Friday, August 9, 2013

In which B gets robbed and we go to Osh

May 21, 2013 
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We decided to wear our new Chinglish t-shirts.

Initially we’d planned to taxi out to a nearby village in order to go horseback riding, but we awoke to yet another dreary, drizzly day – not at all the kind of day you want to spend on a horse. Instead we decided to take a taxi over to Osh, as it was only an hour and a half away and perhaps might have clearer weather. While walking down Toktogul Street, we heard someone call out from a balcony as we passed, “Hello! Where are you from?” in a very American accent. It turned out that we had been walking past the Jalalabad office of a US government funded group, and the young woman who was calling out to us (C) was one of their employees.

We chatted with C for a little bit, and learned that even though on the surface things in Jalalabad seem really calm and everyone seems to get along, there’s a lot of tension right underneath the surface. We exchanged contact info, then C headed back to work and we headed off to catch a taxi.

In order to reach the taxi touts at the far end of the bazaar, we had to walk through a crowd of people. B got jostled (or as he put it, “violated”) by a group of tracksuit wearing youth, and found himself pick-pocketed and out 2300 som ($40ish). Justifiably, this put him in rather a foul mood for the rest of the day. I would however, like to point out that it could have been a lot worse. He had initially put his wallet with all of his money in his pocket. I had admonished him against taking so much with him on a day trip to Osh, so he ended up leaving his wallet and most of his cash in the homestay. You’re welcome. Hah!

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What has it got in its pocketses?

We negotiated a decent price for a taxi, but again we didn’t have great luck with our driver. While he wasn’t a horrible driver by any means (especially not when compared to our nightmare ride to Bazar Korgon), for some unknown reason he stopped the car in a small village about half an hour outside of Osh, hopped out, and said he’d be right back. And then was gone for half an hour. Then, when we got to Osh, he tried to pressure us into agreeing to hire him to drive us back to Jalalabad when we were ready to go. Um, no. For one thing, we had no idea what time we’d be leaving the city. For another, he’d delayed us by a half an hour for no clear reason. C’mon, dude!

Osh was depressing. Granted, it was a dreary, overcast day, but the Osh I remember from 2008 was a vibrant,active place. Back in 2008, the Jayma Bazaar was a jam-packed and bustling place, filled with lively sellers who traded pleasant banter with everyone who passed, local and tourist alike. The bazaar was torched during the events ofJune 2010 (which affected Osh as well as Jalalabad), and it has obviously not fully recovered. While there were plenty of traders around the periphery, they seemed to go about their business rather solemnly. The central part of the bazaar was nearly a ghost town. Much of it was empty, and some places still showed scorch marks. Remembering the active bazaar of 2008 made walking through the silent center of the Jayma Bazaar an eerie experience. And the building with the big sign reading Миру-Мир (peace on earth) was completely gone.

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We headed for the park for the purpose of finding the old Aeroflot Yak-40 – cum – movie theater – cum tourist attraction to photograph. While it hasn’t operated as a movie theater for some time, back in 2008 the thing was decently maintained, and you could pay a few soms to go inside and have your photo taken. Now it is merely a derelict shell filled with filth. Next to it, however, was a ferris wheel – which of course B and I rode. None of us had any interest in climbing Suleiman-too, so we wandered through the park for a bit (accidentally ending up in the local lovers’ lane), and then we decided to head back to Jalalabad.

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B in the ferris wheel with Suleiman-too in the background

At the bus station we negotiated a good price for the return trip and hopped into the driver’s van. When the cars parked behind him didn’t promptly move out of the way, the driver hopped out. I suspect he planned to round up the drivers of said cars, berate them, and get them to move out of his way. However, he forgot to set the parking brake and left the van in neutral, meaning that when he hopped out, the van started rolling. He scrambled to get back in, but was unsuccessful, and we rolled smack into the car behind us (albeit at a very slow speed). The accident was so slow-moving that it surely couldn’t have caused much (if any) damage to either vehicle. But nonetheless, both drivers got into a huge argument, and pretty soon nearly every taxi driver in the vicinity had chimed in. Our departure was delayed by a good 20-25 minutes. Sigh.

Just outside of Osh, our car was stopped by a traffic cop. Our driver blatantly paid a 60som ($1.10ish) bribe (this involved an ostentatious hug and handshake, during which the money surreptitiously changed hands), and then we were on our way “home” to Jalalabad.

We returned to Jalalabad around 5pm, made plans to meet up with C for dinner around 8pm, and then called Hayat (as he was far more reliable than the local CBT coordinator) to arrange transport for the following day. Dinner with C was lovely (except for the part where a rather inebriated local woman forced me to dance with her).

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B ordered a salad called ёжик, which means hedgehog. And it looked like a hedgehog.

We also learned that the Kyrgyz word for mud is баткак. For those of you who don’t read Cyrillic, that’s essentially pronounced butt cock. This will never, ever get old.

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