Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Several thouand words on the way….

The Camera is back. (crossposted from

Exciting times here in Kyrgyzstan: the camera my parents so generously sent to us showed up today!

The Camera
Actually, “showed up” gives entirely the wrong impression. It is important to note for the rest of this narrative that we are dealing with the main post office for the sovereign nation of Kyrgyz Republic, the central switching point through which all its correspondence with the wider world must pass.

I’d been increasingly mopey for the last few days, as I thought the camera was never going to come (or more likely was a nice Bastille Day bonus for some underpaid postal employee) and Allie and I are planning to head out on a whirlwind of travel over our last weeks here in Central Asia. So I asked our noble office manager at Internews, Batma, to call the central post office one more time to tell us if they had any record of a package from Winter, WI (population: 300) arriving. This time, rather than a flat denial, they said they could not give that information over the phone. Fine. So with a friend from work as a translator, we trekked over to the central post office.

What ensued proved that you can take the Kyrgyzstan out of the Soviet Union, but you can’t take the Soviet Union out of Kyrgyzstan. The people were so abysmally unhelpful that our friend Aisuluu was steaming from her ears. They reported that there was no such package. Then they looked again. Then they took a break to fill out some important paperwork and chat, telling us that they were “very busy, and couldn’t be bothered right now.” Then after carefully sounding out my name and verifying that my drivers license looked legit they looked yet again. Then Aisuluu pointed out that in Latin script my name looked different. Eventually a bag with my name clearly printed on it emerged.

Then the ordeal of actually getting it began. I had to fill out a form, mostly stuff I made up. No, we couldn’t borrow their pen; they were doing Very Important Things. The form was incorrect. We re-filled it out with more gibberish. All this while the bag with my box was sitting tantalizingly almost within reach. Eventually, they released the bag, and blandly asked us if we had any complaints. At this point there was several minutes of untranslated dialogue from Aisuluu enumerating a few of our issues with their efficiency, calling into question their intelligence, and wondering a bit at their parentage. My friend asked if I had any complaints to follow up with. After I was assured by all it was perfectly normal that the package was not actually delivered to me, I had nothing to add.

The helpful civil servants behind the counter pointed out that we would have to fill out more forms if we wanted to register a complaint, and that it would probably take an hour. We signed the “no complaints” line, took the camera, and fled.

The upshot: thanks, mom and dad! I’m so delighted with the new camera- it’s wonderful, and even better than my last one. The first pics can be seen off to the left.

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