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Published: December 9th 2017
FACES OF TAJIKISTAN...the Cultural Divide.
I still shake my head in disbelief this could happen...but it did.
Then when it became known...and I made it clear to them that they had disgraced the whole group by doing so...the protagonists tried to change the facts and attempted to justify their appalling behaviour as if it was to help the local people to improve their lot.
But pigs fly and wind is wind.
And those that know what happened...know it happened...and no conniving or mis-truths changes that.
What a delight to travel with the Travel Camel again...our Mischief on the Mekong being entre...main course travelling from Dushanbe to the Afghan border...hugging cliff roads along the Panj River...daring us to dip our toes in so it could attempt to bite them off...then ascending into the High Pamir for dessert where the mountains and lakes were a palette for our artistic brush.
And what fun to travel with Dangerous Dave & Merry Jo again...Blues schmoozing in the Caribbean being our entre...Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan being main course and Armenia dessert.
Remote being Denise's and my quest...altiplano yet again being our altar...but where did we rest?
This is where Tajak homestays come into it...and they are the best.
Smiling faces of our new travel companions as we set off...some here and there complaining about accommodation...simple food...sketchy internet availability...electricity often only available at night by generator...OK...we may have different expectations or comfort levels...but who really cares?
Some are flexible travellers and some are not...some can enjoy whatever comes...some cannot.
But when attitudes of superiority lead to contempt...to disrespect...to accepting hospitality with the right hand...rejecting it with the left...in an air of disdain the 'Ugly Tourist' is born.
And ugly is ugly...truth is truth...and no wheedling or humbug can change that.
One hundred kms for chicken...that's 100kms each way folks!!!
We are in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan when a call came through that the three complainers (the Irish woman and the two Germans) had been up to their old tricks.
But as the story unfolds we move from horror to rage to disbelief...then back again.
The owners of their homestay in the village of Sary Mogol (aka Sary Moghul or Sary Mogul) reported the three had complained the rooms were dirty.
would not eat the meals prepared for them.
Some of the owners of the homestay were on the mountain that night...so we were able to get the full story in its grisly detail that I summarise as follows:
The homestay prepared a big evening meal...tasted by them then rejected.
Another meal prepared. They rejected that as well.
Then they insisted on chicken...but the homestay had no chicken.
So Kudash (their driver) drove around Sary Mogol looking for chicken...but could not find any (or at least not that anyone would part with).
So the homestay contacted the city of Osh, (Kyrgyzstan's second largest city)...about 218.3 kms away...found some...drove halfway to collect the chicken (that's 100kms folks)...which upon return (that's another 100kms)...was cooked for them.
But who drove the halfway from Osh and back? you ask.
The owners of the homestay complained they stayed up until midnight to satisfy the vicious three.
As a result the homestay owners contacted the tour company through which Shane had organised the trip and advised them that they were not prepared to deal with the tour company again "if they had those sort of people."
homestay also demanded the tour company reimburse them for all the dinners they had prepared that night.
I was told by another that the three "gloated"
over their achievement in getting the homestay "to change the menu to provide a chicken dinner".
Denise asked on Facebook; "The chicken dinner...was that the chicken dinner that you made them travel 100km to obtain?"
The Irish woman replied: "Ah ha. We will never forget the chicken dinner."
The German woman in response to the Irish woman's post wrote: "Oh yes it was a lovely evening. We were lucky to take advantage that the husband of the lady was anyway in the city."
Is that an admission or what?!!!
But this is not just a story about 'ugly tourists' manipulating poor locals to provide a feast.
Of course there were repercussions.
The owner of the tour company was not amused...as you can expect he was hopping mad.
He was assured it was only three of our group that were causing the grief...the rest of our group (the Bulgarians, Americans & Australians) were "perfect."
But his business was threatened and economic decisions
had to be made...the tour company and the owners of the homestay (who also owned other sites) had to compromise.
And we heard that they did...looking for scapegoats such as our guide...(he wasn't there but how could he let this happen?)...no longer prepared to put their complaints in writing...anything to put this unpleasant incident to bed.
And as we headed to Osh for our farewell dinner with the vicious three...I for one was filled with dread.
Where do we sit in these circumstances?
Initially we were united we would not sit at the same table with them for the farewell dinner some days hence. "But what about Shane? We cannot force him to choose between us." "This is his tour.We can't do that to Shane."
And so the rest of our group reluctantly agreed...for Shane's sake we would suck it up and sit with them...for Shane's sake.
But one of our group was wavering...saying "I couldn't live with myself by making my presence appear to condone their actions...I refuse to sit at the same table."
"I cannot appear to condone"
no 'suck it up sweetheart pleas' would break his resolve.
saying...stubborn...obdurate...obstinate in his refusal to move.
.Yep...you guessed it...that person was me.
Farewells and the farewell dinner
Enter Kyrgyzstan...sweet tales I'll tell later.
Days pass...enter Osh...a city of cars...buildings and more cars...to our hotel...a shower...dreaming of the Pamir where I'd rather be.
The Bulgarian men who had arrived in Osh before us whisk us away to a restaurant with its own brewery for a lunch so sumptuous and enjoyable that we talked 'twas grand enough to be our last meal together.
A meal where we laughed...chatted...ate to overfill...connected as true friends do.
And the only ones missing were the complaining three.
But all good things come to an end...and the farewell dinner with the three had to take place...after all it was on the itinerary.
And when the hour came I walked down the hotel stairs into the vestibule...the last to arrive...the Irish woman gushing "Here comes David"
...me walking past them without acknowledgement or a nod...body tight...biting my lip.
But she would not let me pass that easily...coming after me..."Hello David...Hello David"...forcing out my reluctant "Hello."
Enter the restaurant...absolute relief...two tables...they at one...the Bulgarian
men and the Kool Kids declining to sit with them.
We leave at the end of the night...the others nodding with short goodbyes to them as they file out.
Then it was my turn...eyes forward...walk past...the Irish woman calling..."Goodbye David"
over and over...demanding response.
I had agreed I would say nothing to them as my compromise to the group...but a leprechaun tapped me on my shoulder...so I turned...eyeballed the three...and said: "You have brought disgrace to the whole of our group. ****** may lose their contract because of your behaviour"
...and walked out.
The Irish woman complaining something...the German woman shrilling something...the German's booming voice screaming "You are the rudest man I have ever met"
as I disappear into the Kyrgyz night.
A peace descends over me...someone had to say something...I wanted to but did not intend to.
But she forced me as it turned out...glad she did...'twas short and sweet...someone had to say their behaviour was not acceptable.
And that someone...ended up being me.
****** Pigs in the parlour and Romantic poverty types
There is nothing like an Irish woman scorned they say.
As a result
of my comment the Irish woman commenced a tirade on Facebook to justify the chicken dinner as her attempt to develop tourism...to help them lift their game so to speak...to overcome the food..."the blandness of Tajikistan"
as she called it.
She also boasted she "took it upon myself to be a self-appointed interior consultant"
to improve the quality of the Sary Mogul homestay...and how appreciative they were for her doing so. "Ah the fun...the joy...and the tremendous feedback of happy people impacted by our visit to Sary Mogul"
A hero she conveys to her friends in the ether no doubt...or is that a narcissist calling out?
But she was only helping the locals improve their lot I hear a solitary voice say.
I guess that's why she posted on Facebook: ".....and we had a few romantic poverty types with us>>nightmare. I caused a bit of upset..." "What is a 'romantic poverty type?'
a friend of hers enquires. "The ones looking for the "pigs in the parlour" and those who feel progress for the people ruins the culture and feel of the place,"
Irish vernacular a parlour is usually the nicest room in the house and traditionally was where one would entertain special guests.
When referring to "a pig in the parlour" I understand one is usually speaking of someone that is more at home in a pig pen than in the parlour.
Questions for your reflection and consideration:
From the issues raised in this blog the following questions arise:
As travellers or visitors in a foreign country staying in homestays:- Q1.
Is it appropriate that we express an opinion to our hosts that the accommodation or food they provide is not good enough? Q2.
Does your answer vary if they are poor people sharing what little they have to the best of their ability? Q3.
Should we graciously accept their hospitality without criticism? Q4.
Or should we encourage them to improve the food and accommodation they offer so they can progress in the World? Q5.
If we simply accept what they offer with only a thank you and a smile, are we by inaction impeding their progress in the World? Q6.
it simply none of our business to interfere in how they provide hospitality or choose to live their lives?
Feel free to proffer your opinion.
Oh...before I forget...the oft raised subject of tipping.
Shane suggested each of us tip US$50 to our respective driver and also to our guide.
Those in the Dancing Car believed Mr Zee and Sherali deserved more than that and tipped accordingly.
I have no doubt the Bulgarians in the silver car tipped appropriately (to Jengish & Sherali)
The complaining three in the red car asked, "Why should we tip them anything ( to Kudash & Sherali)? What have they done for us?" Q7.
What are your thoughts on tipping? Tajikistan and me
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan was the home of the Sogdians...one of the great cultures of the ancient Silk Road...controlling the road from China to Samarkand, the jewel of Central Asia.
Tajikistan has a rich culture born in antiquity.
The Russians kindly created their own borders in the 20th Century to separate Uzbeks from Tajik and Tajik from Kygryz and the Yagnobi had to fend for themselves.
a small mountainous country having gained independence from the Soviet block in 1991...then fell into civil war until 1997 with the loss of about 50,000 lives.
Economic and humanitarian aid are urgently needed to repair the ravages of the past. Tourism will help but I believe this must be pursued on their terms not ours.
As we travelled through Tajikistan we met friendly, generous and proud people whose hospitality was such that even if they were poor...they would prefer to share what little they had even if it meant they go without.
The scenery is stunning as my blogs attest.
But the spirit of Tajikistan is in its people...that inhabit the cities, villages, mountains, plateaus, valleys and altiplano...that welcomed us at every bend.
Now let their faces tell their own stories...and great stories inhabit their every crease, wrinkle or smile
Relax & Enjoy,
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