Saturday, September 17, 2005

Shavkat Takes Another Aborted Tour

The man who was killed in Kara-Suu was the director of the market and his driver, who was his nephew. He was the one who took over management after the local thug and politician, Bayaman, was kicked out. People think it was Bayaman’s people who killed him. Bayaman himself has been out of sight for weeks.

Yesterday Shavkat returned from a three-day trip to the mountains with two Israeli tourists. He has gone three times with Maxim since the trip on which he went crazy. One time was OK, another time Shavkat did all the guiding work (he’s just supposed to drive), but there was no catastrophe. This time was another problem.

On the night before they were supposed to leave, Maxim was drunk. Shavkat yelled at him. “You have a trip tomorrow. You better make sure you are sober by then.” Maxim said he would be.

The next morning, when Shavkat went to pick up Maxim, then the tourists, Maxim was still drunk. And he’d already spent the $75 the tourists left as a down payment, inviting over his friends to drink.

On the way to the village, Maxim praised himself. “I’m an extreme athlete,” he repeated. “Extreme.”

That night they slept in tents, Shavkat in one, Maxim in another, and the tourists in a third. An hour after Shavkat went to bed, Maxim begin to call out. “Shavkat, help me,” he cried. “Help me.”

He was short of breath and felt sick. Shavkat did what he could. At 4 a.m., he decided to drive Maxim the four hours back to Osh, leaving the tourists in the care of a local Kyrgyz man.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” said Maxim, which must have been a depressing realization for a man who has spent his life in the mountains.

Shavkat went back to the village, taking Faruh with him, and succeeded in pleasing the upset tourists by the end of their tour.

This morning he went to have a talk with Maxim. “I’m going to tell him that this is it, he should not be going on these tours anymore. He can keep 10-15 percent, because he has to live, but then he should pass the tourists on to me. I need to scare him, because that is the only way he’ll understand. I’m going to tell him that these tourists threatened to file a court case.

“If he works this way – taking deposits and then not providing services, people could file court cases. I’m going to tell him that he’s ruining his reputation and he’s ruining my reputation. Enough is enough.”

With the imminent approach of Orozo (Ramadan) people are getting married like crazy. Virtually no weddings occur during the Holy Month, since it’s not much fun when people can’t eat and drink. So those who want to marry either have to do it now, or wait until November. Lines of cars file into the House of Happiness, where marriages are registered, even on weekdays. And from home I can frequently hear the honks of wedding parties driving through town.

The flu has been going around (I got hit earlier this week) and the air is very cool in the evenings. Summer is winding down and fall is on its way.

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