Tag Archives: central asia

climb down, yo

~or~how to not be a wanker in your online approach

And so, The Global Hook-Up Party: How to have a sexytime-no-strings-attached-two-day-affair through couchsurfing. Or not. It is true that the last two posts were building up to this. Because even in my worst moods, my heartbroken moments, my deep despair, T’s words will pop into my mind, and I laugh. You will, too. That’s the point of all this. His pickup rewrite is simple, yet hilarious and amazing. My point is not to be schooly, as T has suggested. Though I can see how a guy might find it so.

A few weeks ago, I received this couchsurfing request (I cut a bit for length):

spero_crucible_365Hello V. (or should I address you as Venerated Coconut?)

The cool morning breeze across my face as I ride my bike downhill¦ The howling of jackals in the deserts of Eastern Oregon¦ Writing, the sensuous movement of the pen upon paper, letters forming into words, sentences and ideas¦ Playing as a football goalie, diving across the goal to turn the ball away¦ Joining with others in peace and environmental groups, trying to restore some balance and justice¦ The touch of a loved one’s hand¦ These are some of the things that I love and that provide my life with joy and light.

I will be in NYC [for two nights] and would love to meet you, and be hosted if possible….I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London

and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.

I am…a university teacher in the department. Writing and editing essays and books about these subjects is also an important part of my being. [One would think he’d take a moment to edit his correspondence. But evidently not so important.]

If you have the time and inclination, let us meet for coffee, an art show, a hike, a concert, a bike spin, prepare a meal together, or whatever the spirits and our imaginations inspire.

[closing cut]

My CS profile has no recent photo but I would be happy to send one (as an attachment I can only send it to a non CS address.)

Oh dear. No, I’m not interested in a photo of your 49-year-old self. Not at all. In fact, I’m grossed out. T and I have discussed fairly thoroughly the nature of couchsurfing, and this “request” does seem to land on his side of the argument (that of the global hookup party). I shared the request with him:

A (me): I got this from a couchsurfer. It’s so gross. What else is there to say? [see above]

T: Lordy.
It probably works most of the time.
Wankers all.
Say: “climb down, yo.”

A: “I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.”

is that like a mashup or mistaken cut and paste?


T: i think it’s just barmy writing yo. few people are able to write articulately.

I recently saw a show by Nancy Spera at the Serpentine in London.  It covered all the bases – pain, love, war, suffering, resistence.  I was honestly moved.  I would love to meet you and talk about our respective interests.  I am sure we would find that we share a love of writing and art.

Something like that.  It comes easy.  People are morons.  I don’t know why I can’t function in this world when it’s the rest of the world that is moronic.

A: [Gales of laughter.] Agreed.

It’s almost shocking how T’s quick edit instantly changes the para from swarmy to thoughtful. It’s really just not that hard. But giving the behavior of (many) guys both online and in person, it seems that it is. Why is that?

a global hookup party (or not)

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_004If you didn’t read the last post, this post is a continuation. It can also stand alone. It’s the second in a series about online personality and relationship.

I had a nice surprise today when I saw that Owl, a blog friend, had posted a favorite part of a favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I posted almost the same lines years back. It’s one of the few books I own (everything else from the NYPL, thanks).

I’ve never met Owl, but we’re bloggers, over-thinkers (in recovery, maybe), and ashtangis. She warms my heart just as a personal friend would. I made my first website in 1995, and within that year made friends through the web. It’s not so strange to me. As with anything, I employ discretion.

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_001It was also in 1995, before my first solo international trip, that I joined an organization called Servas. “Servas hosts offer hospitality to approved travellers of every ethnicity, creed and nationality. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life (excerpted from their website).” They weren’t online at the time. There was an application, a fee, and an interview. Once approved, I received a book of hosts for the countries where I was traveling. All this through the US mail. It was great fun. Through it, and a book called People to People, I met friends in Europe I have to this day, including a Lithuanian family I take for my own. (The photos are, top to botttom, of Dad Myrius in their living room, with his son Regimantas behind him, Mom Regina making bulviniai blynai, and Regimantas visiting NYC years later.)

Servas is online now, but it’s been eclipsed by Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is for those interested in “Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” Very few have heard of Servas, but most travelers and youngsters know of Couchsurfing. I first heard about it through Anya, an in-the-flesh friend I met through the internet (about seven years ago via a harvard listserv on central asia, or siberia, or something). An anthropologist and intrepid traveler, I don’t think Anya has couchsurfed, but she talked about a male friend at Columbia U. who liked to host people with great frequency, particularly young girls. Later I heard about it from other people who said that it was used largely to find a free place to stay. My first impressions were not great—certainly not ambassadorial—but I did sign up before my long trip to Australia, and met some people before I left New York. Like Servas, many couchsurfing hosts prefer to meet others for drinks or to show them their home town rather than to host them. This I did, and still do on occasion. I’ve met some great people. But really, for most, inviting anyone to stay in her home is a bit fraught. To invite perfect strangers? Who has the time?

NewYork_2004-05_Regim_3One’s attitude to this, like most social networking sites, can be a litmus test of personality. There are really lovely people on the site looking to meet locals where they travel, like I was sixteen years ago. Now? I don’t know. My travel style has changed, and I tend to go to places I already know people. If lovely people contact me, I do like to meet them, certainly. These people send a message about themselves and what they related to in my profile—i.e. why we might enjoying meeting one another. Oh yes, like a dating site, there are profiles, which does cause confusion (conflation) for some. There are others just looking for a free place to crash. They write carbon-copy form letters about themselves and seem not to have troubled themselves to read their potential host’s profile. These people I ignore. And there are others still who give the site the reputation that Anya’s friend lends it. Why T likes to call couchsurfing “The Global Hookup Party.” This we will talk about more. Next time.

an update from home

The taste of dill takes me straight back to Central Asia. Is that why I’m writing this? They use it heavily in their cuisine, but then, so do the Russians so perhaps it’s their influence.

I’m cooking beef bone soup today. It feels so good to cook in the winter, especially veggies and soups. It’s finally warmed up (44°F) but it’s gray. Just staring at the beautiful deep greens, oranges, reds, and purples toasts me up and puts me in a bit of a trance. The earth, all frozen outside, vibrates in my hands. Yum. I like winter. Especially the light.

After cleaning all the refuse, I stared at the remaining beets and decided to roast them up, since I’m in the kitchen anyway. How lovely to pretend I have time for all this.

And I sort of do. I refuse to do anymore schoolwork today and I’m not in at work until four. There’s plenty I could be doing and this is what I’ve chosen. The beef bone stock will last me probably the rest of winter so it’s time well spent. I can do some yoga before the beets are finished.

Speaking of, this is a good article on food. What should be obvious, but isn’t.

This is the update? This is the update. You want to know where I’ve been? Not out of the country since the last Central Asian trek in ’04. I’ve lived in the same building for 3½ years, the same neighborhood for almost five. Can you believe? I can. It’s nice.

I’ve traveled a bit in the States, but otherwise work, school, and yoga keep me tied to the city. Order of import: yoga, school, and work. Yoga is great fun. I do it every day, I teach it almost everyday. I’ll not wax poetic about it because I’m creating a yoga site for a class, for my students, and for the fun. I didn’t intend to fall in love with yoga, much less teach it, but, well, love is seldom about intent.

School is interesting enough. I was doing a program in south asian studies, but back-burnered that this semester for a health and behavioral studies/health education MA. Both obviously pertain to yoga, but the latter is more applicable to my life. “The ideal to the real,” said the Venerated Coconut. The programs are dramatically different. I like them both. And I still learn best by grabbing some books, taking off, and talking to people along the way.

Coming back to the classroom gave me a great respect for all I learned out there, fiddling about. I am really lucky for all that, hard as it was at times. And I’m lucky to be back here in the city, where I can travel the globe, meet its people, eat their food, and be home at the end of the day. What will I do with the degree/s when finished? I don’t know. I’ve got some ideas. As always, something will come.

Many thanks for checking in on me. It’s quite sweet.


Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk
and we’re at
the edge of the roof.

victor’s femininst cause

I wrote most of this a few weeks ago but wasn’t able to send it.

Like it or not, I am a city girl. I love to travel and get out of town, but too long away from a metropolis and I freak out a little. Or too many times around Uzbekistan in a circle (eight now) and I freak out a little. I really must figure how many miles it’s been. I love to mile drop.

What I’m saying is that it’s oh-s0-good to be back in Tashkent. I’m at Hotel Tsorbi now using a computer in an air-conditioned office all to myself. The chair is even reasonably comfortable. It’s quiet! I’ve even been room-serviced a piping hot cup of Nescafé.

And all free of charge, thanks to Victor. He complained that I criticize him too much last night, as he pulled out a bracelet for me to inspect, a birthday gift he bought for some twenty-seven year old colleague. His generosity is boundless, really.

It is. I come here every night to use the office and I am more than welcome, even though I’m not staying at the hotel (I’m at Gulnara’s while off tour). Though I am tough on Victor, I do quite like him. He entertains me to no end.

I take him out to dinner once in awhile to thank him, though it’s a constant struggle to convince him I that will pay. He’s fond of Taj, the best Indian restaurant in town, which only wins him points with me.

At our last Taj meal, quite awhile ago, Victor came clean about the whole Natalya mail order bride debacle. This is also when he reassured me of his concern for women’s rights (you should have known I wasn’t going to let this go).

I must have been sitting there with a very skeptical look on my face because he said, exasperated, “Why don’t you believe I am sincere about this problem!”

Oh Victor, thank you for the beautiful entree!

“Victor, did you not tell Mario that you have four American girlfriends?” I asked.

“Yes.” Victor replied unabashedly, not quite getting the connection.

I was thrown. How to explain that in America, if you have a wife and children, it is not acceptable to have four girlfriends, American or otherwise? And that somehow this in itself is very obviously an insult to womankind? AND that if he wants to help women, he should start at home with his wife and daughter?

“Um, Victor,” I asked, “Is there any concept of male monogamy here in Uzbekistan?”

Victor took a drag on his Davidoff cigarette, furled his brow as if confused by the idiocy of the question, and said simply, “No.”

Okay, new tactic. And your wife. If she allowed to have other lovers?”

Another (perhaps creative?) pause. Then he leaned toward me and confided, Well, yes. But we have a special arrangement because she lived with the kids in Samarkand for a year before I brought them to Tashkent. She knows I have girlfriends. I don’t tell her everything only because I don’t want to hurt her, but she knows enough.”

And then, recalling my question, added, “And she is allowed other men.”

“Yes, you say that, but does she? And if she did, would you still approve?” I responded, knowing full well that he says ‘go ahead’ only because she doesn’t and won’t.

So I was wrong.

“Yes, she has. Once. But it wasn’t very good for her. It wasn’t a good experience,” he said, shaking his head sadly at the thought his little wife subjecting herself to a lesser man.

I laughed like a madwoman. Haven’t I heard this line from Victor before?

“Okay Victor, so if your wife had an affair and it was good for her, would you still approve?”

Victor laughed, only slightly embarrassed, and swiveled the subject back to Uzbeks, “But this is definitely not normal here in Uzbekistan. Wives here are not allowed other men.”

Okay, Victor. That I believe.

On the drive back to the hotel we passed Bar Emir, an ex-pat and mafia hangout with outrageous prices for the same mediocre food and drinks as any other western-style bar/restaurant.

“That’s my favorite place to get a coffee and sit,” Victor said, then quickly added, “Outside, outside I mean,” so that I wasn’t inclined to think that he went to watch the women stripping and pole dancing inside.

Of course he wouldn’t do that.

He will, however, call my male colleagues over to appreciate the pornographic ‘newsletters’ that he receives in his email every day. I try not to take being left out personally.

Shucks I’m hard on him.

View his rebuttal.

More very soon.