Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 5, 2013

As hard as I tried, it was impossible for me to sleep the whole night through without emptying my bladder at least once. At about four in the morning, the pressure became unbearable and I had to slip on my jeans, a sweater and a shawl to go right outside the house and pee on the side of it for Gulnaz had said it was all right not to try and make it to the outhouse in the dark.

I went back to bed, but was unable to go back to sleep since shortly after that I heard voices in the corridor and people started streaming past the window. I got up as well hoping to have some of that fake coffee I’d brought with me and after brushing my teeth and washing my face with some freezing water, found out that an uncle of Gulnaz, and his very young second wife, had driven all night from Bishkek to pay them a visit.

The morning was gorgeous with clear skies, a breeze flowing through the spare trees that made a melodious sound all around and the mountains could be seen in the distance in all their glory. It was really a pity that we couldn’t stay longer to enjoy the beauty and quietude of the place.

I had three cups of 3-1 coffee and a piece of the cake we’d brought the day before while refusing the dry flat bread and the pieces of fried dough left from the dinner last night. Gulnaz’ brother offered to take us to the point where we could catch a marshrutka into town and we took some photos with the family before saying goodbye.

Gulnaz and Aiperi rode with us back to Bazaar Korgun as the first needed to photocopy some documents for Elvira and the second was going back to the village of Sputnik where our guesthouse was located. We picked up our bags there and waited for the driver that would take us back to Osh to then locate another driver for the final leg of our trip into Batken.

This driver turned out to be an obnoxious boor who smoked inside the car and played the kind of music you’d expect to hear at a nightclub. I tried to tell him I had a headache and he did turn it down a notch, but no enough to keep the thumping sounds from reverberating throughout the car.

We had an hour and half wait in Osh while the driver got three other passengers. We went to nearby café and ordered lagman noodles and a pot of tea. I needed some lozenges and chewing gum, so we went around the bus terminal trying to find those items and then returned to wait some more.

The driver here claimed no one drove straight into Batken, so he was going to take us half way there and then we would need to find another taxi. It turned out this wasn’t true, but it was too late for us as we had to endure the most excruciating ride over a pot-holed section of highway with so much dust flying around that the windows had to kept rolled up all the time.

I was suffocating and had the afternoon sun directly on my right hand side. The strap on my handbag had finally given in and now I needed to hold it on my lap along with my laptop and the black bag full of teaching supplies. My throat was so parched I could barely swallow.

We had to go through a sliver of land that belongs to Uzbekistan and the driver warned me about the possibility of the guards asking for my passport. They didn’t, but looked menacing enough to make me squirm in my seat. Three and a half hours later, the driver pulled into a terminal.

When we got into the god-forsaken place where we were to find another taxi, and such arrangements were made by Elvira, I made a beeline to the nearest place where a beer could be purchased. I found a very cold one and started drinking right there on the sidewalk, since tables were not available, and drew the stares of many men around the terminal.

There was a public toilet across the street and I was so thirsty that I think I managed to drink the full bottle of beer in three chugs before using the facilities. The young male attendant refused to charge us the usual 5 soms fee.

It was another two and half hours to reach Batken. The landscape wasn’t anything spectacular and I even think I managed to snooze a few times. We got to the guesthouse that the Forum coordinator had arranged for us to stay at and then all hell broke loose for he had reserved a room facing the street and the noise from the traffic with two separate sleeping areas, but a common sitting area and a bathroom.

I was exhausted and had been looking forward to having a chance to relax in a private room away from any source of noise. I had been adamant about this requirement from the moment Elvira proposed traveling south with me. She now said this one room was all the guesthouse had to offer and I refused to accept that.

She called the coordinator, who called the owner, as they were personal friends and negotiations started. I collapsed on the loveseat in the seating area and just closed my eyes, which bloodshot from the lack of sleep and dust on the road, when Elvira sat in the other chair and turned on the TV to flip through the channel while waiting for the owner to show up and remedy the situation.

I had a meltdown and stomped out of the living room and into one of the bedrooms loudly slamming the door hoping she’d the message that I needed peace and quiet and not a dam television blaring into the room after a full day of listening to thumping music all the way from Bazaar Kurgon.

I had just lied down for a few minutes when the owner came in and immediately agreed to give me a room of my own. He took me to the second floor where I found a room with three single beds lining the walls, a small TV set and a table and chair. The attached bathroom fulfilled all of my requirements even when it was less than pristine.
It was already seven o’clock by the time we went out to search for a place to eat. I was tense, frustrated and exhausted and didn’t take lightly to Elvira’s comments that the owner of the guesthouse could see how “capricious” I was and that had been the reason for his giving in.

I reminded her that I had told her months ago that my only two requirements for a hotel room were that it be quiet and had an attached bathroom. Her retort was that I wasn’t the only person in the universe and I couldn’t always get what I wanted. I replied that I could at least ask and not just blindly accept what the person offered the first time especially when I was paying money for it and not necessarily begging for something.

We found only two places open and neither offered anything I cared to eat. I was really famished having eaten only a bowl of lagman soup for lunch. I finally had to settle for the rice soup I don’t necessarily care for and really had to keep my eyes on it to keep myself from bawling my head off. I didn’t even finish it and just pushed it aside. Elvira had that combination of corkscrew pasta with no sauce, boiled buckwheat, mashed potatoes and fried cutlet that didn’t appeal to my senses either.

On the way back to our rooms, I inquired as to the availability of a stove to make coffee in the morning since I knew that breakfast was included in the price of the room. The owner came out of the reception area half dressed and took us to an ugly room with several beds and a table where an ancient two burner hot plate sat.

I told him I didn’t want to disturb whoever slept in that room at the crack of dawn and neither did I want to have to get dressed to travel from my building to that one. I told him to just forget about it and that I’d make do in some form the next day.

It was my sister’s Esther birthday today, so before going to sleep, I sent her a short message wishing her a good day.

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