Don’t be a dum-dum! Read the First Part!
With the end of the workweek graciously ending their time with Ms. Liu, the Boys moved with heavy steps into their next quest, to find Dima the CouchSurfing Host, whose domicile they were to spend the weekend in.
As fast as a bolt of appropriated Reggae lifestyle lightning, their quest quickly concluded itself as a pony-tailed man in sandals – the first pair they’d seen in Kyrgyzstan besides their own – floated sanguinely through Bishkek traffic towards them on a longboard made of pot smoke. Entranced, they loaded themselves onto a bus and followed him to his roost, the kingly court of the Only Hippies In Central Asia. The walls of the miniscule palace were crafted from fibers of a million well-hacked hacky sacks, the floors coated with the liquefied works of Moby and Infected Mushroom, and the conspicuously absent bathroom door and any form of furniture whatsoever sculpted out of the invisible matter that is Absolute Chillness. Dima assuaged any concerns they may have had, by introducing himself,
“My friends it’s written on your face
You are tired by Visa trouble
So relax while in my place
A decompressing space so humble
And let your worries crumble
To melodies of hookah bubbles
Free yourself from your conventions
And the need to have set plans,
Instead seek out new dimensions
In the company of my chill clan
The toilet of this sick new flat
Has no door – no need for that!
Though I’m no seer, it’s quite clear
That your silly bourgeois values
Make you fear to hear
Sounds of your friends’ poo splats!
As for chairs and beds, no thanks!
We shall never join the ranks
Of the IKEA-hording throngs
‘Sans-bongs’, who keep their money in the banks.
We’re the chillest in the land
From Tajikstan to Amsterdam
With ponytails and dreadlocks thick
And little care for politics.
Won’t you join us for a joint or six
Or at least a fatty jam?”
Razzled and dazzled, the Boys melted without qualms into the Chillaura Borealis around them, and without warning the courtly festivities began. All three nights in which the Boys laid themselves down upon either the yoga mats or hardwood floor of Dima’s house to sleep, an array of wild and unpredictable characters would descend upon them and engage in orgies of weirdness and unchecked chillery, unfettered by time, space, or the REM state of the Boys.
Among these were Miss Piggy-efsky, a female creature simultaneously human and porcine, who gobbled down Virginia Slims with cruel relish between bursts of garbled Russian gobbledigook, the hash-hungry Igor Cavemanovitch, whose bulbous sagital crest and Crypt Keeper good looks kept the Boys enthralled and terrified for hours, and then there was a guy named Michael who didn’t respond to anything, especially when Devon played him Green Day songs on guitar.
On the first night, the quirky congregation of blazeitude began in bilingual fashion, but when the gathered Bongsmonauts noticed that the Boys were neither enjoying the ample doobage nor the trance music humming from Dima’s laptop, they reverted to speaking solely in Russian, and, further wrapping the Boys’ minds in puzzlement, began giddily engorging themselves on Pop Rocks. Since the Kingdom was only about 14 feet long, this made for a sweetly awkward evening, which ended only when the Boys drifted to sleep as soon as they could. Fortunately their next day was abruptly jump-started at 4 AM when Igor began pounding ceaselessly on a large drum, no doubt exhibiting some kind of ancient ritual for summoning the Sun, which surely enough rose from its inky skybed two hours later. The Boys were, if anything, wowed.
As light trickled in upon their bodies, the gastric symphonies emanating freely and social norm-lessly from the open bathroom inspired the Boys to seize the bright new Bishkek day. They did, more or less, by moping around a bazaar or something, then getting in little mini-adventure seen over here. That night there appeared a new cast of cheerful cads dedicated to dankness, who after another interminable night of dope tunez and sweet spliffz laid seige to the scant floorspace the Boys were sleeping on, with one crafty knight of the Dank Realm surreptitiously sneaking a leg into Devon’s sleeping bag during the night. Also, Steve awoke at 5 in the morning overwhelmed with shame and dread after discovering the physical remains of what must’ve been a lovely yet wholly forgotten subliminal sensual experience in his underpants, only to find himself bombarded by the sounds of otherworldly Indian chanting, exploding from Dima’s laptop. As he crept to the toilet to clean up his Id-based crime, Dima stirred and politely turned the chanting down by about 3 decibels or so.
Finally, after a Sabbath spent watching preteens smash bottles and light garbage fires outside Dima’s window, being accosted by moochy drunks in the park, losing Devon’s memory card then miraculously relocating it seven hours later, Monday reared its ugly head. The Boys found themselves once again stuffed into Ms. Liu’s office like two very grumpy moustachioed sardines, burdened further by their bulky backpacks, since they were bound to return to the South Bishkek Guesthouse later that evening. Soon – actually, at about 11:15, so even later than on Friday – they were whisked into a taxi and shuttled down to the Chinese Consulate. Avoiding the gazes of the easily-infuriated fish-faced pen-pushers, they watched in wonder as Ms. Liu handed their forms through a slot and left, proving her worthiness of the $50 per-Visa fee she claimed. Which, as the Boys soon found out through the borrowing of an Australian man’s interpreter outside the consulate, had suddenly jumped to $80. The Boys questioned this whimsical financial leap and in response were told indirectly by Ms. Liu, “Because I forgot!” “Forgot what?”, the Boys queried. “Because I forgot!”
Any further discussions were stalled until they all returned to Ms. Liu’s office, where diagrams and flow charts of Visa prices and the various components of those prices were angrily drawn and voices quickly raised. Finally there erupted a bewildering climax, in which Devon, self-designated Boy Negotiator due to Steve’s outburst on Friday, performed his best imitation of Ms. Liu for her viewing pleasure. It went something along the lines of, “Oh, I forgot! Give me more money! I forgot! Give me more money!”, to which she responded with an equally passionate, “YOU! GO! ON!.. THE STREET!… NOW!”
The Boys took their leave.
Puzzled as ever, the Boys soon found themselves assailed with hunger pangs, and in an effort to satiate their grumbly tummies they returned with a strange amalgam of trepidation and reckless dickery to the grocery store they’d so roughly been cast from the previous Friday. Purchasing roughly the same food items, the highlight of the meal being peanuts, they made sure to collect the shells in a bag so as not to attract the ire of the store’s vitriolic owner. But right as rain, within ten minutes the old sow-faced guardian of the storefront returned to shriek throaty obscenities at them, point wildly at various things, and then kick Devon in his backside. Perhaps the Boys had neglected to read up on Kyrgyzstan’s loitering laws, perhaps they were trespassing in a more metaphorical way – on the bizarre Central Asian laws regarding sitting on cement; either way they decided not to stick around, and after tossing a few choice salutations in her direction, they retired to the nearest internet cafe.
As the Boys printed out Ms. Liu’s company’s actual price-listings for Visas to throw, like gentlemen, in her idiot face, it dawned on them that though her social skills with them may have been lacking, she had exhibited an unnerving rapport with the employees of the Chinese consulate. “My word,” they jointly thought, “what if she’s able to withhold our Visas until we cough up the dough?” they added with a streetwise twist.
Without warning, Liu had transformed from a poorly-dressed dimwit into a conspiratorial Leviathan, on par with the Elders of Zion or the Bohemian Groveites, her tentacles grasping throughout the Chinese bureaucracy. Their visas, and their money, were now dangling over a vast precipice, and the only way to save them was to… well, they didn’t know. But they had to get to that consulate – and fast!
To not really complicate matters, the Boys got there too fast, and had to take a nap under a tree for an hour or so, racking their grey matter between snoozes and receiving glares from locals as to how they could take care of Liu and this possibly diplomatically-touchy scenario. It was obvious that they had no leverage on Liu, as she had control of their money, passports, and, as it would appear, their ability to enter China. In what was becoming a common occurrence on this vacation, the Boys were soon overcome by dread.
As soon as the doors were opened by a large, armed Kyrgyz guard, the Boys snuck into the consulate and waited opposite the staff members, who, to the Boys’ dismay, began sniggering at our heroes from behind their protective window, which served to both literally and symbolically isolate the Boys further. “It is clear,” said Devon, “that Liu has tipped off her friends here, and they have conspired against us.” “I’d say that’s an excellent estimation of the pickle that we’re in, dear chap,” retorted Steve.
At that, the room darkened, the wind howled, and the feral dogs of the city barked louder than usual, as the demonic demi-diplomat herself entered and marched maliciously up to the window, conspicuously avoiding the dumbfound gaze of the Boys. With baited, peanut-scented breath, they watched as she handed over multiple papers and wads of cash, and received a whopping great stack of passports in return.
With malevolent grace, Liu’s dark shape glided across the white tile to the Boys and sat beside them, which was nice of her because they both smelled quite bad at this point in the day. Concentrated, sharp, and direct, she drew out once more a simple, comprehensible visual representation proving why the Boys owed her $30 more, which of course the Boys didn’t understand. Instead, they asked, “You… have… our… visa?” She paused, then rifled through the dollop of passports in her lap and handed them the only non-Kyrgyz ones in there, punctuating her movements with a brisk, “Ye-YES?!?” A quick glance confirmed that the Boys were very much so legally able to enter the People’s Republic, but another quick glance, into each others’ tired, nervous eyes, confirmed that there was still much to be experienced in this vexing narrative.
Ms. Liu rose to leave the consulate, and with a renewed vigor the Boys followed. While she scurried away to grab a taxi, they discussed in hushed tones the merits of, “just, like, running away, right now” from her. They knew the neighborhood well at this point – a field, a bunch of dog poo, a street – and were confident that they could find their way back to their guesthouse. Instead, when she beckoned for them to load into her taxi – an ominous black van with a sign in its window reading, even more ominously, “PROTOKOL,” they instinctively obliged and settled in, watching with amused horror as she handed $250 to the large gun-wielding man guarding the consulate. Whatever trap they were willingly falling into, its outcome was sure to be nothing more than very unpleasant.
Steve made an attempt to disengage Liu’s plot, by letting her know the jig was up.
“Liu,” he asked deliberately, with hand gestures to ease communication, “Why did you give that guy $250?”
“Uh. No, you did. I saw you hand him $250”
With that attempt foiled, the Boys were stumped. Not only did Liu hold sway over the paper shuffling staff inside the consulate, she controlled the mercenaries outside the consulate, and as she barked orders at the boulder-like driver, they cowered lower in their seats, overwhelmed by her omnipotence. Fortuitously, they remembered their sole weapon against her – the ability to speak English quickly and softly, and they started fleshing out their method of escape. But as soon as they began to plot, their doubts flooded back, as a harrowing ode drifted into their heads, narrating their difficult decision:
“Can she cancel both your visas?
Be her influence vast or meek?
Could she leave you, bullet-ridden
Face down in a Kyrgyz creek?
Could she have you both imprisoned,
Beaten, mugged, or drugged, or worse?
Is this taxi just a free ride,
Or will it be your blood-strewn hearse?
If you run away what can she do?
How far does her power run?
And why’d she give 250 bucks
To that large man with a gun?
Though these queries disconcerting be
It’s best to be on your toes
Now will you flee- run out from this car
Or fight, and break her nose?”
No sooner had this marvelous little ditty ended than the car came to an abrupt stop, nowhere near Liu’s office, yet still in a recognizable, central part of Bishkek. The Boys steeled themselves for flight, and began loudly thanking Liu for all of her help, promising her postcards, and asking her if she needed them to deliver a message once they got to China, because, haha, you know, she’s from China. Anyway, they were going to get out of h-
“COME!?! This!?! Way!?!”
And they did, propelled by a combination of intrigue and possible hypnotism on the part of Mistress Liu towards her den. In a vain effort to establish themselves, they kept reaffirming to each other their desire and ability to run away, right now, and powerfully asserting to Liu every few steps, “Liu, we don’t want to go to your office!” or, “Liu, we’re… we’re gonna go, OK? Is that OK?”
Their bemusement deepened as Liu bypassed her office and led them, shuffling and sputtering, into a room filled with maps, flags, and not not-scary-looking Chinese men behind desks. It was a rival Chinese travel company… was this some type of Visa client/prisoner hand-off? Were the Boys to be reeducated in the painful realities of international travel by these children of Mao, or simply sold on extravagant travel packages? In any case, the Boys sat down at a desk, frantically assessing their ability to escape from the building, and thanks to the trace amounts of testosterone in their bodies firing off wildly, their ability to kung fu fight at least one of the men present.
Liu began speaking in Mandarin to the man sat before them, whom they recognized as having served as an interpreter during one of their earlier heated conversations with her. He nodded in agreement with her, glancing suspiciously at the Boys every so often, and sighing the deep sigh of a man being instructed to murder two annoying westerners. When she was finished, he thought for a moment, then translated,
“She say she forgot that the price for Visa was $80 for tourist visa. She charge you $50, but this is for work visa. Tourist visa is $80. She wanted me to tell you this.”
The Boys took a moment to see how exactly they were being screwed over, and fired back,
“Ok… but we agreed on $50, so she can’t suddenly change it.”
“Yeah, yeah, she knows,” waving his hands, “She does not want $80. She just want to tell you why it is $80.”
Sensing her friend reaching a conclusion, Liu chimed in, pained,
“You tell?!? Your?!? Friends?!? NO?!?! MORE?!? TOURIST!??… PLEASE!!?!”
Dazed, no longer confused, and somewhat nauseous, the Boys said their goodbyes and tread, unscathed and Visa-enriched, and still in possession of $30, out of the office into the Bishkek twilight. Their imagined web of Liu-based machinations and deception now summarily unraveled, and their boorish treatment and paranoid miscalculations of her now as glaring, profound and unsubtle as a Kyrgyz pothole, they were leveled by a sudden, severe flash of empathy for this fairly pathetic creature they had spent most of a week dealing with. Mustering up all the courage they could to confront and take responsibility for the personal flaws that had led them into this massive case of unpreparedness, miscommunication, and open-mindedness, they concluded over a cheap, poo-shaped meal, with heavy hearts,
“What a fucking stupid woman.”