Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Kafkaesque Pantomime

A man and woman enter from the side and approach a small window in a large wall. It is unclear what the building is or what the window is for, as it is low down and shaded in black. There are no signs. The man presses a tiny button next to the window and waits. The man presses the tiny button next to the window again and waits. The woman looks at the man and the man looks at the woman. The woman presses the tiny button. After another long pause the window opens inwards. We can't see inside but there is some movement. The man and woman bend down to peer through the window. They appear to be talking to someone. They both hold their hands up to the window sill, and wave a pen in the air. The window closes. They sit down.

Another man from the other side approaches and, seeing the couple, shakes their hands and then turns to the window. He presses the tiny button and waits. After a pause the window opens and this man also bends down to peer through into the dark square. The window closes. He sits down next to the couple. They wait. It's just another day at the Pakistan embassy in Bishkek.

We've made lots of new friends in Bishkek. They are other travellers who are stuck in Visa Limbo. On our fourth visit to the Pakistan embassy we met the same Japanese man who has been there on all the other occasions. We are back at Nomad's Home, which should possibly change its name to something more appropiate, like Hanging Around For Visas House. Our first day back we have to get a visa extension to stay in Kyrgyzstan longer. It seems we only need this to give us the time to get the visas to leave. We are required to fill out a form in duplicate and write a letter explaining why we need another 30 days. Fools. What do they think tourists want to do here? (One traveller considered mentioning killing the president. He did have a weird look in the eyes when he said it too, but then he'd been queueing all day and had also been shaken down by police on the street.) The policewoman who dealt with us spoke quite good English, which came as a shock to us because the last time we called in she only spoke Russian and made no attempt to communicate in English. Must've felt shy I suppose. Fortunately we got the extension. At last, something has worked here.

Next day we head off to the Indian and Kazakh embassies. We're feeling lucky. We put in our applications with the Indians who make us sit around for an hour and a half before telling us to come back to collect in a week. We trot down the road to the conveniently located Kazakh embassy and hand in a pile of paperwork and photocopies there too. We have to fill in an immigration card and write a little cover letter. The man there wants to keep our passports. "Come back next week" he says. He always says this to us. Maybe he thinks it means goodbye. We don't have any more visas, but we feel like we have actually accomplished something. So it's chicken kebabs and triple vodkas all round. And tomorrow back to the mountains!


Jake Lloyd-Smith said...

Dear Sloths -- What a wonderful site! Fiona passed on the address and I have been sneaking peeks during work this morning. I'm jealous of the open road that you guys have, even with the frustrations from time to time. I'm sat in an aircon box pushing out wire-service stories; you're deep in Central Asia. More later when I have more time. Sharon & I are well, although we've had a really tough year. We're in Singapore. I work for Bloomberg these days. Hopefully I'll see Fioan soon as I need to travel to Bangkok. You gonna make it to this part of the world? J

The Sloths said...

lovely to hear from you - of course we plan to track you both down - sometime in 2009?? Drop us a line to gayledicksonuk@yahoo.co.uk