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