Day 121

“The optimisim of action is better than the pessimisim of the soul” Some random Greenpeace poster

So I find myself standing naked but for a male thong in a strangers bedroom watching the world cup asking myself ‘what?’
It all started simply enough, I wanted to get to the Uzbekistan embassy as the only path that lies clear ahead (aside from civil wars and the like) is up through the stans. So with the address found on the net and a city map which is completely in Farsi I ended up cycling to the far side of the city early in the morning to avoid the worst of the traffic – just one crash witnessed…. I reach the site of the address only to find it is a residental area. So began half an hour of cycling round the area with a guy commandeered from the local food shop who helped me find an internet cafe to double check my address. In the internet cafe was a man who spoke passable english who sold the mst incredible selection of pirated software (Try Solidworks 2010 for $5 US… That is only $10,000 cheaper than I was asked to pay in England…). With the phone numbers for the embassy not working a taxi was called. The bicycle was thrown in the back and we literally wheel span away into the anarchy that is the traffic in Tehran.

I have never been so scared in a car. There are literally no rules. Undertake, overtake on pavements do whatever you want it matters not. The whole time it helps if you sing and dance whilst driving, fight with your brother who has come along to stare at the strange English man and weave in and out of traffic at 80mph whilst trying to pour drinks and invite your passenger to go fishing and buy illegal hooch. This fun lasted for two hours as they had no idea where the embassy was. Neither did anybody else. Even the guy who nearly fell off his motorcycle when he was asked directions. On the motorway. At 70mph.
Eventually to my incredible relief we found the embassy only to be told by a guard outside that it was not giving out visas. You have to go to the ‘other’ uzbekistan embassy. Of course? how stupid of me…. A country of such stature should surely be graced with two embassies. So back in the taxi, another half an hour of searching and two near misses only to arrive within ten minutes of the office closing for the weekend.
I am then told that without a letter of recommendation from my embassy saying that my passport is my passport they can do nothing. Come back in 3 days. GDMFSOB.

So after a trip to my embassy and forty six sodding pounds for a letter stating that my passport was in fact my passport I am back to where I started. Plus I have no idea how to get back to the Uzbekistan embassy.

I walked out despondant looking to phone a friend I made in Van who offered me accomodation. I thus ended up walking out of the UK embassy into a little alley of shops that sell phones. A quick question turned into lunch and then dinner. The hospitality and friendship shown here is simply beyond belief. Dinner then turned into an invitation to see the city. Thinking why the hell not I left with Amir a mobile phone salesman the same age as I. Taking the underground which was an experince in itself we arrived at his house only to be told that I can not wear my clothes. I must change into something clean (dont laugh I am on a bicycle..). He then proceeded to insist that I wear a pair of jeans and t shirt from his own wardrobe. Deaf to any form of protest I started to change. It was at this point that the mlae thong came out and I was made to change my underwear. There are moments when things are so strange that you just seem to go with them..
We then say goodbye to his family, get in his car and drive round the city in a fashion that made the taxi from earlier on seem relatively sane. We stop and pick up his girlfriend and her sister who then lead us to a restaurant where we eat roasted kidneys and naan. I am then driven back to my guesthouse through the night streets of Tehran with enrique inglises playing full blast being told that his girlfriends sister loves me whilst being taught Farsi for ‘watch out for the Iranian revloutanry guard’. Truly one of the strangest nights I have ever had. All good fun though I hasten to add and a testamony to the incredible people that live here.

The morning brought a meeting with Amis who could not in fact host me after all. So what did he do? He paid for a night in my guesthouse for me and haggled down the rate I was paying…

This place just defies description. On the walk here I saw a man pull a kitten out of a planter of flowers stiff with rigamortis then walk off twirling it in his hand, next to this was a man who has a car radio set up running off a 12v battery and hundreds of cassettes for sale. This is next to the newstand where men gather to read the newspapers as it would appear that nobody buys them here, which is next to the shop that sells ninja death stars..

I find i can do an hour then I have to go and sit down somewhere quiet as it is just too full on. Anyway the good news is that after a chance meeting with an English girl (Helen – Thankyou) who works for Dragoman my route into Nepal from the north might still be viable. So if I can endure the madness here, pick up the Uzbekistan visa, head to Mashhad and get the Turkmenistan visa all I need to do is cycle another 2000km and get to the Kazakhstan embassy… easy no?! Oh yeah, and I have no maps.. but where there is a will etc…

One Response to “Day 121”

  1. Gemma says:

    Hi Andy, Long time no speak, probably partly due to the stress in me trying to finish my job, find somewhere to live in manc and then make the flight to Delhi on time! Also I have left my phone behind, the freedom is great, although i have succumbed to acquiring an Indian sim and phone, in order to keep in touch with the amazing Indian’s that I have already met so many of. Anyway i have sent you an email as well so read that and hopefully all is good and i have not offended u in any way. If i have i am truly sorry and will explain more when i see you if you are still able to meet me in Nepal.

    So I arrived in Delhi on Monday morning. At 09:15am the temperature was 40oC. The temperature reached a record 46oC on Monday and Tuesday, according to local news reports. I probably don’t need to describe this to you, as you have probably already experienced such extreme temperatures and worse, whilst cycling in them!!! You are incredibly brave and must have extreme physical and mental stamina!!! But I have been explaining this to others in the only way that is possible, which is to imagine walking into a sauna in England, with all your clothes on and spend your whole day in the sauna. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for all the people working outdoors in it. I’m just a lazy white person, who can escape to the air conditioning of Remya and Ajay’s home! But all those poor labourers desperately trying to modernise Delhi for the common wealth games in Oct are working in torturous conditions. And no matter what anyone says, as Ajay rightfully told me NOONE gets used to the heat!

    So yes, i’ve been staying with Ajay and Remya who are a married couple, since i arrived. A relatively new friend Aneesh, who is also Indian, got me in contact with them whilst i was still in England. I don’t think i’ve ever met a couple so passionate and dedicated to their work with NGO’s and the desire to help the millions suffering for so many different reasons here in India. Ajay has made short documentaries for “Save the Children” and Remya works for a local NGO, trying to build awareness of sexual health to girls and boys. I don’t want to rant too much as this is your blog but yeah, they are amazing people, very passionate to expand their work for all the right reasons. So i’ve been meeting many of their like minded friends as well, who have equally amazed me with their passion to help others in India.

    Little bit of a reality check yesterday. I ventured out alone for the day. After walking around this stunning park in Delhi, with a huge lake, monkeys (u so would have adopted one andy!), ruins, palm trees, little stripped squirrels etc etc, i headed back towards the Sarojoni Nagar Market. Whilst waiting for the bus 5 street boys came up to me and were just playing, not even asking for anything, just playing next to me. An older guy sat next to me started making noises to shoo them away. I said “it’s ok” and tried to show him i was happy and smiling. So the boys carried on playing and i said hello to them and was wishing I had brought some of the clothes out with me that I brought to India to give to the street kids, when the old guy sitting next to me decided to stand up, pick up a brick and went to throw it at them, when i saw what he was doing i shouted at him, he carried on, but thankfully didn’t throw the brick at them and then came back and sat down next to me smiling and content as if he had just valiantly protected me from these pesky street kids. I was in shock! I tried to explain to the man that i have come to India to work with street children and that i did not want him to chase them away, but i could see in his face, he didn’t know what i was saying and genuinely thought he was protecting me! I didn’t know where to start.

    Speaking to Ajay on my return home, he explained that this reaction to street children and anyone of a lower class or lacking in money is perfectly normal. He said it is not uncommon to see men on buses being slapped or beaten up for not buying a bus ticket as they are too poor to afford one.

    I’ve been struggling to get into projects here, however, i will not give up! I am very lucky to have Ajay and Remya working in the field who are doing EVERYTHING they can to help me!

    Anyway back to you Andy, keep going, you are doing amazing. I have been your latest entry and whether right or wrong your entry about you car ride to the embassy had me literally in tears laughing, you have a beautiful writing style, in which u manage to capture every sense of hilarity of the journey and i can just imagine the scene myself.

    And the male thong!! What i couldn’t work out is whether you were already wearing the male thong and the guy told you to take it off, along with your other clothes! or whether he gave u a thong to wear as a cleaner option to your own underwear??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!mmmmmmmmmmmmm, both hilarious but in different ways! ha ha,

    anyway keep going, think of all the amazing stories you’re gona have to tell your kids/ grandkids, if u choose to have them, in the future. They’ll be like no one elses,

    Stay safe too,

    Hopefully cu in Nepal,

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