Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sex in Kyrgyzstan from men's perspective

I am leaving to Issy-kul now. I have to say goodbye to everyone. I manage to get to Ananyevo in one day, that is quite a performance. I sleep at Chingiz place and he tells me about his business ideas. One of them kind of makes sense but it needs a giant investment he hopes to get from europeans.
Chingiz is smart and able but he has trouble understanding how the mind of an european investor works. He thinks that, as the Kyrgyz, they are waiting to hear about great potential profits, while european investors usually want to hear about low risk. And they want solid proof. They don't give money just for ideas.

Chingiz and his father have started another business, they are making apple juice and selling it to restaurants in Bishkek. It is hard work but it is a smart idea. I stay at Chingiz place one more night, he is going to a party. But this time, it is not the usual gettogether with friends and vodka in a car. This time, there are girls involved and I see the other side of the great Kyrgyz family legend.
Here, Kyrgyz guys marry early and women even earlier. A lot of them are even virgin before the wedding night with practically no sexual experience and in probably shows on their performance in bed. So basically Kyrgyz people have children before they have even begun to explore their sexual lives, at 22 they already have a family and live with their wife and kids and parents (!) forever.
"That's why they are all cheating on their wives," I told Ilona who didn't want to believe my cynical view on relationship.
Turns out I was right, cheating on their wives has become a tradition as common as drinking tea. I am not judging any of these people nor am I even saying that cheating is wrong, I am merely stating the facts.
I can't blame the Kyrgyz women for believing their husband will have eyes for no other than them. They stay virgin until marriage, they expect a prize, a miracle but miracles don't happen. However I must say that in the case of Chingiz and friends, the guys really do respect their wives and love them. But given the circumstances of their acquaintance, I would say there is no other alternative.
Chingiz says if you want a girl in Kyrgyzstan, you need money. That sounds a lot like prostitution but he doesn't meen that.
"Girls don't pay for things, the man does. 200 soms for beer, 100 for chips and 200 for the room."
That's how it works and he explains that to me without any shame. It might sound harsh for european minds but isn't it how it also work in europe. Except that in europe it is way more expensive and in Kyrgyzstan the girl is expected to deliver. The guy knows it, the girl knows it and in this country, people expect to get their money's worth especially if they don't have a lot of money.
I realize now how unpolite from me it was to do half-half with Janela when we went to the restaurant together. This is just unthinkable in Kirghizia.
Me and Chingiz go to a park. It is freezing cold already. Two girls are waiting for us. They are Kyrgyz of russian origin and it is crystal clear for everyone what is the goal of the night. They are already a bit drunk when they greet us. I am amazed how the religious extremism of Kyrgyzstan contrasts with a sexual liberalism ten years ahead of western europe.
One of the girls already knows Chingiz, she is kind of his casual mistress. The other girl is her friend and she is obviously there for me. Everyone knows Janela is my girlfriend, in their minds we are even going to marry but they see no contradiction. A man should be loyal to his wife but a man has needs and everybody understands that... except the wife.
As for me, I feel very weird about all this. In my mind, I am sure I will not cheat on Janela even though we have not decided on any rules. Weirdly enough, I am not interested in any other girl right now. BUt I am very interested on that process. Seduction is such a complicated art in europe, I am very interested in seeing it simplified.
I expected the girls too be very intteresting, some kind of rare characters because I have neer seen such sexual openness before, all countires combined. Instead, I realize the blond girl is blank. She has no clue about anything in life. She is not curious she wants to go to Paris and that's basically it. Or maybe I don't put too much effort into my communication with her because deep down, I don't really ccare about sleeping with her. She is pretty alllright, she could be a fashion model judgiéng by european criteria but she is just so empty. I can''t find anything interesting about her, no feeling, either emotional nor physical.
After a while, I realize she is a bit lost, a bit like me, we both kind of wonder what we are dooing here. I think she is curious about what I will do and I am curious about what she will do so we are kind of in a funny stalemate.
The other couple however is making progress. Chingiz is now holding his mistress by the belly, maybe they even kissed once or twice. Obviously they are not starting from zero. Noticing the lack of progress from my side, Chingiz takes me apart and asks:
"So... you don't think she's pretty?"
I do think she is pretty but I try to explain to him that in europe, except a few rare cases, we don't have sex after five minutes of talking to each other. Chingiz is surprised by these strange customs. When I explain to him that european boys pay several restaurants in a row merely for the hope of a first kiss he just shakes his head. "This is such a bad investment, no wonder your economy is falling apart"
"But you are in Kyrgyzstan now," he says, "you should play by Kyrgyz rules. You go to the girl, you buy her chips and beer, you tell her that you like her and then you tell her I want you, she says yes or no and that's it."
"Come on, does that bullshit ever work?"
"Hey, trust me man, I was a taxi driver in Bishkek for half a year and I had 4 girls a week." Strange country.
Turns out that to score a girl in Kyrgyzstan you need to have not only chips and beer but also a car. That's logical for everyone who has a culture in american movies: chips+beer+girl+car=sex. And so far, with its corrupt cops, liberated girls, weed, guns, gangs and alcohol, Kyrgyzstan has been nothing like america but everything like an american movie.
The problem with the sex equation is that Chingiz doesn't have a car. His parents took the car and he has no idea whe  they will resturn. I suggest that we could still buy the girls some more chips because they looked hungry but Chingiz throws me a surprised look: "what for?"
Yeah, everything is calculated and has a purpose. Nobody buys a puzzle with a missing piece.
Chingiz goes on to call Adlet. Adlet is the fourth richest man in town and he has a car. He comes with his car fulll of guys, about four of them. They buy vodka and get a bit drank and then we go to see the girls. They are waiting in a freezing cold, it must be -10. They seem scared, they expected me and Chingiz, that was the deal and now they are surrounded by six drunk guys that they have never seen before. Any european girl would not only run away but call the police right away, probably rightfully so in most cases.

Chingiz obviously puts his buddies first. He talks with them, drinks with them, he doesn't have a single word for the girls. Chingiz brother calls, says parents have returned, he can have the car. Chingiz leaves the scared girls with all strangers and goes to take the car. Then he puts the girls in his parents car to wait for him to finish having fun with his buddies.
I go sit with the girls, that's also a way not to drink.

"I want to go home," whispers the other girl, not Chingiz' mistress
This is enough, the game is over and I am not curious anymore. This is the kind of situation me and Ilona were in a lot of times and now I am on the other side of the situation. I can't understand Chingiz. He wants something from these girls, why isn't he doing anything to get it? If you want to sleep with a girl, you should treat her with respect otherwise she will not be in the mood. That's basic science.
The thing is that there is only one girl that Chingiz respects: his wife. He loves her, he cherishes her and she is his only girl on the planet. That is why him sleeping with other women will never impact his relatiionship, unless he is discovered of course.

The girls also, are shy beyond measure. Any girl I know would at least ask when this drinking fest will be finished so Chingiz would have time for them. But they don't ask anything, maybe because of the position a woman has in Kyrgyzstan and probably also because they are scared.
"Chingiz is not a bad guy," I tell the other girl, "he will not do anything that you don't want and nobody will force you to do anything," I say to her
"Thank you." There is gratitude in her voice, this girl obviously isn't used to be treated with respect.
"Do you want to go home?"
"Then you have to repeat it many times, Chingiz will take you"
She nods her head. She is scared, she is cold and she is tired. She didn't take any warm clothes.
Adlet rides away but his buddies stay, we are now all in Chingiz" car.
Chingiz' mother calls, she needs a ride somewhere. Parents have priority before everything except god, Chingiz leaves us all out into the freezing cold and goes to follow his mother's will. The other girl is freezing, she tries to keep warm and nobody helps her. Maybe because everybody is also doing his best not to freeze or maybe because she has lost respect of others because she is not a virgin. Strange country.
I lend her my coat and she thanks me beyond measure. I then go talk to Chingiz and he agrees to take her home. He doesn't really understand why the girl wans to go home but he respects her will.
His buddies go home also leaving us only three in the car: me, Chingiz and his mistress. The only way his mistress didn't run away is that she is desperatly in love with him. This is how usually relationships are: unbalanced.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nata got sick and flied away

Nata and me have arrived to Igor's house, we got a ride straight to his doorstep. I remember Ilona saying "We are so lucky to have such a huge home with a garden so close to the center of Bishkek!"
Nata's reaction wa a bit different: "I'd rather sleep in a jail! I can't believe you would let me sleep at this guy's place alone. And he is scary, he looks like a russian drunk!"
I got used to Igor so I didn't notice but it's true, his face is quite scary with his fallen teeth... russian drunk is the right way to go except he is greek. Now, Igor looks even more scary because he has gotten into a fight and got a pretty nasty beating. No broken bones but his face is a mess, blood everywhere. His cheeks ere twice their normal size and his nose is purple. He looks like a drunk version of Terminator.
"Three guys jumped me when I went for the cigarettes. I didn't sleep for two nights," says Igor
He didn't see the doctor, that's not his style. "It'll pass"
So yeah, not the best welcoming party but then again, it is a big house near the center of Bishkek. I guess Nata will have to get used to travelling with me and I will get used to travel with Nata.
Either way, I am very happy that she is here, it seems kind of unreal that she made it to Kyrgyzstan, I still didn't get used to it.
This night we manage to sleep a bit despite Igor leaving on the TV set until 2AM.
We went to Bishkek, not really to visit because there is nothing to see but to give my talking cirlces, to say bye to my friends.
I feel a bit bad for Nata because I remember how I felt in georgia. The situation is kind of the same the other way around, she must feel like a third wheel. I don't like it and I fear she might just pack her things and go away. But I sometimes underestimate Nata; considering what she has been through, she is more resistant than she seems.
But there is resistant and resistant. You can resist to hitchhike through siberia, you can get through constant sexual harassment and whatever, that doesn't mean that your nerves will withstand dealing with the Chinese embassy.
After talking to them, Nata is already considering to fly back. The chinese embassy is refusing all invitation letters except from members of the government. So basically unless you are a close friend of the president of the people's dictatorship of China, you have to go through an agency.

The next night Igor gets drunk. Not really drunk but enough to start about his conspiracy theories.
"And this is all the fault of the Iseaelis, they're behind all of it! Masons! Masons! They are financing the world's doom. But I will go slowly... infiltrate their masonic lodge in America... I will bring them down one by one, I, Igor the greek."
At midnight we really want to sleep but Igor sits to Nata's bed and starts yelling: "You are not going to China! You fools! The chinese will have your balls, both of you! Fucking chinese they go hand in hand with the Americans, China, America, Illuminati all the same, you cannot fool me!"
"Come one Igor we want to sleep! We can talk about all this tomorrow!"
"Tomorrow I won't have the vodka to let me tell all these things" That was kind of my point. And Igor continues:
"And you and you... you don't think I know who you are?"
"And who am I?"
"You are an American spy! You fucking french, you are spying for America you think you are on the right side? You are so wrong! Why don't you leave us Kyrgyz people alone?"
"Come one Igor you know I am no spy."
"So what are you doing here in Kyrgyzstan posing as a tourist and you, and you," he turns to Nata, "why did you betray your country?"
"What? Let me sleep!"
"Why did you betray your beloved country, why betray Russia, the perfect land, why do you want to destroy russia that never did anything wrong to anyone"
He then goes on how russia is the best country in the world who never attacked anyone, who always defended itself against evil nations funded by americans, and he advised us to change sides and side with russia aainst America because nobody can destroy russia anyway.
"And nobody knows that during the second world war there were machines who were chopping people automatically, they were running over them like bulldozers and making steaks out of them like this..."
And he turns his hands quickly, one arount the other to mimic the bulldozer. With his beaten up face and the drunk expression on his face he really looks like a zombie.
I end up sleeping in Nata's room for safety reasons even though I know Igor wouldn't do anything to her.
The next day we are both tired, especially Nata because she didn't sleep well for a week. We tell igor that we are going to Karakol but the truth is we are just looking for another place to sleep in Bishkek. Nata says that Igor is just starting his "zapoy" which is a russian word that has probably no equivalent in english. It has been invented specially for russians and their huge drinking habits. When somebody is in zapoy, he will start to drink everynight and it will take him about a week to stop. I trust Nata on this because she is russian and she has seen more people with a drinking problem than I could possibly imagine.
"We russian people are fucked up, you know," she says once, "we grow up in this."
Me and Nata have found a way to communicate. I can't say we feel each other but we've found a common tongue, some understanding of each other. I don't spend my time looking for my place with her anymore.
My relationship with Janela is also coming into the mix and everything is kind of fine. Except that we still don't have a place to stay.
My contacts in Bishkek are all running dry mostly because most of them are girls and they can host only Nata. The problem with Nata is that some of them have a crush on me so handing them Nata would be tactless to say the least, not to mention not very comfortable for Nata.
My last hope is Nurbolot from Osh who studies and lives in Bishkek. I met him at the bus station, I was waiting for Elina, my english lesson. They asked if I needed help and so on and by the way he has told me that I can stay at his house if I ever needed something. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between a true invitation and just politeness but now it is our last option. There is also the boss of the sewing machine company who hosted us with Ilona for one night in Bishkek but that was two months ago.
I try Nurbolot and he says yes! He has a student appartment in west Bishkek. There are about a million people living there, coming and going. Nurbolot is nineteen but as many Kyrgyz he has more life experience than his age tells. He speaks english, with mistakes but well enough for us to understand each other quite well. He completly understand that we are tired and gives us as much space as he can. Nata can sleep, we can rest and... he has the internet. He even knows how to cook well enough to even impress Nata a bit. He keeps calling her "Misses Natacha" and says "Can you wake up the Natacha" which gives me the impression to deal whith some kind of esoteric object when it comes to Nata.
Nata is very tired but sleeping doesn't help. She gets more tired instead, her condition gets worse. Her heart starts racing, her head hurts, it is scary.
"Don't leave me alone," she says and I realize that at that exact moment, this girl who was a complete stranger three months ago in armenia is actually my most familiar point in life and space. This is weird.
It is cold in the morning...

We stay one more day and then even one more day. Sometimes she can't even stand. We start discussing about her going back to Russian, even taking the next flight to Moscow. It is a very hard blow for me. I could let Ilona go without being too shaken. It was harder with Janela but I knew she had to go and I knew that I was not going to continue alone. However, Nata's departure was unexpected. This is it, I will be really alone now, in Kyrgyzstan. Now everybody has really left and every decision and every consequence is strictly mine to take and to bear. Now it is getting scary.

The next days it becomes a sure thing that Nata leaves. Chingiz calls, he says he can help, he has a heart doctor among his relatives. But the fate is sealed. We go to see a movie, we talk, we go to try clothes, Nata owes me for a bet she lost. And after that, we go to the airport. Nata is flying in the afternoon. She says we will see each other again and I think she is right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nata, me and the police

Igor answers his phone again so I am staying at his place. Meanwhile, Nata decided to take a train from Astana to the Kyrgyz Border, hitchhiking being too difficult. I offer her to join her in Kazakkhstan because I still have a valid visa to get there but she doesn't want to. I can understand the need to take a train, hitchhiking alone through siberia is not an easy task and she really did it, about 4000 kilometers.
She should be at the border at 11:30 so I leave Bishkek early in the morning. Hitchhiking to the border works better than expected, people think it's romantic that I am meeting Nata who has come such a long way at the border, they even give me 100 soms. There is no point of explaining that she is not my girlfriend, just a friend, they like their version of the story.
On the border, a guard asks me for my passport, I don't have it, it's in Bishkek,  it is in Bishkek at the Chinese Agency, Miss Liu has it. He is very surprised by we talk a little and he lets me go.
Nata is late so I sit somewhere and work on subtitles on Janela's video.
A while later I am disturbed by some fat guy who asks where I am from and whatam I doing. I have more important things to do so I tell him "from czech republic" without even looking at him. He wants to see my passport and tells me he is the chief of police of 10th district. I tell him that I don't have it and he says I have to come with him.
I have heard enough rumours of false cops that I ask to see his documents to prove he's really a cop. He shows me something that doesn't seem very convincing, there is a photo on it, some kind of stamp and some handwritten stuff.
I tell him that I am waiting for my friend and that I'm not going anywhere.
"You are here without visa, we are going to deport you to Czech Republic" he says.
"Why would I want to live in your country where there is no job and no money whatsoever? Get some sense into your head, all you Kyrgyz people want to go to europe, not the other way around." This guy is starting to get on my nerves.
He needs a proof that I am really a Czech Citizen so I give him my Czech identity card. He takes it and shows it to some other people including the guard I talked about to before. He tells me to wait while he checks something with the border control guys.
I consider to just walk away because I have my other identity card and 2 passports so what do I care to lose one but anyway, I'll try to keep it.
So I wait for him. They agree to wait one hour for Nata. In the car, I talk to the driver, he has three children, lives in Kara-Balta. I tell him my story, he's very impressed. I also have time to observe the fat chief of police, he's the right kind of asshole. Corrupt to the bone, he is a good replica from the main character from the series "the shield". He's not stupid, that's for sure, I will not make the mistake of underestimating him.

He thinks he is smarter than everybody, he holds his chief of police emblem with pride. He doesn't even try to read me, he thinks he knows me. But he doesn't know me. I have lived in france, I have been forced to deal with French institutions from my childhood. Dealing with french byrocracy is only slightly better than physical torture so my dear boy, unless you have a waterboarding device in your bag, you can't do anything to me that my french schoolteacher hasn't done already.

"I think we can manage with a small fine," says the chief of police, "do you want to go to the police station, or do you want to wait for your girl?"
He wants money of course, and I am not ready to give him anything. I think he wants 500 soms, it would be fair if I was really an illegal imigrant but now it is out of the question. I decide to play the card of the honest and selfless american hero. I like that role very much because it's almost the opposite of what I am.
"I would like to wait for my friend of course but I know I have done wrong. I respect Kyrgyzstan too much, and I am incredibly sorry to cause you problems. I know my place is at the police station."

The fat guy explains to me that I will go to jail and that jails are very uncomfortable here in Kyrgyzstan and I thank him from my heart for this good information and I tell him: "if such is my place, let me go to jail."
I thank my english teacher for theater courses, they are proving very useful.

Nata is very late and after two hours of waiting they lose patience and we are going to the police station. I manage to negociate that the border guards call the fat chief of police when she crosses the border. I just hope she'll cross at Merke and not Korday.
In the car, there is another guy. He is pale with stress, he is Uzbek, he is here without registration, he too, is going to be deported or so they say.
"Call your friends and family," the chief of police tells us.
The Uzbek guy rings his mother and wife. "Make sure you tell them the chief of police of 10th district has arrested you"

"The chief of police of 10th district has arrested me," says the Uzbek guy.
The fat chief then takes his phone and explains the situation making sure his title doesn't go unnoticed.
"What about you?" He turns to me.
"Oh no, I can't call my parents now, they would be too worried. It is my fault and I am the only one responsible"
I just love throwing stereotypical quotes in a real conversation, it makes my day. Of course I am stresed, a little bit afraid even but my curiosity is way stronger: what will this guy do with me? How does deportation work from the inside? For me, this is still a game, a story inside the big story of my trip.
I tell the chief of police my story, that I live for a dollar per day, that I met a girl in Karakol, she's Kyrgyz, we could even marry someday.
He doesn't see the contradiction between me giving him money and me living for a dollar per day. Either he is more stupid that I thought or he thinks I have made the whole thing up.
A friend calls me, he wants to know if we can meet in Bishkek for an english course. I explain to him that I have problems at the border. The chief of police tells me to make sure that I tell him he is the chief of police of 10th district which I don't do of course.
"I don't want to scare him sir, chief of police that sounds too impressive," I say to him.
I am starting to know his type. He is pretentious, he wants people to admire him. He also wants me to defend my case, to say that my Czech identity card is enough, he wants me to try to negociate so he can refuse everything and destroy all my attemps. Then he wants to come with his solution which is tp give him a lot of money together with warm thanks.
But I will not do this. I will go in the direction of my doom as far as he pushes me to. I will refuse all the bribes and play the american hero because "I respect Kyrgyzstan too much to do anything unlawful." Let's see what cards he plays.

"Where is your Natasha, can you call her?"
"She is in Kazakhstan with a russian phone, it's very expensive, she'll call me once on the border"

He goes on to check my handbag. There is a camera, my gps beacon and my pepper spray.
"I'd like to keep that if you don't mind", I tell the police guy, "I still don't know if you really are a police officer. You might be a gangster posing as one. It's really a pity but my friends already got robbed like that."
He lets me my things. He doesn't reprimand me for the GPS beacon which he could confiscate as a spy device. I just told him it is a GPS, he isn't surprised that it doesn't have a screen.
Next to me, the Uzbek guy is looking pretty awful. He is not playing a game as I am, his job is at stake and probably his only way how to feed his family.
We arrive at the police station, we sit in a dirty office. There is a bed, a computer and some chairs. The chief of 10th district sits on a chair, the chair breaks because he is too fat and he falls on the ground. I humbly ask him wheather he wants my chair but he managed to repair the first one and sit again. It works.
He starts interogating the Uzbek guy.
"So you are here without registration. That's a really fucked up situation, I don't know what to do. I think we'll have to deport you..."
"I know... what can I do? I just want to find a solution..."

But the chief of police likes to see people suffer.
"I know, I know but look at your passport... is that even a passport? You could be a spy for what I know. I really can't help you."
He is interrogating the poor guy while I am in the room. I don't know why I have to be in the room, maybe the process is supposed to intimidate me. Yeah, it does a little but at the same time, the chief of police also shows me how an interrogation works. Now I know what questions he will ask me, he lets me time to prepare and that is stupid.

The only smart thing he actually does, is letting me wait for long minutes and hours, all that time I don't have a clue what will happen with me. Will they really try to deport me? Will I go to jail? Will they release me? But I have rougly the same troubles when dealing with the french institutions. The mistake that I must not make is ask him to clarify the situation. Of course he will not clarify anything because there is nothing to clarify, making me wait and stress is just his tactic. By asking I will simply confirm that his tactic works. So I sit and wait. Unfortunately, all my money is in my wallet in my pocket, about $150 dollars and the same amount in soms, way more than the fat chief of police could hope for. I ask to go to the toilet, they let me. There is another guy in the room, some assistant. He accompanies me to the toilet, just so I don't run away. I have actually considered it. They only have my identity card, my bag is at Igor's place and I have my computer and electronics with me. I take all my money from my wallet leaving only a hundered som, the gift from my ride to the border. I shove everything in my shoes and come out. The guy isn't here anymore, I am supposed to find my way. I could run and maybe I will another time but I still hope for the perfect score: no money from me and my identity card back.
I come back, they didn't expect any less of my american hero character.

"You seem like a good guy," says the chief of police to the Uzbek, "You have a choice. If you play by my rules, nobody will bother you understand? I can fine you for 500 soms. Nobody will bother you again in this neighbourhood because I control things here. Nobody will go against my authority, nobody will arrest you."
That is a corrupt cop speech if I ever saw one. He looks at me.
"From this guy, I can take more because he is a foreigner."
It really seems like this chief of police is dumb, didn't he just hear my story? I travel for a dollar per day, what does he think he can get from me? Anyway, he is going to be dissapointed.
Meanwhile, the Uzbek guy calls his mother, his wife, the wife even comes to the police station with her baby in her arms. I still didn't call anybody except some people to cancel my english lessons. The chief of police starts being a bit thrown off balance by my lack of panic.
"You should at least call Nata," he says
"I don't want her to worry. You know women, they worry too much."
"Don't you think she will worry if you are in jail?"
"I'll wait until she calls me"

At 2PM, Nata crosses the border. I get a phone call.
"Give me the phone, give me the phone!" says the Chief of Police
I ignore him and try to explain the situation to Nata as calmly as possible.
"I'm waiting at the border, where are you?"
"I'm at the police station"
"Oh great..."
I tell her that my best bet is if she goes to Bishkek and brings my passport. However Nata is Nata and she only plays by her own rules. She is going to the police station. The chief of police is happy with that decision because he has one more candidate to scare off. He can't extort money from me, he will try to get it from Nata. But poor chief of Police doesn't know that in extreme situations, me and Nata are a pair to be feared. Last time an asshole was threatening us, in Armenia, we made a scene he will not forget so soon. The chief thought Nata was his salvation, he has just opened the Pandoras box. I almost feel sorry for him.
"She hasn't any money you know, she had come all this way by hitchhiking"
"She... what? What's wrong with you people. Call your parents."
"They are in France, it is really expensive to call there and I don't think it works from a Kyrgyz phone anyway. Plus, I have done wrong, my parents don't have to pay for my mistakes"

The only problem is that Nata's phone balance has died before I could tell her where is the police station. The chief of police is furious.
"I told you to give the phone to me!"
"You can call her from your phone," I tell him. But the chief of police doesn't want to. He came here to make money, not to spend a cent. However he calls the border to tell Nata to come to Ponfielovka police station.

Nata comes. She is as beautiful as the legend says and she has a worried face.
"They say they are going to deport you, is that a joke?"
"Kind of... not quite," I say timidly realising that I am actually more afraid of Nata than of the chief of police.
"What the hell did you do again? I'm going to kill you!," says Nata. She turns to the chief of police, "Let him go, he is not a spy, he is just stupid, he has his passport in Bishkek"
"I told you not to make her worry," I say to the chief of police, "Now she's going to kill me, now I hope I will go to jail. Please throw me in!"

The chief of police is thrown off balance even more. Nata is not behaving at all like the poor Uzbek's wife who is sitting silently calling friends at relatives to tell them the big chief of 10th rayon has successfully aprehended her husband.
I trust Nata completly. She has her moments when she can be self-centered but when the situation is important, I could hardly find a better ally.
Me and Nata we talk in english. I explain to her that they are just trying to use her to get money, to not believe anything they say. English is such a great language, you can be sure nobody will understand it in a ten kilometer radius.

The chief of police's assistant types something in his computer, prints a piece of paper with something in russian written on it. He starts reading my sentence.
"Mister Filip Novotny has been caught without his passport near the border with Kazakhstan bla bla bla..."
I listen until he finishes his long paragraph. He obviously likes to read official papers, it makes him feel important. That guy sounds more and more like a stereotype from an american movie.
"Do you agree with what I just told?", he asks
"I am sorry but my russian isn't that good, I couldn't understand everything, maybe if you read more slowly"
The chief is a little dissapointed that his official verbiage didn't have any effect on me because of language barriers. It seemed to have a huge effect on the Uzbek guy.

"Do you want to sleep at the police station or do you want to leave with your girl. I can see she loves you very much."
Obviously he didn't listen to anything from my heartbreaking story about me dating a Kyrgyz girl who heroically works in Siberia. I am dissapointed, I put my heart into that story and I like having an attentive audience. But on the other hand I also didn't listen to his official bullshit so I guess we have a communication problem.
"Say goodbye to your girl, " says the chief of police, "you are going to jail and she must leave."

So that is his tactic! He lets me see the girl and make her leave hoping that my emotional attachment will make me have a change of heart. He really doesn't have any morals but he is also dumb. I was in that situation before Nata came, when Nata leaves I will be in the same exact situation, that is... without Nata. My only concern if for Nata's safety and I trust she will be safe at Irgor's place.
This guy really doesn't have a clue about who I am. Nor does he have a clue about who is Nata.

"I am not going anywhere!," says Nata firmly, "if he goes to jail I am going with him!"
Nata is even more of an american hero than I am. The chief of police wanted money, he got himself two tenants. He is starting to realize the situation is not playing to his advantage.
"I have my bag in the taxi's truck," says Nata, "can you make a decision quick, I told him only to wait fifteen minutes." My poor chief, you may be the king of your little dry land here but looks like I eat you for lunch and Nata for breakfest. And that's quite a performance actually considering how fat you are.
Meanwhile the assistant tries to hit on Nata a bit but she completly ignores him.

"I don't have time for that!" says the chief of Police. "Filip you come with me, we are going to deport you."
"Allright," I say calmly and I just give Nata Igor's phone number.
I follow the chief of assholes down the stairs where he looks at me with frustration and just says: "ok. You may go. But just because your girl is beautiful"

And that is how my deportation failed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Goodbye Janela

A friend of the family is coming to pick us up with his car. He is taking us to Karakol, to the bus station. Janela is going to take a bus to Bishkek with her father and then she'll fly from Manas airport. We sit together in the car, only exchanging brief words. It is dangerous to get into a longer conversation, emotions could appear and a scandal would follow.
"Don't let them see we have a crush on each other" Janela says with a voice so void of emotions that I have to admire the self control. Janela is one of the most emotional people I know, she's capable to burst into laughter over a funny sound or be sad over a dead insect but now she's as impassible as the statue of liberty.
My relationship with Janela could be film straignt into a stereotypical american romantic comedy. It is strange how people in europe spend their time discovering, tuning up and accepting their own feelings. Here feelings are clear and gladly accepted, the main problem consists of having them accepted by others.
Janela is dressed up in her airport clothes. She looks really good in it. Here girls dress up just to go out on the street the same way european girls would dress up for a job interview. If they go to an event such as going to the airport, they dress up as europeans girls would for a wedding. Whena social event occurs they dress up like supermodels and if there is a wedding I can't even imagine how they look like, probably like sexy alien.
Janela ready for her flight
There is absolutly no need I take the bus with Janela. It will just be a long and frustrating ride where we talk by bursts not to be discovered by others and maybe, if we are very lucky, Janela's dad will go to the bathroom and we will have five minutes of heartbreaking talk which will be interupted in the middle. Janela agrees, the reasonable solution is that I go by hitchhiking.
Since Khadzhi-Say where she talked to my parents, she keeps reminding me about changing my shoes. And she has a bigger power of persuasion than my mom. So before I leave for Bishkek, I go to some shops in Karakol but no luck there.
I start hitchhiking at around 1 PM and get a ride to Typ, some guy named Omurbek who takes me to eat lunch. I should refuse because Karakol-Bishkek is a big distance and I don't have time to stop to eat and chat, I can do that another time. But Omurbek insists on buying me a bus from Typ to Bishkek. He gives me about 500 soms which is 200 more than needed to get to my destination.
Omurbek has a huge garden with giant raspberries, apples and pears and he gives me a ton of them. We eat lunch, it's plov, it's really good but there is too much of it. In the end I am so full of random food that I can't walk anymore, I'm way too tired to hitchhike and I really buy a bus with Omurbek's money to take me to Bishkek. Omurbek tells me to come to Typ again.

The bus rides for a long time, it's not as comfortable as most of my hitchhiking rides but I don't have the obligation to talk to the drivers. I eat some sweet things from what Janela's parents have packed me for fear that I die of hunger.
I walk from the bus station to the border of Bishkek where some car picks me up and I get a ride to the airport. I'm at the airport at 10 PM, Janela's flight to Novosibirsk is at 5:30 AM.
We are supposed to meet at 4 AM so we have some time to talk, at least that, before she flies to Siberia.
At 4:30 she is still not there. She arrives at 5:15 with a parade of people I don't know and who are introduced to me as "relatives". Relatives that didn't even seem fit to give the poor girl an hour of time. One of the relatives, about my age, is carrying her luggage. He stares at me as if I was an alien. I stare at him back. You may be in your country, asshole, but you are on my territory. Because of you I didn't see my girl before she leaves and I didn't sleep all night so get out of my way if you want to keep your teeth, and keep them you should because dentists cost a fortune here. I take the luggage from his hands and follow Janela to the check in.
The guy follows us like a dumb echo. The expression on his face is a mix of stupidity and surprise. Appearently, he doesn't have a clue of who I could be. For him, as for a lot of Kyrgyz guys, their imagination is stuck at "is she your translator?". And why would she spend the night on the airport to accompany his translator to the check-in? Food for thought, dumbass, maybe in a year you'll figure it out.
"I'm glad you came.", says simply Janela, "Goodbye" Her voice doesn't shake, it is clear as water, void of emotions as a stone. Her posture doesn't betray a single thing. She must stay decent and she will. If you look very deep, into her eyes, you might see them shake imperceptibly.
Yeah, the guy is watching, we can't even say goodbye.
"Goodbye Jan." And she goes.

Janela's father asks me if I don't want to finish the night at his relative's place. No way. I'd rather freeze in my tent. I need some time alone now; tomorrow, I'll be going to Bishkek. Probably to Igor's place.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dating a Kyrgyz girl

I sleep in a separate house in Tegizchil, at Janela's parents place. When I was with Ilona, we just had a separate room but now that I'm alone it is different. Kyrgyz homes are constructed in a different way than in europe. In europe, it is usually possible to get from one room to any other room without going out of the house. In here, for starters, the bathroom and toilet are separated constructions, the toilet usually just being a wooden cabin. Sometimes and quite often, the house is split in two parts, half of the room being in one house, the other half in the other. Maybe it is used as a separation when the son's family lives with the son's parents. Maybe it is there for another reason.
Me and Janela are not officially a couple yet but we are pretty close to the finish line. I imagine that we will spend quite a lot of time together because in the last three days she was completly into me, and I into her. I also imagine that her parents will treat her like a princess because she is going to Tomsk, siberia in less than a week. You can imagine my surprise when she completly ignores me the whole day and is playing slave for her parents, running here and there, serving tea to everyone. Her parents say they are worried because she will go to siberia so why the hell they are not trying to make her life easier a bit? I just don't understand.
Janela and her family
I hoped that we could at least go for a walk somewhere but Janela ignores me so completly that I am ready to draw a line accross our experimental multicultural relationship, I am not ready to decifer another girl's troubled mind, my experience with Nata's behaviour was complicated enough.
"Shame Ilona isn't here", says Janela.
Well yeah, shame she is not here, more shame we are behaving like strangers to each other.
At dinner at last we can exchange some words. I don't understand a thing of how she behaves but at least, thank god for the english, that language which is so far from every language spoken in the region that we can safely talk without fear of being understood. She tells me she is sad to go, that she would like to stay with me and so on. She has such a casual voice that it sounds just like a prepared speech, Janela is completly void of emotions.
I am not an emotional person but this is sad. I decide to go to my room and after a while, a completly different Janela appears at my side. She's shaken as much as I am, she tells me that we don't have more than ten minutes and that we can't let anyone know we have a crush on each other because our relationship is a forbidden thing. She tells me it is hard for her to hide her emotions but she has to do it and she does it very well. I don't understant how it is even possible to appear in one light in front of the parents and in another in front of me but I guess Kyrgyz girls have training.
On the other hand, the parents are treating me very nice. Considering that I am breaking every possible Kyrgyz tradition known to man, and possibly monopolising their daughter, they are nice and understanding, I also don't understand that. I actually think we should tell the parents and they would approve, I think Janela worries to much, that she sees problems where they are not. Maybe I get frustrated with her parents for reasons that don't really exist. I have the impression that the father desperately wants her daughter's happiness, that he wants me to feel myself at home. He wants to make my stay as enjoyable as possible because it will also make Janela happy.
Tomorrow is Kurba-nakht, big muslim holiday, day of the living, something like that. The principle of the holiday is to prepare a whole bunch of food and to go invite the neighbours for a bite. So people basically go from home to home eating stuff and telling tales, mostly about other neighbours not present at the table. I bet me and Janela are a subject of choice because a foreigner in the small village of Tegizchil is something really uncommon. People have been spying on me and Janela since the word has gotten out that I am living there. We've spotted some neighbours looking at us through the fence while we were gathering berries. I was holding Janela by the elbow which was an event interesting enough to attract a small comitee.
When I go to the street, I am given surprised stares, people stop to talk to me, they ask me how is life in America and if Janela is my translator. Out of respect for Janela's family, I don't tell them stuff like Janela's my girlfriend. First it's not technically true and second it would create a scandal.
Janela doesn't have a single minute for me because she prepares for Kurba-nakht. So I hitchhike to Karakol. I actually have work to do. I have to edit Janela's video and add it to the crowdfunding project. Actually, I have already written the whole story, put on some pictures but I want to launch with a video to give her the biggest chance at success. People, of course, will not bother reading only text. Unfortunately, creating a video clip from rushes, a task that could take a couple of hours in my home europe, is a month work in Kyrgyzstan.
In europe, the main problem to solve would be to learn the video editing software and create a video with it. Here this is the least of my worries. First, I need to obtain the video software, that means to download it. With internet speed averaging 3 kb/sec the choice is limited to the simplest ones. Then I need a computer able to run this video software which is also not easy. Half of the computers I have access to just don't have that computing power. Third, I need an internet connection fast enough to upload the resulting 10 minute video clip on youtube. That kind of connection is also a rare thing, I would probably have to return to the capital for that.
My current plan is to download lightroom, a free video editing software. It is 70 Mb which means I have to download it overnight with the connection available in Karakol. Since I can't leave my computer anywhere overnight, I go to an internet café and pay for one hour of internet. During that hour I start the download and I hide it so nobody sees what is happening. The next day I will take the downloaded software. It was a nice plan, shame the whole city of Karakol got disconnected from the network. Damn.
During kurbanakht, I don't even try to get a hold of Janela, her parents keep calling her, they need help with a miriad of things, we see each other just in passing. The father has some understanding for us, he obviously sees what is going on and does not see any harm in it. For this village standarts, he is really open minded. The mother however is beyond description. She needs Janela all the time, especially when we are together. Is it so hard to understand that a boy and a girl who like each other sometimes need some time alone and that the tea could wait ten minutes, the world won't drawn will it? I don't know if she does it on purpose or if she really think that interefering into her daughter's love life is a normal thing. Her behaviour is just beyond my imagination, and I have a huge one. How can she pretend she wants her daughters happiness when she spoils her last happy moments? I would pay a million dollars just to know that woman's logic. But maybe I should learn the Kyrgyz language and ask her, it would be easier and cheaper.

I am in Karakol until about 1 PM. I arrive to the intersection and I have to walk three more kilometers to get to Tegizchil, to where Janela lives. I don't walk three kilometers that someone invites me for tea. During Kurbanakht even locals get invited so tourists are completly doomed to die out of overeating. I have to deviate through the field not to be seen and invited and make my way to Janela's house. Unfortunately I get spotted by Azer who is watching over his cows and he convinces me to get to his house because his sisters speaks english. She actually speaks very good english, I eat lots of good stuff and I am on my way again with gifts. Through the fields I meet another guy and get another invitation and then I get stuck. Between the fields where I am situated and Janela's house there are two lines of houses and I have to get through them. This is hell, I can't avoid the invitations. I try to sneak in but the guy catches me.
"Where are you going, come drink tea with us!"
He is a little drunk and looks like a hillybilly. He throughs some bread in front of me with some very strong and disgusting tea. His wife comes in, she looks like a beaten clown. She doesn't talk, she has a retarded look on her face like she was a child of two blood relatives which is probably the case here. He cheeks are red, she is probably beaten. She brings a half eaten plate where I can almost see the remains of her husbands saliva. I guess this counts as hospitality also. I get away from the table as fast as I can. While I sneak through the second house and meet the housewife.
"God help us!", she breathes in terror when she sees me. I told you I was exotic. She might never have seen a foreigner and one is appearing in her garden. My unusual look, broken travel shoes, repaired pants and Kalpak make me seem like a monster from a horror film.
I am invited to another table. I can't eat a single thing or drink a single drop of tea but I have to.
"Hi what are you doing here?" I am greeted to Janela's parents who are also invited. I get to meet Janela's school teacher who adores her, she tells me Jan was top of her class, so smart and everything and shame she didn't finish university. You don't have to convince me.
I also learn the family is in danger by being beaton or killed by someone who wants their money too much and Janela is in no way safe. I'm not in the least surprised, talks about kidnappings are part of my everyday life now.
Finally, I leave their company and reach my adoptive home and I see a rare phenomenon, Janela alone without her parents. Her brother is there but he usually has come sense and leaves us alone. Usually, that means when he doesn't have questions about computers which he often does. Janela's brother is a geek, he wants to do computer hardware and is very curious about everything, like me when I was his age, perhaps a little bit younger. Actually I like explaining that stuff to him because nobody could explain it to me. janela wants his brother to pursue his dream far from all these credits and interest rates. Basically everyone wants the other people to be happy except the mother who... I have no idea what she wants and how her mind works.
I also understand that this is a very huge step for her parents, for Kyrgyz parents from a village to admit that their daughter is going into a relationship with a foreigner that isn't even muslim.
That's why they don't admit it. Everybody knows what is going on but no one talks about it. I think the father is even encouraging it. He already treats me as part of the family.

Meanwhile, I keep in touch with Nata. She has begun hitchhiking towards Kyrgyzstan and is approaching the Russian-Kazakh border. I am very surprised this worked out. Our last conversation over skype had left me a very doubtful taste. I feel like Nata is running away from home instead of wanting to travel. Her journey through turkey hasn't been easy and she didn't have time to rest. That was also because of me, I didn't want to wait anymore, I basically left her with an ultimatum, either you hurry up or I go. So she decided to go.
Ana, on the other hand is still stuck somewhere on the Ouzbek border because Kyrgyzstan has closed borders.

For a few days now, me and Janela have planned to go to Karakol together. She should have some free time at last, away from all the chores the house requires. We could have the whole day, before she flies to siberia. But in the morning, Janela has some chores, I finally decide to go there alone, she should be in the city at 12. Finally she gets there at 3 PM... with her mother. This is so frustrating, what doesn't the mother understand? Is she blind, is she doing that on purpose? Her daughter is flying to Siberia for heaven's sake, is it so hard to understand she wants to be with her boyfriend for a while, does she need a conference of couple's relations or what? Or maybe our relationship is so contrary to every rule that any adaptation from her side would mean that she recognizes and approves the relationship and that is just too heavy to bear.
On the other hand the mother prepares me my favourite dish, manty, she even wakes up early for this so I guess she likes me. I just don't understand how her mind works.
Either way it is frustrating and I just want to tell Janela that this kind of relationship will not work: either she does something with her mother or we end everything right now, I've had enough of over-controlling mothers. But in the evening, when we have our ritual ten-minute talk, we feel on the same side, we are both stuck in the same prison of Kyrgyz traditions, we both want to be free but she doesn't see any solution right now. But I see so much good will that it is worth fighting for.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hitchhiking with a Kyrgyz girl

We leave towards Tokmok with a Marshutka. It is night already and I don't want to push Janela too much by hitchhiking out of the capital at night. It's about the most difficult type of hitchhiking and we might end up sleeping in a tent. And I also don't want to make Janela sleep in a tent when her eductation dictates that we shouldn't even speak to each other. This journey is about her feeling good before she goes to siberia, not awkward.
We make it to Tokmok bus station and walk a few kilometers to the intersection where Almas is supposed to pick us up. He doesn't want to walk in the streets of Tokmok because he says it is a criminal city. Janela likes him. She is amazed how my Kyrgyzstan is kind and hospitable. Compared to her Kyrgyzstan who put her family in debt for life, I'm not surprised by her wonder.
We arrive at Almas' place, the night is dark and Almas' neighbourhood is without electricity today. All the juice is gone. However, our beds are ready. Separate rooms, separate houses even. It's not Almas' fault, he was prepared to give us our own room but Janela would not have been confortable with it. Considering how well we get along I thought this separate room idea is a joke but actually no, it is not. Janela's religion reaches ridiculous levels but she still takes it seriously. This is so unreal that I have trouble understanding I am not in a movie. So far, Kyrgyzstan is definitly the country where muslim religion is the most applied to the letter.
Me and Almas drink a little too much that night and I remember (as I did and will do many times during this trip) that vodka is bad. I spend so much time fighting not to drink vodka during my travels that I don't understand how I will even manage to drink a drop willingly, with my friends at home.
Almas tells me I should think about marrying Janela if I'm sure about her and if she's healthy enough not to have too many problems in the future.
Almas and his family
Almas is going to Bishkek for a job interview. He forgot what the job is about but he is confident he will get it. He drives us to the bus station and we walk a little until we get the first lift. Me and Janela are hitchhiking!
This is so much unexpected for this country where so many things are based on many that I can't believe it's true. But Janela, inspite of her vulnerable and fragile appearance is not afraid to try new things.
The first lifts I negociate. As in many countries who don't have a reputation of hitchhiking, hitchhiking is easy for foreigners but impossible for other people. I don't say Janela is Kyrgyz, she is russian. But soon, she feels uncomfortable with the lies and we change the version several times.
I am worried that people would hit on Janela too much but surprinsingly enough, she handles them quite well.
"I am not as fragile as I look," she says, "I can take care of us if you trust me."
Trusting people has been one of my big issues because of the education I recieved from my family but I give it a try.
We first go to Burana, a big tower near Tokmok.
Janela climbing the stairs leading to the top of Burana
The legend tells that some psychopat king locked up his daughter inside that tower so that no man could have her. After having lived the most boring life in the world, an insect made his way to the tower and bit her and she died. Stupid king.
View from burana

We made a few more pictures and we are behaving more and more like a couple, it should scare me.
We depart from Tokmok in the early afternoon, still, it is not easy to reach Khadzi-Say. We get a lift to Balychy and there we get a few refused rides. Janela's morale gets down and up as with the failed or successful rides, it is that way with hitchhiking.
In Khadzhi-Say it is still light. The good lady welcomes us with a smile and open arms. She likes Janela and Janela likes her. Usually people like her because she listens to them and is affected by their emotions.
The red landscape is beautiful, as beautiful as ever. It contrasts with the blue lake and the view from the mountains is just stunning. It is not very difficult to impress Janela, she has never been on the red beach and she's the type of person with an unlimited sense of wonder. So she keeps repeating how beautiful and wonderful everything is.
red beach

We stay for the night and it was "too much cold". We have a nest there, as confortable as can be. We throw away the separate room tradition, it was getting on both of our nerves anyway.
We go exploring the Skazka Canyon. We've forgotten water and we go find some in a Yurt. People keep asking if Janela is my translator and how much am I paying her. Not a single Kyrgyz could imagine she could be my girlfriend although there was no other alternative for them with Ilona. I just want to say after hearing "translator" for the millionth time "I can survive with my bad russian thank you I don't need no translator and you can forget about selling Jan to your single brother you asshole because she is my girl!".
I later learned that there is a modern loophole in that strong tradition of theirs. I got the information from a Kyrgyz historian in a Marshutka in Bishkek. A stranger is allowed to date a local girl only if he pays an insane amout of money to her parents.
On the way to Skazka Canyon Janela gets her girl troubles, pretty bad. She's close to fainting but hurting because of this, she needs some painkillers at least. But this isn't how it works in Janela's head. Appearently it is shameful to be seen in that state and she suggests I let her lie for about five hours in the desert of the southern beach until she recovers some decency. Five hours in that sun that's life threatening, especially without water, what a stupid idea. But appearently, in this country a woman isn't allowed to show any sign of weakness related to her body, it's better to hide them.
Since I am european and I don't care about all that stuff she goes with me to the Skazka Canyon. We have to rest every hundered meters, each time Janela telling me that I should leave her alone under the sun because she's not in a decent state or whatever. This is almost as stupid as separate rooms.
We hitchhike a bus full of children which gets us just inside the canyon. They are going to Karakol, they are all part of a football team I think and they like us a lot.
Janela gets better after a while and we go climbing the red rocks. Well, I climb and Janela, pale with fear, keeps telling me to stop being stupid and that she'll tell my parents.
"How can you survive all four months on your trip, you're like a small child! You don't need a girlfriend you need a mother!" Haven't I heared that often.
Red rocks of Skazka
Then, we continue towards Karakol. Janela has taken over hitchhiking leadership in Kyrgyz language and it is working out pretty well. Her mother is calling her every half an hour as if I was a psychopath trying to steal her and as if she was a four year old.
It is getting quite annoying, I can't understand how anyone can live with parents like that without having a serious psychological condition. But Janela likes her parents, for her, everything is allright even if she admits her mother is exagarating a bit.
Hitchhiking with a Kyrgyz girl
We make it to the center of Karakol at night and we take a taxi to Tegizchil because we have to enter the village without any locals knowing about it because it's very bad to take a stranger home when you're a single girl; well, you know the story. Her parents welcome us warmly but suddenly this is the end of every second of our privacy. Curtains open and we are a public pair. We are watched. The mother is watching, the neighbours are watching, the village is watching. I could be starring in a holywood movie, I wouldn't be a more public person. But in the holywood movie at least, I would be paid for it.
My adoptive family

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bishkek at Asyl's place

Asyl really waited for me two whole hours. And a half. We were supposed to meet at 7, I'm there at 9.30. I don't even want to say what they say about girls coming home late in this country. But Asyl's living with he sister so I guess that's allright. I expected her to kill me with a Kyrgyz version of a hagarypunder but I was greeted by a smiley face: everything is fine, normal and please come home.
European people are so uptight about being always on time, here is much more tolerant. Of course I should be as tolerant as well.
Asyl is nineteen years old, she is from Saruu, she is studying her the first year of university in Bishkek. Something about clothes design. She lives with her sister and her six year old daugter in the far west of the capital, a new neighbourhood, still in the making. Her sister's husband isn't there, they either broke up, he ran away or simply died, most votes going for the third option unfortunately. There is no man at home to dictate the strong Kyrgyz tradition that a man should not sleep at an unmarried girl's place. So I can go there.
The house is made of mud, there is only one room and a hallway. There is no bathroom and no toilet. It is common for houses to miss bathrooms and toilets in that place. Even in the capital.
There are no roads with asphalt on them, only dirt roads. There is electricity though. If we want to wash, we heat water and we wash in front of the house. I saw some neighbours do it. It must be really annoying in winter.
From afar, the house really looks like the kind of house children build for fun, in the summer. The main difference is it has electricity.
I sleep in the hallway, that way I have my own room and the girls have privacy. Asyl has her own way of handeling me being in her house. No fuss, no unecessary politeness, she treats me like a brother, her long time fried with an emphasis on distance because we still are Kyrgiz and Foreigner, boy and girl.
She's smart and able but she's also a teenager and moody, you feel the hormones raging across her Ukrainians genes. She definitly has some traits of Nata although I am sure Ilona would want to disagree.
"Come on drink tea, we are late!" She complains as if it was my fault althought she woke up at 9 instead of the intended 7 AM. There is tea, some bread, a cup of honey, the richness of the house.
Really it is appearent that these people are living on the edge of poverty as we would say in europe. It doesn't appear that way here in Kyrgyzstan of course; Asyl goes to university, her sister has a job and they are one of the lucky ones to own a house. But every morning Asyl takes a symbolic portion of honey with her symbolic piece of bread. She's not trying to be thin, she's trying to save for later. The piece of bread isn't bigger than her thumb, she eat it, she takes another one and another one, trying to forget that by eating microscopic pieces of bread she will end up eating the whole thing.
Still, she eats a fifth of what I do even though I end up eating like her. It's one of these moments where it makes a difference to eat people's food or not because they just won't have anything for later.
Asyl is working at a sewning atelier after her studies. She is good at it and good at handling customers. She's often working late into the night and she puts more into the atelier than into her studies. But if she doesn't she doesn't have money and they don't have enough to keep the family afloat.
She wants to go to America like pretty much everyone in the country. Because of that, she needs to speak english. I don't know what are the english standarts for America but I guess there are not far from bilingual. Asyl has a long way to go.
Everyday I help to bring water to the house from the neighbourhood water pipe situated about fifty meters from Asyl's house. The whole neighbourhood takes its water there. They are all waiting with their buckets to fill them up and then to their respective homes.
I am usually on water duty with the sister's little girl.
"What do you want to do later?", I ask
"Anyway, there will be no space for me in kindergarten" says the little girl.
She likes me a lot. And I don't know how to handle the kid sometimes.
Asyl is a tireless student. She has to learn from zero but she's always ready to talk, to repeat a sentence a thousand times.
From time to time, she buys some food. Not much, just some bread, some sugar. Sometimes not even bread, they can make it at home in an owen which is nothing more than a metal box somehow heated with electricity.
Often, I go with Asyl to the sewing Atelier. Some other girls are working there, all pretty and all single. They are working in the clothing business so no wonder they can dress. They are already stunning when they go to work without anything but when Nuri dresses up as little as only for her turkish lesson, she is so impressive I am afraid to talk to her. Nuri strikes me as a little naive, maybe even a little shallow but has a kind heart and a welcoming personality. Her sister is more serious, she's her older sister maybe. She knows english a bit better and you feel she thinks before every word, as if everything had a goal, she could be a good manipulator and maybe she is, but to me, she is kind and protective.
The third girl who works there is an energic business character, she finished her studies and works two jobs. She's one of those who doens't sleep but wears make-up to hide it. She's also pretty successful in what she does.
While the girls are working like crazy at the sewing atelier, I am talking english with them and correcting some mistakes. I am not doing anything, really but they all seem to like me. In the morning, after I've had Asyl's breakfest they prepare me another one with a lot of candies, I just can't resist and nor can I refuse. Nuri is the main organiser of me feeling myself at home but actually I feel myself more in a harem. At noon, the girls buy me lunch, they take it from the nearby restaurant and while I am the only one who doesn't pay anything I get the biggest portion.
"We can't eat that much, we are girls," says Nuri, "Kyrgyz guys like thin girls, we have to take care of ourselves. But men need to eat!"
They tell me stories about how french girls are beautiful and how they would like to have their silouhette and charm.
"I don't want to send my boyfriend to Paris, he might never return," I heard one Kyrgyz lady
"He will return", I had said to her, "but with a depression"

While I am being taken care of from all sides, Janela is worried about if I have anything to eat. She buys me strawberries and cooks me Manti, my favourite Kyrgyz dish. Everyone is telling me how my trip is great, how I am so brave.
My life is unfolding calmly and nicely in Bishkek and my ego is climbing to heights that make your head spin.

Janela is so nice to me. We had a date in the park in Bishkek where we tried to see our videos from the Karaoke club. She brought le strawberries but I sat on them by accident. It didn't seem to upset her the least. We talk, we talk, and there is no uncomfortable subject despite the many harsh stories we had in our lives, especially hers. We get more hating looks from jealous Kyrgyz boys but I am starting to get used to it.

But one day, as in most stories, everything changed. Asyl's sister's boyfriend came to see her, he slept one night in the house. He looked like the kind of bit stupid macho guy, nothing interesting about him but what do I care.
"You're not afraid to come home so late? Here in the middle of Kyrgyzstan." he asks me when I return from Janela's and meet him and his sister in the marshutka home.
"And what about you?" I ask him but I don't think he appreciates the sarcasm. I don't feel like a stranger in this country anymore. My russian is better, I take marshutkas, I give english lessons, I am even dating a Kyrgyz girl. So I don't need lessons from a guy I met for five minutes.

We don't speak much but he seems friendly overall. The next day Asyl has something to say to me. The guy made a scandal, he called Asyl's parents and told them a guy was staying at their house whils neither Asyl nor her sister were married and appearently that is a very bad thing. The mother called her daughters immediatly and told them that it was Ok if I teach Asyl's english but staying home, that's out of the question. I have to go out at once.

I gather my things in a matter of minutes and I litteraly flee the house. Asyl is throwing worried looks around, as if somebody could see me and kill us both. Her boyfriend is coming to pick her up and we have to leave in separate marshutkas. So they were worried me and Asyl might start something. She is nineteen for god's sake how is it even possible to think that I could be interested in a 19 year old teenager?!

I am too tired to try to find another solution, plus, I have already taken a shouwer (I mean washed myself in front of Asyl's house) and I would welcome a night in a tent to rest from all these scandals and traditions that I have trouble understanding.
I take a marshutka to Kant, neighbouting city of Bishkek, walk a bit into the night, discarding people selling me prostitutes and I finally find a decent place for my tent in a field. Asyl is worried sick, she's prepared to hide me at her place with all the consequences, I reassure her by lying that I have a place to stay in Kant, some friend with a house.
Janela is worried as well, I spend my night reassuring people. I feel I am the only one in a good psychological condition.

While I juggle with places to stay in the capital, I meet Gulmira, a customer at Asyl's atelier at first. She is about 50 and she travels a lot. Not like me but on cruises, more organised trips, that kind of stuff. However, she has some understanding for what I do and she sees it in a positive light. She likes to talk but she has interesting things to say. She has studied biochemistry, she's been a teacher and is actually a very interesting person.
We talk at her place, she invites me for dinner, it has been ages I haven't eaten meat.
Her daughter also comes. She is pretty and she has this sad and mysterious look in her face. A little harsh perhaps, a little fierce also, as she has been through some troubles but her light always burns. She doesn't like me. She is weary. Sly people, making their way into their place, taking advantage of others, she has seen many. She gives me this look saying: "don't make a fool out of me, I wasn't born yesterday".
I like her style, it is interesting. She doesn't talk much. She understands english but prefers to speak russian. Perfectionist.
Since she doesn't like me I have nothing to lose so I don't care about being tactless or not. I play with her son, he has a tablet computer like me and he shows me mindcraft. He's a funny little guy, he likes to build stuff and technology, he would be well suited with a lego mindstorms.

The daughter comes to like me more over the course of dinner or at least to hate me less. I am happy about that improvement. She even decides to drive me to the south of Bishkek so that I build my tent somewhere in the mountains where nobody can see me. She is worried now.
"I might be a pessimist but you're not just optimistic, you are crazy!"
I think all this is very funny. And actually, it helps; when people worry about me, I don't have to worry myself.
We are three in the car. A friend of hers wanted to go with her because she wanted to see who I am, my story and stuff. Turns out that was a lie, she was afraid for her friend.
"When she told me she was going alone to drive some tourist in the middle of the night to a dark place south of Bishkek where nobody lives I just said: no way!"
I haven't thought about it that way but yes, it makes some sense. Over the course of the trip, Aidai, that is her name transitted from worrying for her friend to worrying about me. They left me on the side of the road, telling me that I am crazy and that they will worry very much.
I slept like a baby, only waken up by a thousand phone calls from the one thousand newly found mothers in Bishkek.

The next night, Asyl kidnapped me to her place in Bishkek. Her sister was too much worried. The traditions don't matter, they're going to hide me. Janela is reassured.
Maybe you wonder why Janela cannot host me? She lives as a guest, in Bishkek, at some woman's house that she calls her big sister. They have a strong relationship running over years but this relationship would be destroyed in five minutes if she were to bring a stranger to her home. This is how strong this tradition is.

The next day, Janela calls me. Her job is finished, her medical stuff she had to take care of also. We can meet and go. We will hitchhike through the south side of the lake through Karakol. She is scared of that perspective, it is too new for her but we will do it.
The same day I meet Aiperi from the language center. I am to give a talking circle today at 4:30 and another one at 6. I will be free at 7PM. It will be night already but we will manage.
I get to a room, about 20 students there. They are 17,18,19 and some twenty. I have been introdued as a tourist who doesn't speak russian. Unfortunately the students didn't speak english that well so I slipped some russian words in the explanation whe Aiperi wasn't listening too much.
I talked about my trip to Kamchatka, my way of travelling, my good experiences, my bad ones.
They were interested. Some of them found it boring of course but it was a success overall.
I think Aiperi, the owner of the language center liked it.
She is a girl which I didn't come to understand yet. She is a person of contrasts. She can seem like a shark at times; she has constructed this company from nothing when she was barely twenty! On the other hand she can seem kind and caring. She can smile and you wonder if behind that smile she likes you or if she wants to kill you. Definitly a person that I would be interested to know better if I find some time which I probably won't.

At 7PM I take my bag and run from the language center to meet Janela. She comes, she is ready with her small backpack and a little red bag. I call to Almas in Tokmok; he is there. It is late already and I don't want to put Janela through night hitchhiking. It is new enough for her already. Me and Janela, we take a marshutka to Tokmok. After a long time, on the road again!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ride to Bishkek

I really have to get to Tokmok and I really have to get to Bishkek. In Tokmok, Almas is waiting for me and I promised Asyl to teach her english. From what I heard about Janela, her dentist takes too much time so she'll have to quit her job. That means more time. Plus, this Aiperi from the language center asked me to give talking circles.
And last but not least, I need to organise this hitchhiking journey with Janela. It is her first hitchhiking, not counting the few rides from Karakol to her home in Tegizchil. Since hitchhiking is so strange for her as it is for all people in Kyrgyzstan, she'll be afraid and I want everything to work out fine.
There is already enough which goes against every possible tradition that I can't add to it sleeping in a tent. If taking to me as a non-muslim foreigner is bad, sleeping in a tent with a Kyrgyz girl is super-bad. Plus, it's getting cold.
That means that I have to secure two nights, two places we can sleep at for free because neither of us would have money to spend for shelter. I have to go to these places and find out if the people there would be OK with it. The bus to Karakol costs 300 soms (5 euros) per person, we have to organise our adventure for less.
The first person I go to see on my way is Nelsu in Khadzhi-Say. I just pass by, to say hello. She has trouble with the internet and I manage to repair it and everything is fine. I can't stay for the night so the good lady forces me a bag of cooked eggs as well as a hundered soms so I don't die on my way.
I think it will probably be ok if we stay with Janela. I want to make it to Tokmok tonight but I only get Balykhchy. A truck coming all the way from Kumtor gold mine goes with me through the bad roads of the south side to the city of fish how they call it. It gets stuck in mud in a village where some friends give him a goat. In Balykhchy my truck hits another car. I don't even feel the crash, this is a super heavy american truck which is made for heavy terrain, anything heavier which can ride on roads would be a tank.
The car stops in front of the truck and another two cars join. We are asieged. An angry guy starts yelling at my driver. They didn't notice that I'm here. I am getting bored of the scene, I start to eat my eggs. I just check from time to time if a fight isn't starting, it wouldn't be cool to eat eggs during a fight. After a while they go somewhere and I get out of the car. The only person who stays is the most angry driver's wife. Being a female, she is the most reasonable person to talk to in a conflictual situation.
"Oh... you were two in there"
"Yeah. Hi. I'm Filip, tourist from Czech Republic"
"Oh. Nice to meet you"
The husband comes back with more of his friends, more angry and more vodka. He looks at me as if I were an alien from space.
"Hi, I'm Filip, a tourist from Czech Republic."
The guy looks at me as if I just confirmed him I was an alien from space.
They argue, argue but I don't think there is going to be a fight. I tell them I'll be on my way then. I take my bag and walk away from this city which is considered dangerous anyway. Balykhchy and Tokmok, dangerous cities in Kyrgyzstan or so they say. I walk into a field and put up a tent. I eat all the food Neslu from Kadzhi-Say gave me and everything is great.

I get to Tokmok, the next day in the morning with an armenian-russian couple who invites me to drink vodka in Balykhchy. Armenian roots... why am I not surprised? In Tokmok I meet Almas and I stay there until 7PM. I ask him if I can spend the night at his place with Janela and he says yes.
Everything is setteled then, except me being in Bishkek. Asyl is getting worried, she started calling me all the time. In Kyrgyzstan, I have one thousand mothers.
"Call me when you get in a car," says Asyl, "tell me if you get out of the car"
I get a ride to Ivanovka, about halfway between Tokmok and Kant. I have to hitch from the center, no time to get through the whole city. Nobody stops and night. Nobody, really. I have a deadline and this is starting to get stressful. Only taxis and sometimes not even them. At last a normal car stops. Actually it is also a taxi but he accepts to take me for free. Well, accepts is a big word. he kept asking if I could give him a hundered dollars for the whole two hours it took to arrive.