What’s the Uzbek for Crazy Person?
A few years back I did a trip to central Asia, which was for two key reasons. The most important was to sleep in a yurt. I also liked that when I told people which countries I was going to, the most common responses were “huh?” and
The adventure began in Uzbekistan, and I landed in Tashkent late one night. I hadn’t quite clued in yet to the effect that the internet age was having on accommodations. When I first started backpacking in my early 20’s, it was no big deal to wander into a city and find a hostel bed.
And given that Canadians don’t seem to know where Uzbekistan is, I didn’t imagine there would be that much competition for accommodation in Tashkent.
I was wrong.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I approached customs and immigration in the über-ghetto Tashkent airport, I was packing around a small pharmacy. Between my five psychiatric medications and my standard travel must-haves like motion sickness pill and traveller’s diarrhea meds, I had quite the stash.
The immigration form required a list of any medications being brought into the country. It took a while and some very small print, but I crammed them in.
After all, I was a Canadian, and no one gives Canadians a hard time.
Except apparently they do.
If I’d been bringing a yak into the country with me I think it would have caused less of a stir. They wanted to see my drug stash. That didn’t seem to help the process move along, though — rather the opposite. More people were waved over to ponder this weird Canadian chick and her collection of drugs.
They wanted to know what my drugs were for. Except their English wasn’t very good, and the airport was far too dodgy to have wifi for Google Translate to come to the rescue. When I told them I had depression, they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
There was more looking confused, and a number of phone calls, and then finally they let me through. I think it was mostly because they didn’t know what else to do with me.
That’s when the lack of internet awareness came to bite me in the butt. I got a taxi and told him what hostel I wanted to go to. He asked if I had a reservation, and I said no. It turns out that there was some huge sporting event going on and everyone and their yak had descended on Tashkent. He drove me to a few different places, and I was shit outta luck.
I decided to move onto my next planned destination, which involved crossing the border into Kazakhstan. Around midnight, the taxi driver dropped me off just before the border crossing, and told me where I’d be able to catch a bus on the Kazakh side.
What hadn’t crossed my exhausted mind was that I’d have to do the immigration declaration form song and dance all over again, and haul out my big bag o’ meds.
They seemed nice enough, probably because I was a rather pathetic specimen, but they had no idea what to do about my drug habit. They spoke even less English than they did at the airport.
They didn’t understand “antidepressant,” and when I kept pointing at my head I think they figured I was weird rather than crazy.
And anyway, I wasn’t sure how emphatically I should be trying to convince them I was crazy.
Finally, they realized I’d just landed at the airport a couple of hours before. Pass the buck with the decision-making, right?
They called the airport, and then decided that if the airport was willing to let me into the country, they were willing to let me out. And I was pathetic to boot, so why not.
There I was, some exhausted, pathetic dumb white chick, alone and trudging off along the side of the road into the darkness of Kazakhstan with no real idea of where I was going. But I lived to tell the tale… and sleep in a yurt.