26 February 2011

Previously added on March 21st, 2009

The below blog was originally written and posted on March 21st, 2009 while I was still a volunteer with the US Peace Corps serving in Talas Oblast in Kyrgyzstan. Needless to say it caused quite a stir when I posted it and sharply divided the volunteers and the staff still in-country. Basically it divided the volunteers between the people that were there and could personally attest to the veracity of what I'd written, and the volunteers who weren't there...the staff were divided as well, mostly down different lines. I deleted this shortly after moving to London which happened to coincide with a revolution in Kyrgyzstan. I don't think that my leaving encouraged the people's revolt but this has as of yet remained unproven (note: that was a joke. Bad taste perhaps, but a joke nonetheless). I removed the below post upon arriving in London out of respect for the country and the volunteers still there, and I'd also ruffled the feathers of my now-sworn enemy to a sufficient extent so I felt the posting was no longer required in the public domain.

Now enough time has elapsed, and because I'm hoping to start blogging more often I've decided to re-post this because it was a major event in my life and other people's lives, and the true story should be told. Below is what I'd originally posted in it's entirety:


The following, though I know how it will sound, is completely true.

Two weeks ago I was in Bishkek for the K-16 PDM (Project Design Management) seminar. My new counterpart from my new school was there and we designed, what hopefully will still someday be, a great project. We planned to take a room in the school and turn it into an English Language Resource Center. Because my new school is the largest public school in my Rayon (Kyrgyz equivalent of “County”) we are always hosting many teacher-training seminars. This room would be ideally suited to host those, as well as function as a one-stop source for English Language materials for teachers and students to use as a library of sorts, as well as a great study room/English club room. Because all Peace Corps seminars are ‘business casual’ dress, I packed my backpack full of slacks, dress shirts, my suit coat and a nice pair of black shoes. This left room enough for only one other change of clothes to use for ‘leisure activity’ (that will make sense further on). Anyway, PDM was highly successful and my counterpart and I both left feeling excited to embark on what will be a huge project involving grant writing and lots of time and organization—perfect for the summer when school is out!

Friday was given to PCV’s as a ‘travel day’ back to our sites to go back to work on Monday. However, Friday also happened to be my good friend Francis’ birthday. He decided to celebrate by renting an apartment in Bishkek large enough to host about 10 volunteers, and we would use that as the party location all night. So far, nothing here is out of the ordinary. Volunteers have been renting apartments in Bishkek for one-night-at-a-time parties for years. Because it was Francis’ birthday I bought a bottle of Beefeater Gin (by far, the best dry Gin to mix in a G n’ T), and a few other people bought some other nice liquors so that we wouldn’t be beholden to the Kyrgyz standard vodka that we’ve all come to loathe/love accordingly.

Once we dropped all of our baggage off at the apartment we left to go to the store to buy picnic supplies because the weather had taken a remarkable turn for the better. We bought a couple beers, bread, cheese, sausages, tomatoes, black olives and some guacamole and chips. Then we all caught a bus to head to a huge park to hang out listening to our portable iPod’s and just lounge in the sun. Thus far, considering the success of our PDM, and what this day was turning into it’s truly been one of my better days in country.

We got back to the apartment around 5 and started hanging out watching English-language TV and drinking the first of our mixed drinks. At this point there’s just a few of us there and it’s pretty chill. Then around 7 o’clock about 10 other volunteers show up (honestly, not a big deal ‘cause we’re all friends and the apartment was huge) and we began a rousing game of Beirut (or Beer-pong to west-coasters). At this point I was getting a bit exhausted due to the abnormal amount of sun I’d had that day, the few G n’ T’s I’d had (honestly, just a few) as well as the compounding of PDM and the parties that rightfully accompanied it, so when everyone decided to head out to a local bar (Metro, I think I’ve mentioned it in a previous blog) I decided to take a nap and pick up the party when everyone returned. About an hour later Kristen, who also decided to not go to the bar due to exhaustion, woke me up to go to the balcony and drink some Starbuck’s out of her French-press coffee maker (Thanks Mr. & Mrs. Kennedy—it was delicious). A short while later we decided to take a walk to the store around the corner and pick up some more cheese and crackers, as well as a couple of beers to split.

Once we got back to the apartment we sat in the room her and her roommate-for-the-night claimed earlier and ate and talked for about an hour until everyone came back from the bar. They all came in a bit agitated and proceeded to tell us about a drunk old man who’d accosted everyone outside the apartment trying to get money. He even grabbed my friend Alex by the neck to try and take him out of the elevator before he head-butted my other friend Lee as he was trying to subdue him. Everyone came back to the apartment without actually fighting back (something Peace Corps stresses repeatedly in our ‘safety-security’ sessions) and although shaken up we all started hanging out again and relaxing. At this point I was in the room with Kristen, Alex, Kelly, Erin and Amber. Alex and Amber had not been drinking at all (this will matter further down). About 30 minutes later there’s a very loud knock at the door, and when we open it about 5 militsia guys come in (the local cops) and proceed to question us and collect our ID’s. I tell Francis that he needs to call Mahabat (our Peace Corps Safety/Security person) immediately and inform her of the situation. He does, as well as a few other volunteers and she comes in about another 20 minutes. The entire time the militsia is there they are asking for a “fine” to make them go away. Now a “fine” in America means you get a ticket and deal with it in court. A “fine” in a 3rd world country means “bribe me so I don’t fuck with you any further.” Peace Corps always tells us not to, so no one does which only serves to frustrate the militsia. When Mahabat arrives the militsia asks for her ID and tries to bribe her into getting it back. At this point I’m stressed out so Kristen and I, as well as a few other volunteers, go back into her room where I start drinking a beer to calm down and we just keep to ourselves. This is where it gets interesting…

One of the militsia guys was so drunk when he arrived in our apartment that he rushed to our window and puked out of it. Yes. I’m serious. The cop was so drunk when he arrived that he puked out of our window. Then he puked in the bathroom a couple of times before sitting down with my friend Joe who offered him some water and pizza we had left over. The entire time he’s sitting down all he keeps saying is “I just want to go home; I don’t know why I’m here”. As this is going on the militsia keeps questioning Mahabat and threatening to report us to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreigners because of the “neighbor’s complaints of noise” and the “old drunk man’s (who attacked my friends) alleged story of abuse against him”. They also claim that because the apartment was only agreed to for 10 volunteers having 20 is illegal. Anyone who’s ever been to a Kyrgyz party knows that this “law” isn’t really enforced…but if you’re looking to mess with some Americans it really does do the trick. Anyway…

Mahabat at this point asks the militsia to point out the “really drunk” volunteers. The militsia man takes three ID’s off the top of the pile he has and proceeds to read off names. Once she realizes that he’s just going to go through the stack she stops him. Joe’s, Alex’s, and my name were all read by the militsia as being “really drunk”. Now, Joe is talking to the actually really drunk cop, Alex hasn’t drank all night and is in the room with me, and aside from the beer I was presently drinking I hadn’t drank for about 4 hours at this point. I’ve dealt with the militsia before and although they’re basically just thugs looking for a hand-out I’ve always been able to walk away without losing my shirt in the process. This time, however, Mahabat comes into the room I’m in (where she sees me drinking a beer…to my endless regret) with a Peace Corps security guard and tells us that Peace Corps is sending a bus over to take us all to the head office for the night. So, we all gather our belongings and head out. On the way down the 9 flights of stairs Joe carries on a full conversation with one of the security guards while I speak to anyone who will listen about how much utter bullshit this entire situation has turned out to be. On the bus ride over I try to lighten the dreary mood by cracking some (in retrospect inappropriate) jokes and just generally bitch about our situation. I really didn’t help anyone by doing this, and I think Mahabat was sick of listening to me…but damn man—you would never have these concerns in the 1st world…lessons to be learned, right?

When we get to the Peace Corps head office in Bishkek Claudia (our CD Country Director) is there and all she does is bitch at us when we’re all feeling like the victims of a corrupt system full of corrupt cops and (for once) a situation that wasn’t remotely created by any one of us. We all pass out on the tile floor wherever we can find room and wake up at 7am to have a meeting with Claudia to see what’s going on. She proceeds to tell us that now the embassy has gotten involved, Mahabat has still not gotten her ID back and she needs to go meet with the Embassy staff as well as the militsia and the alleged “complaint-filers” to gather evidence.
We’re all shocked, and when Alex tries to interject by saying “wow, Claudia…I think we’d all at least really appreciate a ‘how are you all holding up?’ question to maybe accompany the undeserved belittling you’ve just delivered to all of us” her response is “Well, I have at least four witnesses who say you were incredibly drunk last night so your word doesn’t mean anything to me right now.” At this point all 20 of us look at each other in disbelief because we all know there’s no way that can be true…

Later that afternoon we all find out that the next day we will all receive “Consideration of Administrative Separation” letters with which we’ll have 24hours to write a rebuttal to.

The next day we all go into Claudia’s office one by one to receive our letter and give our side of the story. Thank God we have nothing to hide because in this situation all every one of us has to do is tell the truth and the story will be rock solid…or so it would seem. When I finally go in for my letter and ‘interview’ my letter has a slight change from everyone else’s letter that basically states that when the militsia arrived I was drunk to the point of incomprehension and posed a security risk. I’m left staring at this in disbelief and I look Claudia in the eye and tell her that is completely and utterly untrue. Her response is “well Peace Corps staff said that you were unruly and they smelled alcohol on you” to which I respond “yeah, I was pissed off and voiced my opinion…my smell? Maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for a week of partying every night and I might have sweated out the limited Gin I had in my system while I was sleeping as everyone else was at the bar.” Then she says “well, I have at least four other volunteers that report seeing you drunk beyond control.” Now wait. Does that number sound familiar? Four people saw Alex (who wasn’t drinking) drunk, and four saw me as well? Hmmm….

My response to this line of questioning is “well Claudia, those ‘four’ are lying because I was in a room with Erin, Alex, Kelly, Kristen and Amber almost the entire time the militsia were present and you haven’t (at this point) interviewed any of them so who might these “four” mysterious liars be?” Her response “well, I’m not at liberty to say at the moment.” Interesting strategy, I must say…it would almost seem as if she was trying to turn us all against each other to get the response she was looking for, wouldn’t it? Luckily we were all planning on telling the truth so I wonder how that strategy worked out in the end…

As soon as my interview was through I went back to the Resource Center and typed up a full page in which I refuted every single one of the claims made against me, as well as everyone else, giving detailed time descriptions, names, and events as I clearly remembered them. I also apologized for my vocalized anger directed at the militsia (while we were on the bus and I was surrounded by only my peers and Peace Corps staff…how exactly is that a “security risk?”) and explained that it wasn’t due to drinking but brought on by the unfair treatment I felt we’d had by the militsia as well as the absurdity of the entire situation…what exactly did we do wrong?
I’m now back at site and all of our (20 fucking AdSep letters…unbelievable) letters and rebuttal’s are making their way to Washington where Peace Corps as well as the American Embassy in Kyrgyzstan will make a final decision. Because Joe, Alex, Kelly and I all had ‘extra’ lines we all felt like our futures in the program were more on the line than the rest (though an AdSep letter is absolutely serious and never to be taken lightly, so technically 20 people’s future is in doubt) so we had every volunteer that was there that we could find (volunteers at the party that live in Chui Oblast, where Bishkek is located, went back to their sites because they would have their interviews and receive their letters later) and had them sign our rebuttal letters verifying the veracity of our version of events and asserting their witnessing our behavior as not being remotely what the charges are that have been leveled against us.

Now we’re all on site-restriction which means we can’t leave until Peace Corps either says “okay, you’re clear” or “come to Bishkek, we’re sending you home”.
When I left for Peace Corps I never imagined I’d find myself in this kind of situation. I’ve been in-country now for almost 9 months and I finally feel like I’m starting to do the job I set out to do in the first place. I’ve got two successful English Clubs up and running, I ran a tremendously successful winter camp for my local youth, as well as youth in and around Talas city paid for with a PEPFAR grant from Washington, I’ve just begun work at a new school with a new counterpart who has the greatest “go-getter” attitude out of all of the other Kyrgyz teachers I’ve come into contact with, and I generally finally just feel like my service here has some direction. I can speak the local language, I’ve got great community contacts, my host-family situation is stellar and I can honestly say that for the first time since coming here I can easily see myself here for the next 1 ½ years remaining on my contract. Now all of this is in jeopardy due to a drunk man who attacked my friends, then called the cops who tried to collect a bribe and decided that they’d further fuck us when we wouldn’t comply. Also, for all their preaching to us during our training, Peace Corps hasn’t got a single one of our backs. Claudia seems much more concerned for her job and the political wrangling involved in covering this incident up, and the press that might follow, than the well-being and support of her volunteers that have all just been through a fairly traumatic occurrence at the hands of corrupt cops and a broken system in a 3rd world country we’re supposedly welcome in.

Oh, and for the record, when the neighbors of the apartment we’d rented were interviewed they all said that they didn’t even know Americans were in their building, and not a single one of them called the cops or complained at all. Also, when the drunk man was contacted (sober) he apologized profusely and regrets ever exacerbating a situation that he admitted was completely his fault. Alex has decided to press charges against him for assault…which Claudia tried to talk him out of because of the “time and work it would take.” Thanks for supporting us Claudia, it really means a lot.

Now I’m sitting in limbo waiting for an answer. Will I stay or will I go. If I’m cleared, will I even want to stay? If I’m not, and I’m sent back home…what then? Time will tell. I promise another blog post to conclude this as soon as I find out!

25 September 2009

Finally...an update! Albeit a brief one:(

So much has happened over the past couple weeks…wait, how long has it been since I wrote a new post? Months!? No…well then, I guess not much has happened at all then, you know, all things considered. I did quit my job at Harrods, then I moved, now I will be starting a new job on the 28th, I had two friends visit me for a week, then another friend visited for another week, I had an amazing day today wandering around Hampstead Heath park, and am going to make dinner in a bit. That should do a fairly good job of catching ya’ll up to my latest happenings. What’s that? You want details? You actually want to hear about what I’m thinking and my opinions on how things are going over here? Well, you must not be upper management at Harrods then…’nuff on that though, I’m not sure what sort of contract they still have me under…
Yes yes, the excitement that I felt at the outset of my time with Harrods was quickly over-shadowed by the deep rooted dread that begins at the pit of one’s stomach when they realize that they’re heading down the wrong path in life…or working in the service industry. For me it was a bit of both actually. It all culminated one day when I was asked to go to a different restaurant than the one I was bartending at to be a busser, which, for those of you in America that have never had the pleasure of serving asshole’s food or drink professionally (and all customer’s do generally morph into one gigantic asshole by the time you’re wrapping up your third double shift in four days and the comedian at the six-top orders another round of mojito’s without actually knowing what they are before complaining that they took too Goddamn long to make), a busser is the Mexican (in America, that is) in the restaurant that takes away your dirty dishes. However I don’t speak Spanish, and I was wearing a bow-tie and button-down shirt whilst being assigned to the Kid’s restaurant to clean up after their half-eaten hotdogs laying amongst the chips on a multi-colored table laden with grotesque written Disney jubilation along the lines of “I’m a boy, I’m a real boy!” while the actual servers all had atmosphere-appropriate ugly brown shirts. If any customers wondered why the dapper young gentleman was scrubbing away at their child’s ketchup-assisted rendition of The Scream while the brown-shirted plebeians all giggled with joy, they showed no outward emotion whatsoever. That’s when I decided that my degree from the University of Washington was just not being put to good use.
Sure, I said that I came over here to act and pursue music…both of which I’m still doing, but I also have pride. I’m not saying that people who work in the service industry don’t, it’s just that I have pride that is inflated, absurd, undeserved, and generally recalcitrant when it comes to viewing myself and my profession in an egotistical light. That last bit about the “profession” is something I have only very recently discovered about myself, and although the entire previous sentence could read as either sarcasm or actual self-loathing I prefer to view it as factual. I am in fact prideful and boastful, however my knowledge of these facts generally (unless I hear otherwise sometime soon) keeps both pompous personality persuasions in check. At least it did until I stormed up to my manager and gave my one-week’s notice. Yes, they only required one week’s notice because I was still in my probationary period, and yes I worked every single effortless day until my last. That said, I’m on to bigger and better!
I got hired in a sales position with Vanet Apartments to act as the point-man for new international business and liaison for current international clients. I have nothing else to say about this as I haven’t started yet…but my pride is excited to be ‘back in the game.’
I also moved. My lease in Florence Villa was up September 15th, and although the landlord gave me the option of extending I knew that I wasn’t going to stay there forever. It was an excellent transition house, but I’ve moved on to bigger (figuratively, not literally) and better (literally, not figuratively). I’m now living with three great mates (no, we’re not actually attempting procreation, that’s just the British word for “friend”) of mine in Zone 2 which is closer to the city and our house is located in a very nice suburb right across the street from Ringo Starr’s son, seriously…well, if what my mat-er-friends have told me is true. Unless, that is, they were just taking the piss and having a laugh at my expense. There, some more Britishisms for you to chew onJ
Other than all that, not much has really changed. I still love it over here and today I spent a couple of hours wandering around Hampstead Heath which is the largest park in London and full of nature trails and natural growth—it also has a view of the entire city from Parliament Hill, and is only about 20 minutes from my new place! I’ve got the transportation system down pat, and am slowly working on my greater England geography—but not too seriously, the spellings here don’t match up at all with how we (as Americans, that is) would naturally want to say things. Take Leicester for example. As in, Leicester Square. It’s actually pronounced Lester, not Li-chest-er. Or Gloucester. It’s pronounced Gloster. Mind boggling. Yet when I ask my friends over here if they actually do see “Lester” when looking at “Leicester” they all look at me like I’m crazy and say “of course!” so I think that I ultimately don’t really stand much of a chance…better to shift my focus elsewhere.
I got a chance to see Coldplay with Jay-Z at Wembley Stadium for FREE the other night, that was cool. My friend (who’s American) Aaron works as the Digital Marketing Manager for Polydor Records in London and hooked them up. That was an amazing show and the few beers that I bought for him hardly made up for the experience, but he’s also the one who hooked me up with the amazing night at Bungalow 8 nightclub in Covent Garden way back when I met La Roux and Sebfontaine so I doubt he expects me to ever actually repay him. Having my friends visit was cool. I like showing people around, and when Stacey stayed with me I found the perfect excuse and finally went to every single tourist attraction in the city in 48 hours! I’m glad she came because I probably would have just kept putting that off forever. The highlight of that experience was seeing “As You Like It” at the Shakespeare Globe Theater for five pounds! We were standing like the crowd used to back in the day and it was the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen! Simply incredible…
I’ve written a script that my cousin Charlie said would be great as a short play, so I think I’m going to take her advice and get involved with the Actors’ Center here once I get a solid schedule at work to get that off the ground. I’m also performing at open-mic’s regularly and having a blast with that. Since I arrived I’ve had TWO jobs in this terrible economy, my creative side has been allowed to flourish with new opportunities around every corner and my prideful side is finally going to get the profession that it’s been longing for. Not a bad move, all things considered.
I do miss Kyrgyzstan though, and tomorrow I’m going to go to the Kyrgyz embassy in London to try to wrangle up a weekly language tutor…I won’t eat беш бармарк ever again but I would like to keep my language going. If anything just to rub it in the volunteers’ faces that I meet up with after they COS (Close of Service)…
That’s about it! I’d promise to keep this more up to date, but I think we all know that’s just not going to happen. Remember, if slow and steady wins the race then late and lethargic should set the pace. Goodnight and good luck.

04 June 2009

London-Town, the land of adventure!

Wow, it really has been a long time since I’ve updated this! So much has happened I don’t even know where to start. Then again, like most modern stories I suppose the best place to start is right in the middle, then I can chop and change the order of events until the conclusion then ties it all together—I’d be considered a cinematic genius (if I’d come up with this in the 1980’s), but maybe that technique isn’t best suited to my narration…how about the beginning? Yeah, that sounds good.

After an epic month back home in Seattle where I spent as little money as possible while enjoying the company of my closest friends (you all know who you are, and you made my integration back into the hedonistic consumerism of America so much easier) and being treated to, in all fairness, more free drinks than I possibly deserved (again, you know who you are, and thank you:) I finally felt that it was time to leave Seattle for my next adventure. It’s strange, but coming home I just felt out of place. My friend’s were all still there, and I know now that we’ll all remain friends for many years to come, but I felt like I didn’t belong there. I kept thinking about my path, should I choose to stay, in Seattle: get a job, get into grad school, get a real job, get married, get kids, get rich, get dead. Yeeeaaah, it just didn’t appeal to me the way that it probably should, or does to most. Perhaps it was the time I’d spent in Kyrgyzstan walking 500+ yards just to get water, the constant lack of electricity, the terrible food, harsh living conditions, or the shitting outside that made me realize that people can live on, and with, a lot less than most 1st world country dwellers will really ever understand. I just knew that there was more for me somewhere else. At least that’s what I told my parents, the truth is I just wanted to get the fuck out of Dodge. I’d done the whole “Seattle” thing, it was time for something new, something crazy, something sort of like trying to make it as an American actor living in London. So, that’s what I decided to do.

Before I could do that though I wanted to check in with my old Peace Corps buddies that also got their shit kicked back to America. I’d been in contact with most of them, but Alex and Jonathan and I really stayed in touch so we all decided that we’d meet in New Jersey and stay with Alex before I left from Newark on my epic voyage (again). We spent three days in New Jersey, and one night in Manhattan. I could go on here but let me just sum up those three days with some very carefully chosen bullet-points:

*New Jersey is beautiful if you can get past the smell wafting from the factories right next to just about everywhere you need to drive.

*The suburbs are actually beautiful. That’s because everyone that lives there works in New York.

*When you go out in Manhattan with your buddies, then wake up in a girls’ apartment in Brooklyn only to have to catch a train to get back to New Jersey where your buddies pick you up and you all go out for ice cream (seriously, Cold Stone is an amazing hang-over cure!) you know you’ve done something right.

*Rutgers University is out of this world. Coming from the West Coast it’s like another planet. They talk different, look different, drink different; it’s really really just different. But they DO know how to party!

*Catching an international flight at 8am from Newark means that you have to be there by 5 to check luggage and make sure you’re on board, which means when bars close at 2 you really don’t have a choice but to keep partying and hope someone is sober enough to drive you to the airport (thanks Alex).

*You know you’ve got good friends when one of them flies all the way from Minnesota only to go back two days later just to say goodbye. Jonathan, you rock my friend! Also, when one of them convinces his parents to serve you a delicious flank steak on your last night there because he knows you’re going to be dirt poor and starving once you arrive. Alex, thanks buddy!

Well, I hope that was educational.

After all of this I boarded Virgin Atlantic on a one-way ticket to London. If you ever get a chance, fly Virgin Atlantic. It’s the absolute nicest international carrier I’ve ever flown…I could go into details, but you really should just take my word for it and be pleasantly surprised.
I forgot to mention (funny statement considering I could have just inserted what I’m about to say into the first paragraph, thereby eliminating the need to elucidate here; but whatever) that about two nights before I left for New Jersey (or was it the night before? …ask my Mom) I received an invitation to audition for a TV Pilot “The Leisure Virus” on May 10th—the day after the night I was slated to arrive! Of course I said yes, then promptly forgot all about it when my mate Ian picked me up from King’s Cross and we proceeded to go out in Angel until about 4am. I woke up the next morning with a pounding headache, sore throat and severe congestion but I still managed to barely make the audition at 1pm. The next day I found out that I got the part. Thanks alcohol!

Which brings me to my next interesting bit of news. Because I realized that my monetary situation would be a little less than flush once I got to the land of the one-for-two-dollar deal I decided that I wouldn’t buy any booze (thereby cutting one of my greatest expenditures over the past ten years) until I had found some gainful employment. Thus far I’ve managed to stay quite true to this because a) I have some very generous friends here, and b) my definition of what constitutes actually buying booze is quite flexible. However, my money is secure and I have every sign in the world that a job is looming…more on that later…

I stayed with Ian for about three nights, during which we both made a trip up to Leyton to check out Florence Villa (seriously, it’s the name on the door—but don’t get your hopes up) where I met my future house-mates. I’d arranged this interview after doing some research online prior to my London arrival and got in contact with the man in charge, Simon, who invited me to see the place on Monday the 11th—two days after I arrived. They invited me to move in which was quite nice, but there was the little matter of rent. See, I had only the money in my pocket and no job. I’ve worked in property management and I was fully aware that I was any landlord’s worst nightmare, but I was honest and said “okay, so ‘first and last month’s rent’ is all fine and good, but how about I just give you first months’ rent and we call it a deal?” As Simon was carefully considering a delicate way to say “fuck off you bastard” my friend Ian chimed in, and said “no worries, I’ll cover James’ last month’s rent.” I looked at Ian about as shocked as every single one of my housemates sitting there with Simon and, well, it worked. Now I just have to work out a payment plan with Ian to get him back £390 once I start working. Ian, thank you!
Now, for those of you playing the home game that means that in the first 48 hours of touching the great green British soil I 1) got pissed drunk with my long time mate Ian, 2) had an audition, 3) got the part, and 4) found a place to live. Not bad for a first going, eh? I stayed with Ian for another couple of nights before crashing at my Cousin Rose’s place. That weekend I went up to Pangbourne, Reading to stay with my Aunt and Uncle and see my Grandparents while enjoying the sights and sounds of the British countryside. The next Monday I moved in to my place here in Leyton—it’s only £390 per month with ALL utilities, including internet and 500+ channels of Sky TV included. Plus, it’s only about a 40 minute bus ride or a combined 20 minute bus/tube ride into the center of the city. Not bad James, not bad indeed (you must be saying). I’d be quite inclined to agree with you too, however one more issue has to be addressed before we can all start giving each other blowjobs. I have still not found work. Every single hour of every single day I walked the streets of London handing out my resume like a pauper selling candle wax only to be rebuffed with the same tired excuse “the economy, the economy, the economy won’t let me hire you.” “Who is this economy?” I wondered aloud as I continued my fruitless journey into the seedy underbelly of London’s unemployment lines just to register for my National Insurance Number. Why does this “economy” hate me so? Oh yeah, it’s not personal it’s just business, right? Right. So I continued on…and on and on and on and on…until WHAM! It hit me like a Tyson left circa ’86. I actually can’t pay rent if I don’t have a job. First and last month’s rent is paid for, but what about June-July and July-August (I only signed a four month lease May 14 through September 14…another sweet deal)? That’s two rent payments that I can’t make…oh, and I only have £100 to my name for the next _________ until I get a job! That’s when my Grandparent’s picked me up to attend my Cousin’s art exhibition and gave me a bond worth £1300. They said they purchased it a while ago to give to me when I turned 21 but because our family history is a little off kilter (that’s, like, 30 more blogs I’ll never write) they’ve never had a chance to give it to me until now. “Thanks,” I say as I’m quietly thanking God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddah, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, and the seven dwarfs “this has completely covered my rent and expenses for the summer.” I spent all day lounging in the sun with my house-mates Gidon and Diana on Monday and Gidon said it best: “just when you thought you couldn’t go any further, the universe opened up and said ‘you’re on the right path man, here’s a gift.’” Yup my friend. Yup indeed.

Don’t take this the wrong way; just because I was lounging in the sun all day on Monday doesn’t mean that I haven’t stopped my futile perquisition of perpetual inefficacy. Quite the contrary, I have a final interview with senior management at Harrods tomorrow (Friday) to be a bartender in their Terrace Bar, I have an interview at Career Legal for a data-entry job starting next month, and the guy that I acted with in the Pilot brought me in to his company, Casting Call Pro, to work a couple of days in exchange for membership—which, according to the owner, could very well lead to a full time job with them in a month or two! So, I decided that as long as the sun is shining (which in London is rare) I’d take full advantage of it; not stress, and relax because ultimately my rent is paid for and I won’t starve. Life is good.

On the acting front I’ve had four auditions and I have another one tomorrow (Friday) and one on Sunday. That’s six auditions in the first month that I’ve been here and there’s no sign it’s going to slow down! Out of the four I’ve had I’ve landed the part in one, and these other two might just pan out—so the odds are looking good my friends, very good indeed! This is encouraging because I wasn’t sure that there was much need for American actors of my age over here. I thought I might have to brush up on my British accent and play the fool, but no. Because of the professional work I did in Seattle before leaving for Kyrgyzstan I was able to join British Actors’ Equity which is basically a BIG stamp saying “this guy’s serious, knows how to act, and has been employed before” and the fact that I’m American (and make that fact very well known on my resume as well as online info) seems to be working to my advantage! I had the theory that there would be work out here for American’s, but because VISA’s are so tough to get there wouldn’t be a lot of competition…it’s looking like I might be quite right. Stay tuned!

If, out of some sick curiosity, you want to see my professional actor page visit: www.spotlight.com and type in 6574-6724-7449 where it asks for a “Name or PIN.”

Now, I’m sure all of my female friends are wondering how the girlfriend search is going. Well, my first week here I met a Canadian girl at an Internet Café, took her out the next week for an epic 24 hour long date and she’s since moved to the Greek island of Ios for the summer. Basically if you’re a fan of “signs” and where they’re pointing you, within the first 72 hours of arriving in London I found a flat, got a great acting gig, and got a girl. Right, she’s in Ios this summer, but it’s the point of the whole thing right? If I can pull a Canadian girl in Britain who knows where I’ll go from here! Things are looking good my friends, looking very good indeed!
Oh, although the nice little bonus my Grandparent’s gave me will cover my rent and basic food supply for the summer if you would like to send me anything—even a little postcard would be nice—please don’t hesitate to do so at this address (for the next three months):

James Swift
27 Norton Rd.
Greater London
E10 7LQ
United Kingdom

I’m trying to think about what else I can say about my time over here thus far…I’ve solidified some already great existing friendships, made a ton more and in my first month already have a really solid base of great friends, not to mention my amazing housemates. Yeah, let’s talk about them! Gidon is a Dutch Jew who grew up in Southern California and is now living in London working on a music career. He’s one of the most chilled-out dude’s I’ve ever met! Diana is a Czech girl getting her MFA in Documentary Film, and we found like-spirits once we had a walk down the canal near my place to Victoria Park where we met up with some of my other friends and ate and drank all day (I really am looking for work, I swear!). Kristi is a Canadian girl (a different one) who’s getting her Ph.D in the Psychology of Human Sexuality…dinner conversations with her are great! Rob is an Irish guy getting his medical degree in physiology and he’s training to be “Mr. Ireland.” He rocks, is addicted to good coffee and knows how to party. I’m the unemployed American who moved to London after getting kicked out of Peace Corps and is now trying to be an actor. We’ve all got some great stories, and the house is amazing! It’s three stories, has a full kitchen, large garden with a creek, two decks, BBQ, washer/dryer and excellent chilled-out lounging abilities. The owner, Simon, is a guy who lived in the Caribbean as a diving instructor, became a primary school teacher, parties like a rock-star, found himself working in IT and now owns the house I live in, the one next door, makes bank, and sails on the weekends. All in all, I’d say this is the absolute perfect house for me to be in right now. Even if it is only for four months…fuck, what I great introduction into the international flavor London has to offer!

Family has been amazing too. It would take many more blogs (mentioned as a slight joke above) to explain this one, but they’ve all really taken me in as a member of the family with only a single connection lost decades ago to go on. My Aunt, Caroline, even allowed me to use her house as my ‘permanent address’ so that I could get my bank account set up, join British Actors’ Equity Union, get my National Insurance Number and so on and on and on…so generous and loving for a woman I’ve met less than five times. But we truly are family, and I can’t help but feel so thankful to be getting to know them all now. My Grandparents are amazing, and I really wish I’d known them longer but they’re so funny, nice and warm it’s a wonder I never did. My cousin Rose is an AMAZING artist. When I went to her art exhibition I couldn’t think of enough words to describe how in awe I was of her talent, so I was left with a few simple sentences. Coming from someone who messes up tracing a line on a page, and knows nothing of art or technique, I could still see how gifted she is. My other Cousin, Charlie, is also quite talented at music. Although she wouldn’t let me listen to any of her recordings when I visited two weeks ago, her talent with sound-design is unbelievable for being only 15 (and looking older than 18 year old Rose). Check out my Spotlight page, and click on ‘voice clips’ for proof. My Uncle is a really cool guy, he’s quick to joke and friendly with everyone. My entire family over here is actually just one big happy bunch of loving people. I feel honored to be a part of them (finally) and hope to have many more experiences to come.

I can’t think of much else to say actually. It’s been an action-packed month with some train mis-haps, beautiful days spent doing nothing but lounging in one of London’s many parks (I’ve now officially spent an entire day in three of them), stressing out about lack of work then having a gift-from-God in the form of my lovely Grandparents’ given bond saying ‘chill dude, come what may my man’, meeting new friends, great girls (God bless you Canada) and even greater opportunity and just generally having the time of my life. All that for nothing but a one-way ticket on the greatest airline on earth for $280. Not bad. Not bad at all, I’d say!


23 April 2009

Old life, present life, new one a-comin'!!

Wow, it has been quite a while since I’ve updated this! Maybe it’s because I just haven’t been able to put into words what I’ve been up to, or maybe it’s because I haven’t actually been up to anything…probably the latter, though the former was closer to the truth when I first got back to America. Either way, it’s good to be back!

Coming back from Kyrgyzstan was difficult. Once I was on the flight from New York to Seattle I was by myself and my own thoughts for the first time since the whole debacle began. I wrote a lot and watched as many movies as possible before my terrible battery ran out, but nothing could prepare me for the shock of being back home in Seattle. As soon as I entered SeaTac Airport from the airplane I almost had a panic attack. It was all I could do to keep myself together as I made my way to the baggage claim to reclaim my baggage that, as fate would have it, was missing (only to be miraculously delivered to my parents’ house three days later). Not only missing, but there was no record of it even leaving Bishkek! Okay, I thought as I shrugged off yet another setback, at least I’m safe. My parents picked me up and I struggled to explain to them what had precipitated my return from Peace Corps. I slept remarkably well that night, and awoke the following morning to have the first proper shower I’d had in nine months. It was just as amazing as I’d imagined, and my skin was drier than I’d ever experienced…it’s remarkable how well one’s body adjusts to periodic vs. regular bathing!

I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks just reconnecting with my friends here and laying around the couch at my parents house in Woodinville figuring out my next step. That’s probably why I’ve decided to post this now, because I’ve finally figured it out! Well, not exactly…but I have an idea, and many great men have relied on less…no, actually, if they had less than an idea I guess they’d just be lucky not great…hmmm…well, with what I’m going to do I think I’m going to need both the ‘idea’ and a not insignificant amount of ‘luck’ to get me through it. Anyway, I’m moving to London!! I’ve always said that I wanted to take advantage of my dual citizenship and live and work in London for a time, and I knew that following a successful twenty-seven months in Peace Corps I’d actually do it so why should a not-so-much-though-still-quite-nice-just-cut-short-successful nine months make that decision any different? Exactly. Have a plan, stick to it. So I bought my ticket on www.1800flyeurope.com one-way from Newark, New Jersey to London on Virgin Atlantic for $280!!! I swear I’m not going to make a habit out of plugging things like this, but if you want some cheap airfare from the US to Europe check that website out!

Before I leave I’m going to spend about three days in New Jersey with my friends Alex and Joe, two guys who also “had” to leave Kyrgyzstan with me, kicking around Tony Soprano’s hometown wreaking havoc on unsuspecting “girls in their summer clothes” (sorry, blatant Boss reference) while soaking up as much Americana as I can before moving to the old country!
Why London, one might ask? Why not Paris, or Rome, or Fiji? Well, to this query I have but three simple responses: 1) they speak roughly the same language as your dear writer here, and after struggling with a Turkish-Asian ancient hybrid I just don’t want to think that hard, 2) I have family and friends there to ease my transition, so as much as being a homeless backpacker sounds romantic and not altogether an impossibility considering my lack of funds as of late, the possibility of having a couch when I need it does sound quite nice. Plus, I’ve really taken to bathing on a regular basis and I’m just not willing to give that up again! 3) I want to act. No, that statement will not be followed by a clever quip meant to stimulate your frontal lobe into an uncontrolled example of what makes gelotologists love their work, no. I’m serious. I’ve acted ever since I was a freshman in High School and even had the audacity to major in it as a student in University. Though my love for the stage and faith in America’s economy have both given me little hope for the future, I feel that now is the perfect opportunity to devote myself entirely to a passion that might (or might not, but there’s no need to mention that here) work out and in a country where my “type” will be a valuable asset. I’ve wanted to act ever since I first discovered that I have a knack for dressing up in other people’s clothes and pretending to be someone I’m not. It’s an art. Seriously, any three year old will tell you that. But in order to set myself up for the greatest chance of success I feel that I need to do it somewhere other than New York or L.A. where there are thousands of American males who look and act just like me. I’m at the unique advantage of having dual citizenship, and I’ve recently been accepted to join Spotlight, the professional actors database for Great Britain so I’m off to a good start. I also recently discovered that as soon as I get my NIN (National Insurance Number, like a Social Security Number but in England it does more for you) I’m eligible to join British Actors’ Equity Union, the premier union for professional actors in Great Britain. So there you have it. As soon as I arrive in the great London town I’ll be visible to all of the agents and casting directors that could make or break me, and as soon as I sort out my NIN I’ll be able to join the union which means I’m then eligible for ALL professional work. All of this can possibly take place within my first month of residence.

Enough bragging, I’m pretty excited but there’s no reason to harp on these things here. I’m writing all this to let you know that I’m not just doing this on a whim. I’m treating my moving to London as a serious endeavor, and I think I may actually have a shot at getting some good work over there. At least I won’t have to work my way up as an extra like I would if I moved to L.A. or New York. Nor will I have to deal with any of the bullshit that comes with the acting scene in those two cities; I’m sure London will have plenty of its own to keep me rolling my eyes but it should be just foreign enough to keep things exciting! At least that’s my sanguine ideal of what I actually don’t know anything about. We’ll see, and rest assured I’ll be updating this blog to let ya’ll know how things progress.

Before I leave I’m just going to keep hanging out with my friends and getting as much time with family in as I possibly can. May 9th is the last day I’ll be in America for ____________months or years. Then again I was pretty sure I’d be living in Kyrgyzstan for two years instead of the short nine months it turned out to be so I guess that old adage is true: Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. I can only hope that life has something good and exciting ready to greet me on the grand isle!

06 March 2009

Changing job, changing weather, etc.

I had my first day of work in over two months today and it was awesome! Maybe it was the kids fresh off a two month winter hiatus and their accordingly renewed spirits that helped, perhaps it was my own re-energized vigor and commitment that just gave me some different colored lenses to see through, then again, maybe it’s because I just so happened to be in a completely different school with a new teacher that actually gives a damn. Yup, that’s right. I’m in a brand new school. I was supposed to start last week like everybody else, but the Sunday before my “first” day back my (now former) counterpart called and said that she was in Bishkek, but she’d be back soon. Knowing full well Peace Corps’ policy of TEFL volunteers being required to work with their counterparts at all times (it also goes so far as to state that should a counterpart be absent, the volunteer must be too…we’re not substitute teachers after all) I smiled into my phone and said “okay, just call me when you return.” When Thursday finally rolled around and I still hadn’t heard from her, and hadn’t gone to school myself, I finally tried to reach her to no avail. That’s when I called my PM (Program Manager) and said “fuck this, I’m out.”
Now I’m sure you just read that final statement of mine and thought to yourself “well, that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? James probably could have shown a bit of restraint and given it a bit more time…or, it could just be a cultural thing!” I would actually be inclined to agree with you…had this occurred only once, twice ah hell, if it had even occurred only seven times I still would have sucked it up, chalked it up to some miscommunication and let bygones be bygones. However, at my former school with my former counterpart this whole “Ah, James’ll be there I don’t have to really work” attitude was so consistent an annoyance that my PM back in NOVEMBER wanted to move me. My thought then was “but I fit in here, I know the kids and my way around, why bother?” Although after a two-month period of literally doing nothing but watch the world become a frozen wasteland from the comfort of my freezing cold bed in near zero temperature bedroom I found that I really had lost all patience…especially considering it was the first bloody week back! So I called my PM, apologized for not allowing her to move me sooner and found a new job in a new school with a new counterpart about a mile from my old school. I didn’t have to change sites, so I’m still living with my awesome host-family and getting along great!
My first day back was truly amazing. I had forgotten how much energy I get from the kids in the class. They’re so crazy and goofy they really break down the “adult” barriers that seem to be getting more and more a part of my comfort zone and they reminded me how much I truly do love what I’m doing here. That’s not to say that I love teaching in general. I still feel as though I owe my former teachers a long heart-felt apology for ever bothering to exist in their time, but it’s the greater work that I’m doing here that reminded me today how cool this job really is. Also, my new counterpart is phenomenal. We’ll see how the rest of this year and next year go but already today I saw a distinct difference between her methods and my former counterparts’. You know, she actually has a lesson plan and uses group activities to engage the kids instead of just standing there and reading from a dry Soviet-era text expecting them to learn on their own. Also, she goofs around with the kids. They obviously love her and she obviously really likes what she’s doing…I don’t particularly want to go into more here so you’ll just have to read some prior blogs for an adequate comparison to what I came from…sorry—today was just too good to rehash bad experiences!
So, yeah…life is good, or in Kyrgyz жакшы өмүр, sorry, I just find this language pretty fascinating is all:)
On another note…I just recently got accepted into the position of PCVT (Peace Corps Volunteer Trainer) and will be training the new volunteers the first month they’re here. I am a Kyrgyz Culture Trainer so I will visit each of the training sites during my four weeks as a trainer (PST is three months long so there are three shifts of PCVT’s…I’m in the first:)) to deliver presentations on Kyrgyz culture and answer questions as the arise. Which, considering the fact that I’m in the first shift there should be plenty! This also means that I have to be away from my site for a month living in an apartment in Kant (it’s a big-ish city about an hour away from Bishkek) with the other PCVT’s. At first I was excited at the prospect of what being a PCVT will entail, i.e. meet the new volunteer’s fresh from America, kick it with other volunteers working together on projects for a month in close proximity to the “big city”, etc. But now I’m not so sure. I’m still excited to be a PCVT, and can’t wait to get started working with the other volunteers and Peace Corps staff on developing some really great PST material, but I just started work at my new school so it’s going to make my transition there all the more difficult. Plus, today after my first 7th form class a couple students came up to me immediately afterward asking about when I’d be starting my English Club! When I told them I couldn’t do it until the end of April, they all looked really disappointed. I’m sure parents are used to seeing their kids get disappointed but man, these kids really show their emotions and I felt bad…these new volunteers better rock!
I’m sure they will:)
Next week I’m heading to Bishkek with my new counterpart for a week-long PDM (Project Design Management) training session and we’ve already discussed what project we’re going to focus on! Isn’t she amazing:) We’re going to write up a grant to hold monthly teacher-training seminars focusing on the 4-Mat (not enough time to explain here…use Google) lesson plan and how to successfully navigate away from the defunct Soviet-style while not shocking everyone around you. This might sound strange, but yes, kids can actually learn and have fun in group activities at the same time…shocking. Then I’m back at site for a week, then I go back to Bishkek for a week-long TOT (Training of Teachers) to prepare for my new role as a PCVT—then the new volunteers arrive and everything gets kicked into gear!
Every day here the weather is getting a little bit warmer (birds are actually chirping outside my window as I type this) and the roads are slowly turning from ice into thick, sticky, deep mud, which I’ve heard lasts for about the length of time that I’ll be living in Kant, so I really don’t mind. I’m only 5 months away from only having a year left (weird…) and everything is finally starting to fall into place. Once I return from training during PST I’ll have about two months left of school, then summer, then my second, and final school year, then summer, then…? Weird…just got to take it one day at a time and make sure that I make the most out of everything I can while I’m here. Oh, that’s another good thing about my new counterpart—she’s really excited about organizing these teacher-training seminars with me so I think that in my new school I’ll finally be able to accomplish everything that I set out to do!

26 February 2009

Ahh...winter is OVER!!!

Well, I had my first Valentine’s Day in Kyrgyzstan and it turned out to be the first holiday that I’ve celebrated exactly like I would have back home! My site-mate, Patrick, and I met at our local café where we ate cheap food and drank cheaper beer while watching terrible Russian music videos play for about 4 ½ hours. Okay, so I probably wouldn’t have been watching Russian music videos back home, but the cheap food and beer has been pretty much the Valentine’s Day norm for me throughout the past couple years so for the first time in a long while I felt right at home! I stumbled home drunk (again, pretty much the norm for a successful Valentine’s Day…at least according to my past) and ate some Kyrgyz food while answering questions from my family regarding this wonderful holiday. “So James, you don’t have a girlfriend? Why not?” Or, “So, when will you get married?” Or my personal favorite: “twenty-five is very old to not be married, you should have at least a few children by now…otherwise it’s considered quite ooyat (see previous blog post for ‘ooyat’ explanation).” I know, I know (my usual response to this line of questioning) when I get back to America I will marry a nice girl and settle down (this is usually spoken through stifling laughter) then I’ll have lots of children to work on my farm (again, stifling laughter). This seems to placate their concerns for my family-man-future enough to continue eating and ignore the giant “single” elephant in the room long enough to finish their meal and call it a night. What a Valentine’s Day indeed!
On a different note, my Winter Camp has been going great! I had some excellent people come from the local health center to give a two hour long presentation on HIV/AIDS and discuss safe-sex in a culturally appropriate manner the first day, then the second day my other site-mate Liz gave an excellent presentation on reproduction. All in all the first two presentations were stellar, and considering how bad they “could” have been (considering how extremely sensitive these two subjects are in Kyrgyz culture) I feel that the first two days kicked the camp off nicely! Wednesday, my buddy Cameron gave a great presentation on nutrition. I specifically asked him to do this because being exposed to the Kyrgyz diet over a prolonged period of time has given me plenty to be concerned about and I think that he got his points across nicely…again, while not completely dissing on Beshbarmark (see previous blog post for explanation) which I never could have done! Thursday all of the volunteers that I’ve invited to my camp gave some excellent information on drug and alcohol abuse through presentations and skits and Friday I gave out certificates to everybody then organized a rousing game of Dodge Ball! I purchased the balls with my camp money as an “extracurricular activity” expense and gave a brief overview before letting the kids at it. Even though I had the translators there to help me the kids played like they’d been doing it for years. It must be something instinctual in all of us that says throwing things at other people is not only really funny but also a lot of fun! Anyway, I got some great feedback from the other volunteers that helped me, the translators I organized, my counterpart, the school director and all of the kids involved (55 in total!)…all in all, it was a huge success!!
Other than that these two brief snippets there’s not really much more to report on my end. This winter has been extremely relaxing, if not quiescently irresponsible, and I finally go back to class on March 2nd…which is one week before I got to Bishkek again for PDM (Project Design Management conference) for another week. I just can’t seem to escape the big city, which all things considered isn’t really that much to complain about at all!

26 January 2009

Keeping a Watchful Eye (now...)

I arrived to the new bus station in Bishkek after a hellishly long trip from Talas due to three kids that constantly needed potty breaks thereby disrupting my otherwise serene winter marshutka ride, at around 4:30. The driver of the marshutka was kind enough to arrange a taxi for me to get into that would take me directly to Peace Corps’ head office nearby, just about a 60 som trip. It was all going according to plan until the taxi guy had the nerve to pull out onto the main road to get going and was immediately flagged down by a policeman (Мылытся). Normally these guys just check the driver’s papers, make up some infraction that the driver can then get out of with a bribe and everyone is happy and on their way. However, my driver did not have his papers in order so the nice policeman took his keys away. This left me to go find a taxi on my own that would take me the 10 minutes to Peace Corps. Seeing as I’ve caught my own taxi numerous times in this country and can speak the language I was not at all concerned and my guard was certainly down…do you see where this is going yet? I found a taxi, negotiated the price and threw my bags in the back seat. No sooner had my hand left my backpack than the motherfucker took off screaming down the street with the back door still open and me left standing there like a fool screaming obscenities. This damn terrible person had just made off with my computer, clothes, all my bath supplies, my sleeping bag and my water bottle. My heart was beating out of my chest as I struggled to find the appropriate curse word that would adequately express my severe hatred for this man when all of the other taxi drivers gathered around me, obviously intrigued by my dilemma. Who is he? I demanded, what’s his taxi number? Where does he live? Who are his children so I can eat their hearts in front of his stupid face? These questions were met with appropriate responses and as I was putting this information into my cell phone I noticed two taxi drivers get on their cell phones and walk away from the group. This was the first sign that these bastards were in cahoots. I called Peace Corps and tried to subdue my trembling excitement enough to speak coherent English to the poor Kyrgyz duty officer so they could understand my pain when not more than 5 minutes passed and this thief of a taxi “driver” came tearing back to the lot with a shit-eating grin on his face and all of my belongings neatly secured in his back seat where I left them. I got off the phone and stormed over to him. What the fuck? I wanted to say, but seeing as the Kyrgyz language doesn’t allow as much leeway in obscenity as English gratefully provides I was left with a meek “Эмнеге Бул Байкей” which roughly translates to “why that older brother?” To this inquiry he smiled and said “come on, we’re friends right? I was only joking…come on, now I will take you where you need to go”…in Kyrgyz, of course:) I shamed him with a good long ooyat (see a previous blog post for explanation) and found another sympathetic taxi driver to take me to my meeting with Peace Corps where I promptly reported him. Peace Corps is in tight with the police here so I hope this dude rues the day he dared to cross…um, me.
Looking back at this incident I realized a couple of things: first, as soon as the other taxi drivers realized that I can speak Kyrgyz and was getting all of this douche-bag’s information to give to the police they called him, gave him a head’s up, so he came back with his tail between his legs. If I were a tourist or anyone that didn’t speak Russian or Kyrgyz I would have been royally screwed, which brings me to: 2. From now on I will never put my stuff in a taxi, when I’m taking it alone, first. I will get in, and then throw my stuff in the back. 3: now that I’ve been in this country for some time and know the language enough to get around comfortably I have made the mistake of letting my guard down. The problem is that I stick out like a sore thumb here and especially in Bishkek, the “big city”, there are a lot of people around looking to ruin my day. I’ve got to remain vigilant…
Don’t worry, I’m safe, I got all of my stuff back and I learned a great lesson. But damn…what an adventure! Lessons learned for next time, that’s for sure…
I’m heading back to Bishkek February 5th for a Culture Committee meeting…oh yeah, I’ve been appointed to the culture committee for the incoming volunteers so I’ll have a perfect place to get my crazy stories and Kyrgyz-life-lessons heard by the greatest number of people! Hopefully another blog post doesn’t come out of that trip…but in this country you never know!
Other than that crazy mishap there’s really not much more to report here. I just got all of the money for my winter camp and will be meeting with my Talas connection and the other volunteers that are helping out next week before I head to Bishkek to nail down the particulars. Until then I’ll just continue playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and sometimes change the order of the three. Winter is crazy here, huh?