April 20, 2013
Midnight turns over the day, but without the clear separation that I need to feel rested. I was tired and really wanted to sleep on the train as it loped along the Central Asian steppe towards Shymkent, but the boy that had earlier played with the bubbles his sister had just wouldn’t go down to bed. He must have been stoked about being on a train with what must have seemed like endless play opportunities. Whatever the reason for his hyperactivity, it continued past midnight. He parents tried every strategy imaginable since he was literally the only thing preventing the train car from being completely silent. He lasted to nearly 1AM before the 18 month old finally went silent.
I didn’t disembark until noon in Shymkent. There, I walked around a bit and decided there was nothing of interest there. So, I grabbed a mashrutka (shared minivan taxi) to the bus station, went to the historic city of Turkistan and found a hotel. Turkistan has two claims to fame (in Kazakhstan). Most importantly, it is the home of the most beautiful building in the country, a mausoleum for an Islamic scholar in the 12th century that gave the Koran a cultural reference the Turkic tribes could better relate to, and thus, expand the faith. The other is that it was the seat of the Kazakh khanate before the Russians subjugated them. In others words, there wasn’t much to do here either, but there were day trips planned outside of the city, so I decided to stay two nights.
The hotel owner is an old man, presumably a widower. He lives there and I couldn’t find evidence of a wife. He informed me that there was a traveler from France two doors down. I’m not sure it was his place to share that information, but I wanted to compare notes. So, I delicately phrased a note asking if he/she wanted to talk and went for dinner. I came back to see that the had been returned, simply stating “Knock at my door”. Thierry is 49 and an avid traveler to ‘random’ places, just as I am. We actually talked minimally about traveling, focusing on marriage. He doesn’t believe in it at all, whereas I do, but… honestly, haven’t been trying very hard recently. I was late by then, so, I turned it in near midnight. All I had to do was brush my teeth…. with no running water. So, I used my potable water to do that and turn it in.