Category Archives: insha’allah tour

kyzyl kum breakdown

Uz_2000-08-12_Kyzylkum

I told the story of this particular tour the other day, in which Valery’s bus broke down. While tagging photos in Lightroom just now, this image popped up when I moused over its folder in the catalog. I love trucks. I love transport in general. Yesterday, I was talking to fellow photog, Arnis, about how distinctly cars date photos. Looking at my photo archive, I realize that it does vary vastly in different countries. I remember how amused I was by all the old American cars from the 70s driven in Iran in 2000.

I’m suffering a crisis of quantity over quality. I want less.

 

not for the youngins

I’m having an excellent day, and not just because I started it off watching this (swoon), and then the Count (above. Thank you, Mo). No wonder he was always one of my sesame faves. Oh, to laugh so hard everyday. A must watch for the perverted dorks among you. A pass for the youngins and the uptight.

I know you’re burning for the photo archive update. I’ve archived 6,239 photos, am on Aug 25, 2004, and have uploaded 2,106 (through 1997) to flickr. I am back in Bukhara now, and the next 106 photos are of a lamb sacrifice Ulug′s neighbors had for their new building. So gross. Traditionally, there is a lamb sacrificed per floor of the building. I asked Ulug if they did this for their hotel, and he replied, “Of course!”

Oh dear. I just realized how appropriate the count is to this photo archive endeavor. Hahaha.

at long last, 2000 is cataloged


September 29, 2000. Truck stop en route to Kerman (Iran). I love trucks.

I have now cataloged 2719 photos. 1793 of them were from the year 2000 (65% thus far). It was slow going, and I took a long break from what became the sheer monotony of the task. I started 2000 over a month ago. In the meantime I’ve been posting the 1995 Lithuania photos, though I’ve forgotten exactly why I started. I’m into 2001 now, and should go back to add non-scancafe scans of images pre-2001. What a task. WHAT A TASK.

In the midst of a transition period, I haven’t felt like writing much. I’ve been dancing a lot (ergo—it’s all good).


memories of victor: one last bulk

The news of Victor’s death finally reached me from Afghanistan via e-mail, twenty-three hours before a midterm and minutes before teaching a yoga class. When I skimmed the e-mail, “Oh, so that’s where he’s been,” flashed through my mind in that first split second. Then my heart crashed and I began to wail as I understood where he’s been.

My difficulty processing grief is well established, and Victor’s death poses a unique challenge in that I am far from his friends and family, from the places where we were. But I haven’t seen Vitya in years. We kept our friendship up online, as so many do these days, and that is where I have turned to grieve, to mourn this beautiful man and pay him the respects I owe so deeply.

viktor larin and polina Though he was a Samarqandi by birth, we worked together in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I was a tour guide and he was a hotel manager. Vitya taught and supported me in ways I will never repay, and I hope that under my arrogant, obnoxious façade that he knew how much I loved him.

I’d have preferred to—I’d have been honored to—go out and wail with the women, beat my chest and meet the intense, tamasic pain which the “strong” demand the impure live out for them. But I had a Hinduism midterm to prepare for and I was not about to ask out of it. Instead I treaded a middle ground. I studied as much as able, concentrating on the meaning and rituals of death because we’d recently covered it and that is where my mind was rooted. Alas, Yama [Hindu god of death] barely graced the midterm (he can be such a tease!), but I worked in what I’d learned as best I could, and now sit down to write. To wail.

And to acknowledge that it does not feel right to march on in polluted strength when there are tears denied and pains shooting through my rib cage on to my heart because Vitya, and another part of me, is dead. But how to grieve when there are no family and friends around to sit with and remember his warmth and beauty? In that, this electronic connection has bridged a painful separation.

Vitya loved to argue as much as I do and we debated endlessly, in his office, in the Taj restaurant on Chekhovskaya Ulitsa, and after I left, by e-mail. We offended each other daily, but he never gave up or shut me out. Instead, he explained himself, his culture and his way of seeing time and again, and encouraged me, ordered me, to keep interpreting it for those not willing or able to venture to Uzbekistan. And, of course, for the tourists who did. So now it’s time for me to sit and remember, to write the Victor I knew from my way of seeing him, which might be, please understand (as Vitya would have), quite different from your own.

victorlfamilyVictor was larger than life, almost mythological. He loved to take care of people and he lived for it, sometimes to his detriment, when he didn’t say no and others took advantage. He knew this and he had started to fight it around the time we met in 2000, perhaps before. But once identified, these habits are still tremendously hard to break. Hell, being a sexy hero has its merits. By the time of his death, Victor had two families to care for and an endless list of friends, lovers and business associates who counted on him in different ways.

In the last year, Victor and I stopped writing as much. Nothing he wrote was really meaty and interesting as our correspondence had been, and as that’s all I really respond to, I didn’t much respond (yeah, you aren’t alone). I’ve been enjoying my inward journey of late, minding my own nonsense, which is interesting to very few and annoying to the rest. I sensed it was annoying to Victor, not because he didn’t appreciate the inner-world, but because he was moving out (as I will too at some point), traveling and working madly, trying to establish the business in Afghanistan. So much for balance. I sigh in pain as it’s unlikely that I have to explain to you my take on workaholics, those who run in bright-fast circles to numb the pain of their existence, full force against a second’s rest to simply breathe the depth of life, its torments, and its fertile joys. What’s hell is that Victor knew it but fell anyway. For the year, with small exception, most of his emails looked like this:

My life here more and more become gypsy style. I stay in Kabul for not more than 3 nights a week and my knowledge of geography of Afghanistan is getting better and better. I’ve seen nice places on the north, east and south – on the way visits to Kandahar, Helman and Herat. Than Badahshan. As you see not enough time for something more than a couple of words to write. I’d like to write down some impressions, but I’m afraid I won’t. Anyway – good to know that you’ve been safely landed at home. And I’d like to see your central asian diaries published and signed for me.

and:

Sorry for being silent for too long. Just owervhelmed with business issues and absolotely have not time due to the very tough travelling schedule. I’ve made around 2 thousand miles in the last couple of weeks(also on SUV, but just 14 years old Toyota Surf). I’ve been in Jalalabad, Wardak, Kunduz, Takhar, Saripul, Wardak and few more less prominent places. Tomorrow I’m leaving again to Shibirgan, day after I have to be in Kunduz, than one night in KAbul, then Jalalabad (to pick up my team) and then to Ghazni. After Ghazni I’d probaly have to go to Herat and Kandahar and somewhere in the meantime to visit Badahshan and Fayzabad. Few pictures were made, of course no comparison with your professional ones, but anyway reflecting unimaginable wonderful scenery of this country. I would like to get a bit more time to learn Dari finally. I’d like to get a bit more time to write down some of my road impressions. May be later.

lataband-008Belinda, a New Yorker to whom Vitya introduced me in Tashkent, who’s helped me immensely in this grief, had the same complaint. “He’d made a choice about where he wanted to put his time.” Belinda expressed her annoyance to him but I let go. He sent me boring emails (with some beautiful photos) and I didn’t reply. I just waited for this stage to pass.

Victor was forever pressing me about writing my stories down, which he knew all too well doesn’t happen much when you are trying to get the big life done. But the reason I stopped writing about him, and about much in Central Asia, was because I got too close and it got sticky. I cared about the people too much to write them simply, and didn’t feel I had it in me to explain my friends’ different decisions and different ways of life to folks back home.

In one of our last great debates, which always included a great misunderstanding, Victor showed me his vulnerability in a way he seldom did. He told me I’d hurt him, that I flattened him, made him two dimensional and poked easy fun at him in my comments about his life decisions. I don’t recall now what I’d said (I’m still unable to look back at those emails), but I can still feel the shock of pain in my heart when I read it. I immediately emailed him, “No no no, Victor, dorogoi! Please, no, that’s not what I meant, not how I feel!” I didn’t say that often, and certainly not enough. I’ve never felt that about anyone I’ve lost and it feels, it feels like my heart muscle has been stretched out like a rubber band and ZING snapped free, left to find it’s form somewhere new, somewhere again. We took for granted that “May be later.”

A little more than a year after I left Uzbekistan, Victor moved to Moscow because life in Tashkent is abysmal (much thanks to Karimov) and he eventually wanted to get his family out. He didn’t bring his family though, because it took awhile to find a job and set up. Ethnically Russian or not, being Uzbekistani did not make life in the big city easy for Victor and he didn’t like it there. Nevertheless, he fell for his landlady and married her. They had a daughter, Anastasia, in May of 2003. (Given the nature of time, I thought she was 18 months now, but she’s already two and a half.)

This involved leaving his Uzbek wife, which never totally happened as he was ever-dedicated to supporting his family. And now families. Victor thought that I judged this brand of heroic masculinity, and, yes, I did. Most Americans would, which is why I never told the story. I didn’t know how to do it without flattening him. Though it looked all the while like Vitya was building himself a heavy cage, one he simultaneously yearned and plotted to escape, he knew it and fought it. Beneath his heroic, manly mask there was poetry aching to break free. This made him human. And loveable.

byVityaI never told him that though, and he thought I looked down on him. I didn’t. How could I? When in Uzbekistan, I benefited from his generosity like any other. He watched my back, taught me without letting me know it, and never, ever once made me feel like he wanted something from me, physical or otherwise. We talked about relationships and sex, and he certainly had all sorts of lovers, but he never once let me feel that irksome pressure of fanciful expectation that most hetero friendships have now and again. Nor did he presume it of me. He was an excellent friend.

Yes, I was frustrated that he chose to work himself to the end—he must have had so much to say about his life there!—but we both thought it was just a stage. At least I did. I really did expect him in New York, my borderless city, one day. I’d take him about to my favorite Indian places, as I did in Tashkent. Yes, that’s what I thought.

I encouraged him to go to Afghanistan, because though he was working like mad and escaping his families, justified by trying to support them (a man’s man), he was also having the adventures he always wanted to have. Of course I understood his wanting to be somewhere else and we related heavily on that note. He loved my bulks and encouraged me to do more with them. I didn’t. But now, with Victor gone and so much left unsaid, this memorial is the very least I can do for him. The photos capture his beauty, at once his heroic, manly stance and his sad, searching eyes. Oh, beautiful Vitya, may you be happy and free. You are loved.

Photos in this post are by Victor and his friends and family.

revisiting central asia and insha’allah for sure

why now?

By the end of the season in Central Asia and Iran, I was torn: stay in Tashkent to unwind and finish the bulks (all my writing), or go back home to New York? The biggest draw in New York was my photo lab: I really wanted to see what I’d shot in the last year and there wasn’t a reasonable way of doing that short of going home and processing my films. I was comfortable in Tashkent and the idea of staying on and improving my Russian enticed me. But Uzbekistan was getting cold and in the end, the films won out. I booked a flight home.

I realized that I had months of raw material in front of me, and I knew that my life in New York would not allow me that time to ruminate and create. But I wanted to see my friends and my films, and I knew I had the discipline to get it done somehow.

That was almost four years ago. I went back home to NYC and managed to edit the films and design the website, but I never finished the bulks. At first that seemed okay, as writing was never the point; it just got me through the rough spots. But the stories still burned in my mind, invading my dreams and clogging my conscience. I owed it to myself and the events that had transpired to process it all. Was this time spent with new boyfriends, new jobs, new apartments and the bedlam that came with them getting me where I wanted to be? Where was I? Gulnara and Valery, Ulug and Anwar all beckoned my attention; I smiled at their memory, and promptly ignored them. I only now realize that I just dropped Mario from the stories when I broke up with him in the summer.

What finally forced me to admit I’d failed myself were the unseemly parasites that compromised my health. I couldn’t get rid of them and I couldn’t digest. It forced me to admit I’d left something of myself back beyond the Oxus and unless I paid it some real attention, it might well eat me gone. Finally, I sat down and began to write.

uzbekistan airways fight class

It’s over. My final tour of the season ended today in Tashkent and the aftermath felt much like the first hours after university exams—somewhat tortured. For weeks I’d been waiting and praying for the end, but because I barely slept last night (dancing at Al’adeen with the group) I was tired, cranky, and worried about the imminent packing, good-byes, and apartment searching.
I’ve successfully bribed my way onto a flight this Friday (forty USD to move me from #41 on the waiting list to a confirmed seat) and I’ll be back in NYC around 3:30pm. Can’t believe I have only two more days here in Uzbekistan; I’ve not even been back a week. Gulnara and Nasibulla are as fabulous as ever, though their place is somewhat overrun with feral backpackers—
a shocking new development. It seems to be the trend UZ over.
Above: a boarding pass for a domestic Uzbekistan Airways flight. FIGHT CLASS is a misprint of FIRST CLASS (explain that to the tourists).
Where was I? I still have notes from June I wanted to out into the bulks and I’m so behind (and I’ve got to pack) that it will have to wait longer. I guess this is just a note to announce that I’ve survived the season and I am homeward bound.

It’s over. My final tour of the season ended today in Tashkent and the aftermath felt much like the first hours after university exams—somewhat tortured. For weeks I’d been waiting and praying for the end, but because I barely slept last night (dancing at Al’adeen with the group) I was tired, cranky, and worried about the imminent packing, good-byes, and apartment searching.

I’ve successfully bribed my way onto a flight this Friday (forty USD to move me from #41 on the waiting list to a confirmed seat) and I’ll be back in NYC around 3:30pm. Can’t believe I have only two more days here in Uzbekistan; I’ve not even been back a week. Gulnara and Nasibulla are as fabulous as ever, though their place is somewhat overrun with feral backpackers—a shocking new development. It seems to be the trend UZ over.

Left: a boarding pass for a domestic Uzbekistan Airways flight. FIGHT CLASS is a misprint of FIRST CLASS (explain that to the tourists).

Where was I? I still have notes from June I wanted to out into the bulks and I’m so behind (and I’ve got to pack) that it will have to wait longer. I guess this is just a note to announce that I’ve survived the season and I am homeward bound.

iran, home, & blastocystosis

From: Anna Kirtiklis
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 07:45:16 -0700 (PDT)
Hello Worryworts,
My love for Iran has been tempered by Hushman, the insipid little man assigned to be the local guide and driver on the last tour. He was really incredible. I’ll sum him up for the moment with a quote by tourist Elaine, an otherwise calm and pleasant woman.
“I’m not letting that bastard get the best of me.”
The guide before Hushman was fabulous and professional (particularly when compared to “call me Hushie”) and it made the torture of incompetent guidance all the worse. I’m also tired and cranky beyond belief. I’ve been in Iran a month now and have completed two, two week tours around the country, as well as the tour in from Uzbekistan. This week I start the tour that travels back to Tashkent (by road) and thanks be to God, it’s my last tour of the season!
Of course, I am meant to have a big twelve hours “off” between tours to write the reports and account for every rial spent, and to “have some time to myself” but my clever employers in AU have run the two tours (with different group members) together again, confusing everything in the process and pushing me over the edge. I only have time now because they brilliantly scheduled a full day of sightseeing today—four excellent museums.
Any idiot knows that museums are closed on Mondays. Even in Iran.
I mentioned this to both the organizers in AU and here in Tehran three weeks ago and was assured it would be changed, but no, I spent the morning in the office working it out as the tourists sat waiting in the van outside. Well done.
Otherwise, Iran is still fabulous. Really great. I haven’t been writing much because the days are jam-packed with sights and as Iran is new to me, I go everywhere rather than hand the tourists off to local guides as I did in Uzbekistan where I’ve seen everything ten times. (I also hand-pick and trust the guides in Uzbekistan.) That bought me some beloved down time. No, I haven’t been silent because it’s Iran. Life here is no less normal than in Uzbekistan, dress code aside.
The dress code is not full chador (which means ‘tent’ in Farsi), the black sheet-like covering associated with Iranian women. Things here have opened up considerably in the last few years and I am able to wear what is called a rupush, a duster-like, floor-length light cotton dress/coat that covers my shirt and pants. One rupush is light blue and the other light gray. I also tie a scarf over my pulled-back hair, around my chin—not unlike Grandma.
Here I’m relaxing with Amin at one of the Shah’s many palaces in Tehran. Amin was my first local guide—the best. He’s the guy who said ‘insha’Allah for sure.’ I’m wearing a rupush and showing a bit too much hair.
How about that Lithuanian basketball team, eh?
You may guess that I am looking forward to the end of the season. Fifteen days. Less than 40 hours of road time. Less than 40 meals of kebab/shashlik. Yeah, tired. The parasites are still with me and they act up most when I am tired and stressed. Yeah, I’ve had them about three months now. But it wouldn’t be a trip abroad for me if I didn’t get something weird fornicating in my stomach. Blastocystosis this time. Actually, I think they reproduce asexually. Sorry. I’ll stop.
Because I’ve been thinking incessantly about all my film for the last few weeks, on a whim I emailed my favorite prof at ICP (international center of photography in new york) and asked if I could TA for him again this fall. I’ll miss the first two classes, but I’m on, given that I manage to snag a seat on the 20 October UZ AIR flight to NYC. I’m trying to accomplish that not—not easy from Tehran. I’ll spare the details and prayers, but I’m really hoping to get back. It’s a bit insane leaving UZ only three days after the season ends and heading straight into another responsibility (on the 21st), but it will ground me.
Grounding is good, seeing as I’ll be homeless again.
And jobless.
Sarcasm and complaint aside, I really do love my life. Remind me of this when I’m lying on your couch in a few weeks harping on the very tired subject of real estate in NYC.
I could easily spend the next six months working entirely on the films I’ve shot and writing about the last six months. And recovering. Luckily I don’t have much of an appetite with this stomach thing (I am still not used to the weird metallic taste in my mouth that it causes). I do have a strong yearning for a pad though. I’ve stayed in some shockingly ugly hotels this year.
YES. Here I go again. I’m looking for an apartment for Nov 1.
shocking hotel in Samarkand
Tell your friends. If you don’t live in NYC, tell someone who does. I abhor cigarette smoke (still), but otherwise I’m pretty much open to anything.
Okay. Time for a trip report.

Hello Worryworts,

My love for Iran has been tempered by Hushman, the insipid little man assigned to be the local guide and driver on the last tour. He was really incredible. I’ll sum him up for the moment with a quote by tourist Elaine, an otherwise calm and pleasant woman.

“I’m not letting that bastard get the best of me.”

The guide before Hushman was fabulous and professional (particularly when compared to “call me Hushie”) and it made the torture of incompetent guidance all the worse. I’m also tired and cranky beyond belief. I’ve been in Iran a month now and have completed two, two week tours around the country, as well as the tour in from Uzbekistan. This week I start the tour that travels back to Tashkent (by road) and thanks be to God, it’s my last tour of the season!

Of course, I am meant to have a big twelve hours “off” between tours to write the reports and account for every rial spent, and to “have some time to myself” but my clever employers in AU have run the two tours (with different group members) together again, confusing everything in the process and pushing me over the edge. I only have time now because they brilliantly scheduled a full day of sightseeing today—four excellent museums.

Any idiot knows that museums are closed on Mondays. Even in Iran.

I mentioned this to both the organizers in AU and here in Tehran three weeks ago and was assured it would be changed, but no, I spent the morning in the office working it out as the tourists sat waiting in the van outside. Well done.

Otherwise, Iran is still fabulous. Really great. I haven’t been writing much because the days are jam-packed with sights and as Iran is new to me, I go everywhere rather than hand the tourists off to local guides as I did in Uzbekistan where I’ve seen everything ten times. (I also hand-pick and trust the guides in Uzbekistan.) That bought me some beloved down time. No, I haven’t been silent because it’s Iran. Life here is no less normal than in Uzbekistan, dress code aside.

me & amin at the shahs (summer?) palace
me & amin at the shah's (summer?) palace

The dress code is not full chador (which means ‘tent’ in Farsi), the black sheet-like covering associated with Iranian women. Things here have opened up considerably in the last few years and I am able to wear what is called a rupush, a duster-like, floor-length light cotton dress/coat that covers my shirt and pants. One rupush is light blue and the other light gray. I also tie a scarf over my pulled-back hair, around my chin—not unlike Grandma.

Here I’m relaxing with Amin at one of the Shah’s many palaces in Tehran. Amin was my first local guide—the best. He’s the guy who said ‘insha’Allah for sure.’ I’m wearing a rupush and showing a bit too much hair.

How about that Lithuanian basketball team, eh?

You may guess that I am looking forward to the end of the season. Fifteen days. Less than 40 hours of road time. Less than 40 meals of kebab/shashlik. Yeah, tired. The parasites are still with me and they act up most when I am tired and stressed. Yeah, I’ve had them about three months now. But it wouldn’t be a trip abroad for me if I didn’t get something weird fornicating in my stomach. Blastocystosis this time. Actually, I think they reproduce asexually. Sorry. I’ll stop.

Because I’ve been thinking incessantly about all my film for the last few weeks, on a whim I emailed my favorite prof at ICP (international center of photography in new york) and asked if I could TA for him again this fall. I’ll miss the first two classes, but I’m on, given that I manage to snag a seat on the 20 October UZ AIR flight to NYC. I’m trying to accomplish that not—not easy from Tehran. I’ll spare the details and prayers, but I’m really hoping to get back. It’s a bit insane leaving UZ only three days after the season ends and heading straight into another responsibility (on the 21st), but it will ground me.

Grounding is good, seeing as I’ll be homeless again.

And jobless.

Sarcasm and complaint aside, I really do love my life. Remind me of this when I’m lying on your couch in a few weeks harping on the very tired subject of real estate in NYC.

I could easily spend the next six months working entirely on the films I’ve shot and writing about the last six months. And recovering. Luckily I don’t have much of an appetite with this stomach thing (I am still not used to the weird metallic taste in my mouth that it causes). I do have a strong yearning for a pad though. I’ve stayed in some shockingly ugly hotels this year.

YES. Here I go again. I’m looking for an apartment for Nov 1.

shocking hotel in Samarkand

Tell your friends. If you don’t live in NYC, tell someone who does. I abhor cigarette smoke (still), but otherwise I’m pretty much open to anything.

Okay. Time for a trip report.

shiraz, iran

Just a quick note to say hi and all is well. I’m in Shiraz and, yeah, the grapes are all they’re cracked up to be (not to mention the most amazing fresh dates the world over). I’m really really loving Iran—it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I wish I had time to tell a few stories.

I saw Xerxes tomb this morning. Persepolis too (center of the Persian Empire built circa 500 B.C.E.). Excellent! Unfortunately, after just having spent an hour waiting for a computer while watching four different men type furiously with two fingers, I have about two minutes until I have to meet the group. I must say that I am a bit tired as I haven’t had a day (an hour?) off since before the Ovyind and Gunda tour back in July.

I’m shooting more film here and getting anxious to see some of it. And tired of worrying about its safety. Half of it is sitting in Gulnara’s fridge back in Tashkent.

Man I wish I could write a full sentence.

More with time and hopefully rest, 
(Insha’allah for sure)