Across Continents

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Solo in the saddle

I’d returned at dusk to the house in the suburbs where I was staying. Busy day, mostly writing for the blog, the events of the past week, or scribbling notes as I sought to cajole my thoughts into a form I could properly grasp. If the Chinese Consulate in Almaty said no that was simple enough, go elsewhere. But if they said yes, but just thirty days entry, something of a dilemma. Accept, or go elsewhere in search of more. Costly. And no guarantee of success. I’d chatted to my parents earlier which had helped a lot, but it still remained my call.

I must still have been pre-occupied with my own thoughts, for I missed Olima’s parents, Ilkom and Shaiza, sat quietly on a covered wooden platform in the garden. They called me over. Welcome glass of red wine to enjoy as the light began to fail, rumblings of thunder in the background getting ever louder until the steady patter of rain could be heard on the roof above us.

We sat on long, thin cushions around a low table. They both spoke a little English, admittedly more than either my Kazakh or Russian, but far short of what you might imagine would be needed for a conversation. And yet we’d been able to communicate, and quite successfully. Ethnicity, language migration across Central Asia, troubles in Kyrgyzstan, topics no phrase book I’d ever seen prepared you for. Found myself explaining about the Norman Conquest, Angles and Saxons. Even the relationship between UK, Great Britain, England, Scotland and Wales. Learning about Farsi being spoken in Uzbekistan.

The failing light, refreshing rain, the relative tranquility of the garden, had put me in a contemplative mood. I’d often be asked if I was travelling alone, more so as I’d headed east, and I usually said yes. Truth was I might be solo in the saddle, but I was far from independent. On the contrary, I was entirely dependent on others. Family and friends, people I sometimes met only fleetingly, Olima and her family for their generous hospitality in Almaty, so many others. Without whose support I’ve have scarcely left the UK, never mind reached the eastern edge of Kazakhstan.

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