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.