! Because appearently there is a huge difference between a girl who is married and one who is not. Wives stay at home, live in a way that could be labeled conservative by european standarts. Unmarried girls however are free as the wind, they're educated, usually curious and open-minded. They stay this way even after marriage but you can see that they've very suddenly entered a different world.

We shoot a bottle with Kairad's and Chingiz' rifle.

Just keep your head back and your elbow steady

I, and the two Kyrgyz girls miss, Ilona, Chingiz and Kairad all blow the bottles like confettis. I can't find the viewfinder on that thing, it's so tiny. Chingiz has a calibre 12 rifle, his elbow hurts from the shots. There is something a little wrong with the rifle too, he says, I'm kind of glad it doesn't explode.

The Kyrgyz girl who speaks german shoots for the first time. She's as afraid as I was but comes through. This is not a shooting range, this is Kyrgyz style.

We quickly run out of ammunition and go back, it's cold anyway. 

Asian chicks with guns in Kyrgyzstan. Can you imagine something cooler than that?

We go back to Kairad's place. It's a little late but we have to say goodbye. We're going to Ala-Keul lake tomorrow. Kairad tells us stories about a woman who was raped nearby Karakol and who appears all bloody to drivers. She seems to hitchhike by the road and when nobody takes her she moves to the middle of the road waiting to be ran over. In the ambiance of the night, it is scary.

Chingiz also tells us, a little embarrassed that he things his home is haunted. That is why they leave a light in the hallway because several times he felt footsteps on the ceiling, the previous owner of the house or something. Several people have heard them, he figures but they don't talk about it much.

"If I had another home, I would have moved you there", he says.

They have called an exorcist about ten years ago and appearently nothing has happened since. And while everything sounds scary, I have the impression that the local culture is a little bit more superstisious than ours.

We go back to Chingiz. The Bania is heated. The bania is the local way people wash themselves. They started having it in Kazakhstan. Here, people don't take showers or baths. Once about every week, they heat a bania and the whole family goes there in turns. A bania is a bit like a hammam. It's a room heated by a stone stove and a lot of vapour. There is a tap with boiling water and a few containers with cold water. You are supposed to mix the water to the right temperature and wash yourself by pouring water on yourself with a cup. Usually people take forever to bathe in a bania and it also takes quite a lot of time to heat it up. Therefore, Kyrgyz people only wash about once a week, at least in villages which puts us on a similar hygene level with the locals. As travellers, this doesn't happen very often.

While we wait, we have a philosophical discussion with Chingiz. We are sad beacause we have to leave. And we can have philosophical discussions in russian now. Plus, Chingiz' english is getting better by the minute. We talk about friendship, relationship, trust.

"I would rather be hated by someone because I didn't do what he asked of me than hate someone because I didn something for him and he screwed me over", says Chingiz.

We talked about his relationship with his wife and mine with Ilona. When travelling so close together, a relationship can go different ways. Ours has gone towards a brotherly friendship in a way that is so natural that it is disturbing. And I am actually very glad about that. I don't know how I could have handeled a romantic relationship with Ilona. Probably not very well. And thank god I can freely look at all these beautiful asian girls!
We have talked about our relationship a few times with Ilona because we talk about everything. And it turns out we are both glad about it and it's crystal clear. Not just saying that, really. 

We are transfering photos to Chingiz and therefore we have a censorship session. I didn't write about it much but each time I am about to publish a picture of her on our blog or facebook she approves it or rejects it. It is extremely important for her, she doesn't want any unwanted photo on the internet.
Chingiz is very surprised by that attitude, he wants an explanation for every rejected photo.

"Cultural differences", he says with a smile.

Another cultural difference arises from my side when I refuse to go to the bania with him. Here people go to wash together, in pairs, sometimes in three or four. In by book, I bathe alone. Chingiz shakes his head in amusement. Crazy europeans.

 We sleep in our haunted room but nothing disturbs us. Today is the first day at school. Children prepare into the traditional Kyrgyz uniforms. They are pretty with a lot of laces, little children look cute in them.

Chingiz' family, first day at school. The red hair girl is a friend.

However they put the same costume on girls who are in last grade, at 18 or 19 which has a very different effect. It makes them look like porn stars parading the streets of Ananyevo.

We leave our friend with thoughts of wonder in our head. He's a wonderful person and yes, he's a friend. We make a lot of empty invitation but this one is real. We want to see him in europe.

And last one with rifles!