26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
I had liked the excitement and fairy-tale sound of having a gorgeous, half-Kazakh woman for a sister-in-law, so this turn of events was quite disappointing.
“I asked her to marry me,” he said. “I’m not crazy. I didn’t get down on one knee or anything. But I was basically like, ‘Yeah, what the hell, why not? I want a wife, and you want to get out of the country.’ ”
Chapter #7 “The Unexpected Highlife In Low Class”
Bree and I would once again be sharing a bunk. From mattress to overhead divider, it was all of about two feet high, and though it was impossible to sit up, it was much better than what we’d started off with.
“Oh, this is great,” I said sardonically, unconcerned by this time about whether or not anyone understood English. “We’re going to be sitting on the floor or on one of these fat babushka’s laps all night.”
The countryside between Semey at the Russian/Kazakh border, and Almaty, near the Kazakh/Kyrgyz border, was memorably desolate.
There wasn’t much of anything out there at all, and I could almost understand why they’d used this part of the country for nuclear testing.
They began teaching us how to play a basic Kazakh card game with a thin deck consisting of only face cards and numbers above six.
Chapter #8 “Longsocks”
“Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan. It was the country’s capital until 1997, when Astana replaced it.
“Yeah, I guess he does live up to the name in that outfit of his,” Mom agreed.
“So, Arman, why do you carry this book around?” Ammon asked.
“Kazakhstan’s tons of oil money were used to make Almaty modern and rich-looking.”
“You don’t know these things unless you come and see them for yourself. That’s what I love most about travelling,” Mom said.
Charging soldiers were bursting out of a huge stone monument in the shape of the USSR. Each face represented one of the fifteen states of the former Soviet Union. The eternal flame at the front of the monument commemorated those fallen in both the Civil War and World War II; it burned from the centre of a bronze star placed within a wreath.
“I think 1900s. Yes. Early 1900s,” he told us, adding, “Is second tallest wooden building in the world. Was built with using no metal nails. Is very beautiful, this.”
“The children, they taking flowers here on the last day of school,” Arman explained.
What a surprise Kazakhstan had turned out to be! I never would’ve imagined we’d meet dear Arman Longsocks there. Who woulda thunk it?
Chapter #9 “100 Days”
Nudging me, Bree rolled her eyes at him, denying him any sympathy. “Don’t bump me when I’m writing,” I snapped, but then softened the blow by announcing, “August 12, 2005. You know what’s special about that date? It’s our hundredth day on the road!”
Celebrating the momentous date and the respite from travel called for an early morning ‘passport check’.
The new Kyrgyzstan visa was pretty and pink, and my passport was beginning to look so full that it was hard to resist examining it over and over. We happily compared documents for a while, passing them around in a circle to the tune of many ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’.
Chapter #10 “Heartbreaker”
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital sits in the Chui Valley at the base of the rugged Tien Shan mountain range.
The city is very green, with blocks and blocks of parks and wide, tree-lined streets with hardly any traffic.
In its centre is Ala-Too Square, a massive concrete area displaying a very tall freedom statue, surrounded by the parliament building and a large state historical museum.
Bishkek Parliment Building
The spacious square was very clean and inviting, and it sported decorative fountains and lots of lovely outdoor cafés.
Kojomkul, Baatyr Kaba uluu (1888-1955). – Bishkek
We were fortunate to witness the hourly changing of the guards when they stepped out of their posts at the military monument. Keeping their legs straight and stiff, the troops swung their feet high off the ground in unison.
Bishkek’s huge monument in the middle of Victory Square took up an entire city block. At the foot of an open eternal flame stood a statue of a woman who symbolized the wives and mothers waiting for sons and husbands who never came home again.
Lenin, V. I. Monument dedicated to Vladimir Lenin(1870-1924). – Bishkek
Bishkek’s Freedom statue
We had a pair of connecting double rooms, but the four of us huddled together in one as we read, played cards, and brought our journals up to date as the thunderstorms kept rolling in over Bishkek to hold us hostage.
Hours passed as we played round after round of Jerk. Some nights, we played until Ammon begged to be allowed to sleep.
Once we’d all calmed down a bit, we decided to take a reading break for an hour or so. I pulled out my book from my daypack as if it were encased in precious stone.