allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
That's it, I'm done. I've reached the pinnacle of my professional ambition of the past three years - someone is actually paying for me to go back to Central Asia, specifically Kyrgyzstan - and that achieved, I'm not entirely sure what else I want from work. Mountains! Yurts! Kumis! Felt carpets! Plov! Oh, and I have to give some presentations or something, but I'm sure I can muddle through that.

I also lucked out on my timing with visits home and managed to obtain a Chinese visa (a bugger to get outside your country of citizenship, these days, unless you do it in Hong Kong), so I will finally, finally get to see Kashgar. You hear that almost all of the old town these days has been destroyed, and the Sunday bazaar become a complete tourist trap, but some places you just have to go. In the absence of any knowledge of Mandarin at all, I am pinning all of my hopes on the fact that I bought a train ticket in Uzbek once and Uzbek is sort of maybe a bit mutually intelligible with Uighur if you squint. I have no idea. I'll figure it out. I miss travelling, I miss being on a journey, and it's hard to get that sensation back in only two weeks, but I love Kyrgyzstan so much, love the mountains and the smell and the immensity of the landscape, and Xinjiang sounds like it's going to be a proper challenge. I am so happy and excited to be going back.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying Pi Approximation Day! "Good enough, just not transcendental" has been my life motto for a while and so far it hasn't let me down.
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
Dawdling in Kyrgyzstan is an almost entirely pleasant activity, even if its object (to wait out the violence down south) is somewhat less so. The reason for this is primarily because it is so easy to engage in said time-wastage in yurts up in the Kyrgyz mountains, which flicked in a day from spring to summer - morning drizzle gave way one day to bright afternoon sunshine that hasn't let up since. With this in mind, I coralled a trio of Swedes (travelling with Swedes is great: you learn the best Norwegian jokes) and we hired some horses and a guide to disappear for a few days into the hills in the centre of the country, where yurts sprout like mushrooms and there are ibexes (how do you properly pluralise an ibex? ibices?) on the mountain ridges and marmots (not marmosets. This caused a certain amount of confusion for a while) running shrieking at your approach.
 
Yurting it up )

One afternoon, our host invited the neighbours (i.e. everyone who had a yurt within two hours ride) over for the Kyrgyz equivalent of a kickabout, which of course meant an enthusiastic game of kok-boru, the Kyrgyz national game which can be described as polo with a higher body count and which is played with the carcass of a goat. Compared to the full village-on-village clash I watched earlier this year, this was a more modest though no less chaotic affair, with half-a-dozen guys on each team as opposed to two hundred but an equal reluctance to confine the action to the pre-agreed playing field and feeling that nothing has been achieved until someone has been carried off unconscious (he woke up again in time for dinner, so that was OK). In the evening we ate goat kebab and fresh bread and cream and wild cherry jam by the light of oil lanterns while the Anglo-Swedish contingent strove to find an acceptable excuse for refusing the fourth bowl of kumis (a partial list of what hasn't worked so far: I'm sick, it's against my religion, I'm lactose intolerant, I'm pregnant) and convincing defense for the inexplicable fact that despite the fact all of us were unmarried, none of us were imminently planning to rectify the situation, and the mountains turned pink in the sunset. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do this.

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allochthonous

April 2015

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