May 17, 2013
The nightmare was over. I had been transported. Gone was the moonscape of the Pamirs. Gone was the freeze-dried climate of the high country. What greeted me that morning was comfortable coolness and embracing humidity. Osh was the lush polar opposite for what I had known the past week or so, and it put a smile on my face. It may be the only time in my life that humidity brought such glee.
I ordered breakfast and was quickly drawn in to the story being told by three Americans that had arrived that morning. A single male and a married couple had just completed the long journey from Kashgar. While the journey was not unique, the fact that they were turned away from the Chinese border was. As active military personnel learning Chinese in Beijing, they had planned a trip through Western China to Osh and on to the Pamir Mountains before going back to Beijing. Fully aware of the sensitive and fickle nature of the border crossings in Western China, they went out of their way to make sure that they had all of the proper paperwork and that the Torugart Pass crossing was open. Well, it wasn’t open. At least it wasn’t for them. They were told to go back after a day’s journey to get to the border and return to Kashgar and set off for the Irkeshtam crossing. Two days wasted as a result. Their experience made me remorseful for being so frustrated with my journey to Kyrgyzstan.
Even so, I couldn’t muster more than a polite hello to Max as he came into the Osh Guesthouse after his hitch from Sary Tash. Sjoerd, Takayuki, and I were headed out after a lazy morning to make the encounter more clumsy. Knowing Max’s need for space and comfort, I figured that there was little chance that he would stay in a place where there was one toilet and shower for the 10+ people staying in a 3 room flat and where shuffling past others was the norm. However, that slight chance would preoccupy my mind until I knew for sure.
After Takayuki and Sjoerd said hello, we headed out into Osh. Before we could get to the city’s major bazaar, we were drawn to the first soft serve ice cream we saw. Ahhh! The sweet comforts of the urban landscape! The only flavor you will find is vanilla, but they put some sort of crushed cocoa/chocolate sprinkling on top. So, you choices are small, medium, and large servings. For about 10 cents, I was content with a small and we carried on to the market. The only person with real purpose was Sjoerd, who needed an SD card/USB adapter so he could transfer photos to Takayuki’s computer as backup until the end of his trip. Takayuki and I were along for the trip, randomly picking at the curiosities in the market.
With the purchase made, Sjoerd and I wanted some sort of assurance that there would be nomadic families at their jailoos, or summer mountain pastures, so we could book at least one night in a traditional yurt. After lunch, we found the CBT office, but the travel agent wasn’t there. We instead ended up talking to a very lovely English tutor and her student. Well… not so much the student. Come back tomorrow was the advice we got.
At that point, we had differing agendas, so we spilt. I went to get a wad of Kyrgyz som and do laundry. While it dried outside our 5th floor window, I went to an internet café and decided to offer an olive branch to Max to clear my guilty conscience. Max happened to be logged into his Facebook account at the same time and we quickly arranged a time and a place to have a beer and eliminate the assumptions about the day before by talking it out. In doing so, I learned that he had chosen to stay elsewhere so he could have his own room, which was a relief. No more awkward passings. Not long after that, the internet café, along with a large block of buildings, lost power, so it was time to go.
Sjoerd and Takayuki met back at the guesthouse so we could hike up the only hill in the city, Solomon’s Throne. In giddy moods, we decided that alcohol should be part of the trip. I opted to try this fermented millet drink, boza, which is sold on just about every corner in coolers, branded “Shoro”. Was it awesome? No. Was it fizzy, gritty, and alcoholic? Yes.
Sjoerd and Takayuki went with the safe bet of beer. It tried to rain on us several times at the top, but no matter, it was a nice view of the city and we had some good laughs sharing stories.
Down the hill after sunset, we all agreed on a place to eat and had Max join us for the meal since he needed food as well. After the meal, we moved next door to a Uighur (Turkic speaking Muslims from Western China) beer garden where Kevin joined as well. Kevin is tall, lanky master hitchhiker from Flanders, the Dutch (technically Flemish) speaking part of Belgium. While the rest of us were using the beers to cap off the evening, Kevin was just gearing up for a night out. It was Friday night and he had managed to meet a DJ that was spinning that night. He was on the guest list and he wanted a crew with him. So, Sjoerd, Takayuki, and I joined him.
None of us were dressed appropriately, but that didn’t matter. We were VIPs and guests of DJ Razzy. He came out to verify that we were guests, and we were all saved $10 the cover charge. I have been to clubs too early and felt like a dork before, so the emptiness of this immaculately decorated club didn’t bother me. It was about 11PM and we took advantage of an empty bar to throw down the first round quickly. With the second, Kevin, Takayuki, and I picked one of the several bottle service tables available and proceeded to people watch.
What we saw was a group of about 12 Kyrgyz 20-somethings out for the night. There were more guys than gals, so there was some entertaining ‘grab-and-drag’ to be had. However, watching the same group of people is only fun for so long. So, when Sjoerd came over and told me he had been talking to two dental students, I figured it was time for a change of pace. They were both Uzbek, which would explain, in part, why they made no attempt to mingle with the others that night. Anyway, they were very drunk and very excited to meet a fellow dentist. I was less excited about their drunkenness and the excessive hugging and handshakes. Most importantly, my hearing is shit in loud venues, so communicating was more of chore than it usually is for me.
I excused myself and went back to Kevin, where we compared observations of the young, priviledged Kyrgyz. When I tired of poking fun at their behavior, Kevin and I hit the floor and showed them how it was done. Normally, I would have like the cover of a large crowd, but it never materialized. So, I stop denying myself the pleasure surrendering to a good song and went for it. There weren’t too many good songs that night, but eventually we got master raver, Sjoerd, to join us. We had all big beer grins on our faces as we connected to the first familiar thing we experienced for some time, electronic music.
FINALLY, DJ Razzy, the obvious understudy was allowed to hit the decks for about three songs and it was over. Probably for the best since neither DJ was any good and Sjoerd and I were certainly exhausted. Our plank hard beds were waiting after our cab ride home.