Thursday, January 29, 2009


I have to depart from my usual fodder here to share with you all news I got today via email. After 3 years with the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan, my younger brother (in his later 30's) now teaches in Kabul at a university - AUCA. Yes, Afganistan. He is not associated with the military in any way. The Karen he refers to at the end is another of our siblings who is a Probation and Parole officer in a rough part of town, but who is really, as my brother alludes to, a scholar and an artist with a day job.

(You will also see that verbosity is a family trait)

J here. I thought I'd squeak a quick one out to you all while I can, before Sunday when the semester begins and I'll be very busy.

K [Kunduz, his Kyrgyz love of a few years] and I spent the last month in Kyrgyzstan. I am back in Kabul with only having to pay a $100.00 bribe to get out of the airport in Bishkek, whereas Kunduz is now midway, Dushanbe Tajikistan. Her Almaty-Kabul flight was cancelled. Her A-stan visa is out on Feb 4th, so if there are any delays (and in CA, there often are)... we got another problem. Travelling in CA is, I imagine, like traveling in the US in the '30's- sometimes things go fine. Usually, they don't.

For my ol' K-stan palz... never fear, the country rolls on 'business as usual' which is to say, spiralling downward. One of our new profs here, a political scientist, taught at AUCA in Bishkek for two years and says 'Kyrgyzstan is a failed state.' Rising prices, increasing corruption, a government increasingly willing to throw its weight around- which only works if you got weight- and they don't- which leads to anger on the part of the people AND an increasing awareness that 'something CAN be done.' I myself smell revolution.

Speaking of revolutions- I'm married now. Kunduz and I had a nika, a small Muslim 'ceremony,' if you could call it that. A moldo came, ate plov with the family, and I donned a chappan (robe) and kalpak (Kyrgyz hat), and Kunduz a jooluk- white headscarf. The moldo called for salt and water, asked Kunduz if she'd back me up, she said she would, and asked me if I would take her. 'Aldym,' I said. 'I'll take (her).' I sipped the water and passed it on to my new wife. That was it.

Only her parents, one ejay, elder sister, one neice, and Emil and Edil, her- OUR sons, were there. But it's enough. Can you beat that, family? You never though I would get married, and now, I have the oldest son of us all- Edil is 20- and already has his eye on a bride. I may be the first grandparent of all of us!

Actually, the Kyrgyz practice 'ala-katchoo-' which isn't sneezing, it's better- BRIDE KIDNAPPING! I wanted to do that, and Edil and Emil said they would help... but it didn't work out- we really didn't have time. No, Kunduz is not pregnant- my visa for Kyrgyzstan was only one month long- as it was, I left one day late- hence the $100.00 bribe.(I guess on that count- I WAS in the wrong, technically illegal, so it's not really a bribe. See- corruption can work in one's favor sometimes.... Besides, I knew that if I was in trouble, I would be able to buy my way out- and when I saw the 'boss' at the counter- the robust figure and sallow cheeks of a Renaissance pope- I knew that I would be able to pay my way out- the only question being 'how much?')Anyway, coming back, I stayed in Dubai for a few days.

Dubai is like Vegas without the sleaze. That means that it as no soul. The economic crisis has really hit- work on the Burj, the 167 (?) floor tower- tallest in the world- has stopped. Young and spoiled emirate teens with bank accounts on five continents are forced to park their Hummers and drive economy-sized limousines and airplanes shorn of their wings. It was refreshing to fly into Kabul and see... real things. Old men with faces cragged like mountains selling screwdrivers in the street. Junked out cars and houses. Everything new already looks ten years old.

Better still was the reception I got from our folks at the U[niversity]. Drivers, janitors, guards, all the real, common folk, the guys that want to trade pakols (Afghan hats) with me... big hugs and kisses and a genuine outpouring of happiness that I had returned. I guess they've seen lots of kharaji (foreigners) leave 'on vacation' and never come back. But also, K and I have done everything we could to address the local staff on local terms, which is pretty uncommon for the whiteys here.

I'll be teaching Intro to Humanities again, and in Dubai I picked up Sir Kenneth Clark's 'Civilisation' series on DVD. Karen, you know what I'm talking about. One of my earliest memories is that book on your shelf when you lived in the basement- along with your wire statue of a Roman centurion, complete with pleated leather skirt, your impressionistic rendering of David's 'Napoleon Crossing the Saint Bernard Pass,' and- best of all- those black bound with gold trim paperbacks- TARZAN, all 22 of them. Now THAT's civilization. You're a person of rare cultural refinement, as out of place among the parolees and thugs as a street person in Dubai, an honest Kyrgyz, or an Afghan with restraint. That's the news from Kabul. January 29th, 2009.

Though he says we never thought he'd get married, he is the one who vowed not to ever since he was but a whippersnapper. Married! I have a new sister-in-law and 2 nephews! Cate and Addie have more cousins.

This truly falls under the "Other Joy" portion of this blog's title.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Thanks for sharing "the rest of the story"...more than you could on FB. So interesting!