- Posted July 25, 2012 by
Los Angeles, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Eye on Kazakhstan
The Yurt Locker
- Time, November 18, 2011.
It’s awfully dim in here. And dank. Dim and dank. Dim, dank, and dusty. The triple D’s of filth. Stale dust particles populate the air and coat the inside of my lungs. The room is empty save for the card table and folding chair that my rear is currently occupying. Everything about this squalor suggests serious solitude sans sanitation. I sit and try to think of other alliterations I could emplo - -
The door swings open with a mighty kerrang and in marches five foot eleven of disgruntled curmudgeon. Most of that height was Kazakh cop hat. His eyes bombarded me with razor blades. But he wasn’t fooling anyone with his tough guy act. I could glean a softness behind those eyes. So, like, Lady Gilette razor blades maybe?
He stands across the table with fists tightly clenched. He sports a titanic vein on his forehead that resembles a bundle of DSL cables. It was just about ready to burst. I quickly scan his wrists for a medical alert bracelet. Because he’s just about due for a brain infarction. My mouth involuntarily cracks a smile because the prospect of riding along in an ambulance fills me with glee.
His mouth just perceptibly quivers as if he were mumbling terrible nothings. Or maybe not. I sometimes move my lips when I’m deep in thought trying to work something out in my head. He could just be trying really hard to remember something.
“Roger Moore,” I offered helpfully. “That’s the name of the least popular Bond. Don’t worry. I always forget his name too”.
And it was a brilliant fire truck red. That’s about the shade his eyes flared after my munificence of trivia. He began to advance upon me, presumably to profusely proffer gratitude for saving him a trip to Wikipedia when a voice beckoned from an unseen corner of the room.
“Simmer down, Askar. There’s no need for the handles to be in a state of flying. We’re just to having a cordial little chat with our friend”.
Now here comes trouble. In a pair of tasteful high-heel shoes and in tow a deliberate dress-down manner that was a meager attempt at masking her one hundred percent, undistilled loveliness. She was a monumental achievement in anatomy. Even behind those thick periscope glasses one could faithfully describe her as uncategorically exquisite. I took several mental snapshots for later perusal.
“Ha-rumph,” croaked Mr. Lamb Eyes.
The svelte vision glides over to me and leans against the table. She smiles and the room brightens an F-stop or two. She places a manila folder in front of me. “Do you know why you’ve been brought here today, young man?”
“For gravy, biscuits, and corn-on-the-cob, I trust”
“Yeah, I was told the KFC wanted to see me. And I can always find time for the Colonel”.
“I think you have your acronyms mixed up”
“Possibly,” I nodded agreeably while not knowing what the hell an acronym was. Did it have something to do with chicken? Was it a sort of spice? She did follow the word with “mixed”. Spices can be mixed. Hopefully spicy chicken was still in the equation.
At this point Askar had introduced a length of piano wire into our little tableau. He was eyeing my neck with intent while pulling the wire taut. He was also still embroiled in thought trying to remember something apparently. Man, this guy’s deep. I took another gander at those peepers of his and, again, under the veil of menace all I espied was docility. His glare was about as severe and threatening as a mulberry scented candle. What’s it about this guy’s eyes that keeps reminding me of feminine bathroom products?
“We, the KGB, are to understanding you’ve recently shifted into new apartment,” chirped the waitress.
“You are to understanding correct,” I winked. With both eyes to show her that I meant business when it came to flirting wink-wise. It was just a blink, I guess. “It’s a touch on the pricey side though. When I first moved in I thought I had heated tiles. But it turns out the downstairs apartment was just on fire. That’s post-Soviet living for ya!”
My apartment suits me just hunky dory. But a word on privation in Kazakhstan: It’s like watching a period movie on the Civil War. But it’s a sloppy production and in some scenes you’ll see a colonel wearing a Rolex or another in the distance holding a Gatorade. Every now and then you’ll find something anachronistic and incongruent. That’s here. That’s Kazakhstan. This country has ample oil money and is rapidly developing. But there are still glimpses of the collapse of the Soviet Union. A house will have WiFi. But it won’t have a toilet. They’ll own a new Mercedes. But it’s parked next to a chicken coop. There will be a chandelier more costly than the house itself.
“There is not being need for facades. We know you are CIA operative,” she coos. Sweet fancy Moses, it’s getting toasty in this small windowless room. It’s unforgivingly hot in here. Sweat, dirt, and hummus. In approximately three hours that’s what my socks’ll smell like. I’m still hungry too. She needs to curb the sultry and make with the poultry. Stop grilling me and start grilling me some drumsticks.
“Y’know, people keep accusing us Peace Corps volunteers of being CIA agents. You hear it enough times and you slowly find yourself being convinced of the fact. Maybe I am a CIA agent. And I’m so great at CIA-ing that I keep my identity secret from even myself. I hope I don’t mess up my mission,” and then I crank the dial on the charm, “And if I do say so myself, you’re a perfectly cast exotic Bond girl, you spicy sip of borsch you.”
I coquettishly wink at Askar.
When I awake I’m already on the tarmac with a torn boarding pass. The planes pointed home and most of my teeth have been rearranged. Apparently Peace Corps volunteers have very punchable faces. Although I was hankering chicken my appetite was just as sated with the eating of knuckle sandwiches left and right.
So my Peace Corps service winds down to a close and I’m headed back to the sunny shores of California. “How much long term psychological damage are we looking at here, doc?” I ask the tiny shrink I employ part-time in my brain. Sometimes I like to think that I never made it here to Kazakhstan. And I slipped on the stairwell boarding the plane in DC and this has all just been a feverish coma dream. All of this around me is just neurons and synapses misfiring in my brain because of massive cerebral hemorrhaging. And any minute now everything will just blink out of existence because, as per my will, I want snickerdoodles crumbled up and fed into my IV daily. And life will just sag. Like a flag without wind. But it’s okay. Very befitting of the Peace Corps, things spring up last minute and plans are gelatinous or tend to not happen. And you just roll with it. Inconvenience becomes your modus operandi. Peace Corps: The art of being a good sport.
Still, still, still hungry. And I know just what would hit the spot.
The stewardess toddles by and asks with pep, “Chicken or fish?”