Ciao From My Apartment In Italy!
I was a little vague last month about where I would be traveling and for good reason– I was going to Afghanistan. For a second time, but this time to cover more ground in the country than in my first trip to the Afghan Wakhan Corridor. Of course, this all couldn’t go without complete disaster en route. We (my neighbor and I) kept laughing at the fact that we were going to Afghanistan… to relax.
So I pre-wrote my August write-up. Here’s to fill you in on what actually happened to me and my neighbor Jolie who was crazy enough to accompany on this trip at the end of August:
- We had mailed off our passports to the Afghan Consulate in DC at the end of July. They were accepted by the 3rd of August and we were told they’d be sent back within the next 10-14 days. Plenty of time right? Wrong. Dead-ass wrong.
- Pretty soon it’s August 20th. We leave August 29th. I start calling.
- No one answered the phone the entire week of August 20-24.
- No one bothered to mention on the embassy or consulate website that the consulate and embassy will close down for an entire week for the Eid Al Adha Holiday. This is not my first time having the Eid Holiday massively screw up my travel plans in Central Asia (I really need to start marking Eid al Adha on my calendar). We were informed of this on Monday, August 27.
- Oh fuck.
- We call on August 27 and are told to call back later in the day, no answer. No response.
- Oh fuuuuuck.
- We call the afternoon of August 28th with a pre-devised plan. We get an answer. The man on the other end is the nicest person in the world (In typical Afghan fashion of course). He has me create the Fed Ex shipping label and email him the label after it’s completed.
- Thankfully we have a 3 hour layover in Seattle on August 29th. I have an Aunt that lives about 1 hour from the Seattle Airport. I address our passports to her with a note to hold them at the Fed Ex store just outside Sea-Tac Airport.
- We leave Anchorage without passports. This took some convincing at the check-in counter as typically if the booking goes international you have to show your passport at check in.
- We swindle our way through check-in and get boarding passes. Jolie packed celebratory vodka in shampoo bottles. We drink heavily spiked cranberry juices at the gate.
- We depart, on time. We even arrive in Seattle early. I get confirmation our passports made it to the Fed Ex store.
- We hop a taxi and are reunited with our passports WITH Afghan visas. Celebratory champagne flights to follow after passing back through security.
But don’t worry– the fuckery continues…
Naked & Afraid, In Urumqi
We arrive to Urumqi after a layover in Beijing. Our checked bags do not. Beautiful. We landed in Urumqi at 1 am and had flights to Bishkek (on a separate booking and different airline of course) at 8 am. We go to report our bags missing, we don’t bother to go to the hotel we booked because why bother at this point when you’d only have time to nap for 3 hours. We camp out at the Urumqi Airport. I realize I forgot my eyeglasses on the flight from Seattle to Beijing. Blind, almost naked & afraid.
And We Arrive in Kyrgyzstan
With nothing but the clothes on our backs and my camera bag. Our first morning in Bishkek was spent making calls with Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines trying to get our bags to Bishkek before we depart for Kabul in a few short days.
Our first stop was traipsing around the Ohs Bazaar looking for a couple of things we’d need for the next few days and introducing Jolie to her very first bowl of laghman.
World Nomad Games 2018
We make it WNG, which is what spurred this whole crazy trip. The opening ceremonies? Seriously so good I have no desire to ever go to the Olympics. The kök boru? As brutal and thrilling as I expected. We even made time for a swim in Issykul and a walk through a Kyrgyz Cemetery before we had to make it back to Bishkek.
Reunited & It Feels So Good…. To Change Clothes
We make record time back to Bishkek in a marshrutka that pretty much flew from Cholpon Ata to Bishkek. We grab a marshrutka to the airport. Then we wait. And wait. We have to wait for the keeper of the key to the lost luggage to come back.
Did I mention we got confirmation our bags by some grace of Allah arrived in Bishkek? They fucking did. After two whole hours, the key boss shows up and releases our bags at the crack of 8:30 pm. I mean we only have to be back at the airport in 7 hours, no biggie.
So back to our hotel for a quick shower, clothes change and a feast at the Taxim Cafe in Bishkek because I love a good plov, manti, and laghman before I leave KG (they have the most lovable waitress there in the later evening).
Who In The Ever-Loving F*** Goes To Afghanistan To Relax?
Hi. We do. After all the craziness that lead to this point, we both could not wait to get to Afghanistan and relax. We have our bags (this was ultimately important because my shalwar kameezes were in there and I wanted us to have Afghan-appropriate outfits on arrival) and tickets. And we’re on our way.
Afghanistan Was A Dream
Oddly enough the entire time I was in Afghanistan I couldn’t help but think that soon this would all be a memory, and before I knew it it was. In our time there we managed to visit Kabul, Bamyan, Band e Amir, Mazar e Sharif, Old Balkh, Samangan, Herat, Panjshir Valley and everything we could in between all thanks to Noor of Let’s Be friends Afghanistan as well as Mahdi, Sakhi, Elyas, Jalol, Mahdi #2 and the many lovely Afghans we met in between.
But for more details, you are going to have to wait! But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging for that long.. That post will pop up here tomorrow.
Off To Istanbul
We arrived in Istanbul at 2 am Saturday morning. I had booked a room over in the Beyoglu District. What a shock going from conservative Kabul to the Friday night debauchery in the Beyoglu District of Istanbul.
Nothing too exciting happened in Istanbul except for a man who stopped me and walked with me for a good distance on my last evening there. He kept going on in Turkish (which I, unfortunately, do not know a shred of) and walking next to me even though I kept trying to convey that I couldn’t understand him.
After about 10 minutes I finally got what he was rambling on about. He pointed at him and then me and said “seis” while motioning his index finger of one hand through his fingers looped into a circle on the other hand. And before any of you guys start wondering if I was asking for it, I was completely covered to the wrists, ankles, and collarbones out attempting to take pictures of the sunset. So yes, I was more than appropriately dressed for Istanbul.
This ended with a “WHAT THE FUCK?” and a shove to move him out of my way. What the fuck is wrong with some people?
Aside from my proposition for seis, I ate the best kebab of my entire life at Zübeyir Ocakbaşi and met plenty of wonderful Turkish people. Of course, I made the venture to Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, took a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Kadiköy neighborhood on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, and ate all the baklava, Turkish delight, kebab, burek, simit, beyaz panir and just about every other Turkish dish I could get my hands on.
Italy Here I am
After a couple of days in Turkey, I’ve made my way over to Italy where I will be until sometime in November. I haven’t really been here long enough to have any opinions on Terracina where I am at but I’m sure that’ll come along eventually.
What I Wrote This Month
What Will Happen In October
I don’t yet have any solid plans but the month will nonetheless be spent in Italy. I hope to visit Naples, the Calabria Region, The Amalfi Coast, and all the little towns and places that dot the coastline around where I am staying.
You can expect to see posts in October about Afghanistan including the post about my recent trip that you can read tomorrow, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Japan, Chile, and some news about more small group trips I will be organizing for 2019.