Monday, May 27, 2013

May 26, 2013

I found a message from Asel in my inbox in which she was asking if I could pay to hire a taxi for the round trip to Naryn and for Willoughby to pay the cost of transportation from the city of Naryn and the actual village where the training sessions were scheduled to take place. She claimed that Forum had no funds to pay for such outing, but I know for a fact that that’s not true.

I didn’t bother replying since I had told her already on Saturday that my PAA money needed to be spent under strict guidelines and approved by the embassy ahead of time. It was too late to submit a budget and I wasn’t even sure that they would consider the need for four trainers to travel to this hamlet in the middle of nowhere.

I had a chance to briefly skype with my sister and brother-in-law, mostly about my mom’s condition and the impending task of letting her know, in no uncertain terms, that her living-on-her-own phase was coming to an end. Evidently, that task will fall on me upon my return to the States.

I took a taxi to meet Asel, Gulnara and Willoughby at KNU since I was carrying too many handouts, magazines and my own stuff. Willoughby was sitting on one the benches outside doing her knitting while waiting for the rest of the party. I found it odd that we were scheduled to leave at noon with no arrangements whatsoever being made for lunch.

A taxi was waiting nearby and once we got in, he was instructed to stop at a nearby bazaar so Asel and Gulnara could buy things to munch on during the drive. I got the front seat and made myself as comfortable as I could for what I thought would be a 3-4 ride. At the first stop, I learned the trip would be much longer than that, perhaps six hours.

My questions regarding the hotel Asel and I were expected to share, what dinner plans there were and what the schedule was for the next day were answered in vague terms and Willoughby gave me that look indicating I should stop pestering Asel and Gulnara with those kinds of questions.

                            Entrance to the region of Naryn

As soon as we reach the mountains, a fine rain started to fall and the wind picked up. When we got into Naryn around five, I would not call this a city by any means, it was definitely cold and very windy. I requested a stop to use the bathroom since my stomach was still unsettled and I wanted to have a cup of my 3-in-1 coffee. I took a Lomotil pill just in case hoping that overnight most of the pain would go away.

It took another two hours to reach the village of At Bashy, we were close to the Chinese border Gulnara informed us, where without any prior announcement or explanation, Gulnara instructed me to switch into another car and then this car took off with a local teacher in it who explained she was taking me to my hotel. I tried to tell her that Asel and I were sharing a room and I needed to wait for her.

To make a story short, the decision must have been made between Asel and Gulnara, I suspect, that I was not to go to Gulnara’s brother’s house and that Asel didn’t have enough money to pay for the hotel room, so I was packed away on my own. The taxi drove into a muddy courtyard where my socks immediately got wet when stepped out as I cursed under my breath.

The teacher, Saltanat, made all attempts to apologize for the awful conditions, but there was nothing she could do or say that would relieve the dreadful feeling I had of having been abandoned without even an explanation as to where we would meet the next day. Saltanat took me into a home where the family rents rooms for the day, basically a home-stay arrangement, and one where I wasn’t happy to see about seven children under ten floating around.

I was given a room with no lock or key and the woman got busy covering the basic korpacha with a new duvet. There were other people apparently having dinner in the room next to my own, but I didn’t care for even smelling what I suspected would be shorpo or even worse, beshbarmak. Saltanat had a funeral to go to, but insisted on coming back and checking on me later on.

I had had no breakfast whatsoever, no lunch but a few pieces of flat bread and cheese and now no prospect of dinner either. I was so furious I could I felt like screaming. I called Willoughby, who still riding in the taxi on her way to Gulnara’s brother’s house, and explained the situation. She confirmed she hadn’t heard any agreement about my staying on my own and felt very sorry for me.

She handed the phone to Gulnara who acknowledged she didn’t know the conditions for this “hotel” as she kept referring to it, but as a far as the outside pit toilet was concerned there was no way getting around it since that was also what her brother had. I lamented that no one had conferred with me before making that selection and hung up on her.

I had had the wherewithal’s to bring my tablet with me and could at least read for a little while before Saltanat returned and accompanied me to another malodorous toilet on the edge of the vegetable garden, and one that I’d be hard pressed to find on my own at two in the morning. I decided that no food or drink was passing my lips that night, brushed my teeth at the sink located in the entryway and went to bed hungry and angry. 

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