April 21, 2013
It isn’t the first time that I have stayed somewhere that has intermittent water. Back when I did some homestays in Armenia, I learned that the water for the entire building is shut off in the middle of the day. I got it, though. Most of those places had faucets that didn’t shut off completely, so it had a real purpose. At my hotel in Turkistan, there were no leaky faucets, just a cheap old man running the place. I had hear someone come up the stairs go in the bathroom and then back down shortly after. I figured it was the old mad turning things on for the day, and it was. I quickly gathered things for a shower and got in there before he could change his mind. The shower faucet was about 3 feet off the ground and stuck out about 2 feet from the wall. This is important because I wasn’t able to get the shower head to work and had to squat underneath the faucet to bathe myself. To conserve hot water, I shut off the faucet while lathering my hair and skin. Even so, the old bastard shut off the water before I could finish rinsing. How do I know it was him and nothing else? The toilet always had water to flush. So, I then used the towel, which was better suited for exfoliating, to dry off and get on with the day.
The one helpful thing that the old man did for me was call a friend to drive me to the abandoned city of Sauran. It’s similarity to Sauron made it awesome enough to visit, but with desolate ruins, too? This is a must see! I spent two hours farting around getting a sunburn as I took photos (mostly B&W film), tried to video tape a falcon/hawk as it hunted and perched about the ruins, and played with some of the 5 tortoises I found ambling about. Satisfied with the visit, I went back to town for lunch.
If you have ever had the feeling you walked in on someone else’s soap opera, then my lunch will make perfect sense to you. The place was recommended by the hotel owner. I had ignored him before, but he insisted again. It must be good, right? Well, the food was good. He got that right. The people there? Weird. The owner was a middle aged Russian and she was the most normal of the bunch. Then there was the Kazakh business man who insisted on speaking in a mix of Russian and Kazakh as if I would understand. He finally called someone that knew English to explain that he wanted me to go to his house. What for? To listen to you speak in a language I don’t understand? Hell no. He probably wanted a drinking buddy so he wouldn’t have to work. The funniest bit about him was that the female that he called for translation kept hanging up on him, presumably to shut him up. Finally, there was the mid 40’s Russian waitress that wanted me to wait around for her 14 year old daughter so she could practice her English. Nothing strange about that, really, but when I pulled out my journal to catch up while I waited, she kept coming over to learn more about me. Hey! Can’t you see that I’m writing over here! As the only sucker in the place, I kept wishing that someone would come so she would have something to do. Well, after an hour of this, I left. I promised that I would return at 8 that evening so her daughter could practice.
In the meantime, I went to the local museum and learned that all Kazakh museums are pretty much all the same. They have a very nice yurt set up on the ground floor, and assortment of artifacts of Kazakh and preceding (particularly Scythian) cultures, a gallery of Soviet heroes, a gallery of Soviet atrocities and victims, and my favorite, post Soviet Kazakhstan. That last translates into a Nazarbaev propaganda gallery. What made this visit more interesting that the others is that I was accompanied by a Kazakh family of a mother and three children. The two oldest, a brother and sister, knew some English. He went on to say that he’s into politics and that he doesn’t like Nazarbaev. I started looking around. He does realize that there are employees of the state here, right? I guess he feels safe doing so. That’s a good sign for Kazakhstan, at least.
I then went to the Yasaui Mausoleum to catch the late afternoon light since that side of the mausoleum has the colorful tiles that make it so beautiful and such a revered pilgramage site. The clouds foiled that a bit, but you win some and you lose some.
When I returned from dinner, I defnitely didn’t want to speak English with that womans daughter and potentially get trapped. I wanted to shower. Once I tracked down the old man, I told him to turn on the water. He told me to wait until the morning. I stood firm and repeated that I wanted it now. He begrudgingly agreed. I figured his reluctance was, in part, due to his drunkeness, but when you own a hotel you have to deal with those pesky, customer-types sometimes.