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.