Wednesday 31 August
I haven’t written anything for what seems like an age. That’s because it has been an age. Why this is I know not, save for the fact that I guess I’ve been a little jaded with it all and I really haven’t been bothered. Travel has been shut down, I’ve not really been getting up to my usual debauchery, and I’ve been looking after a dog and a fish. Where’s the story there? You don’t want to hear about my toilet habits do you?! YOU DO?! Oh well it just so happens that I’ve got one – even though it happened weeks ago – I am now feeling well enough to type it. Read on – but be advised that you might not want to be eating anything as you do.
So I was left holding the baby. Or rather the hound as it were, while Alex flees the country to return home for a summer break, I’m charged with 5 weeks of walking Margot, feeding Fishy McFishface, and not burning the place down. Naturally I was going to do my best with such a seemingly impossible task, in spite of initial thoughts of “the cat’s away the rat can play.” But I did what most caring, thoughtful, sensible men would do as soon as backs are turned – I went out and got utterly wankered.
Now this was all very well and good I thought to myself. Just a couple of cheeky nights out isn’t going to do anyone any harm. More fool I. As some of you may know (and some more than others) I oft describe certain travel experiences via the subject of the current condition of my bowels. In all honesty I feel this is a considerably more useful approach than “top ten ways to put your makeup on while riding an elephant” or other such travel blog shite. Should any of you intrepid folk venture to similar climes, you’ll thank me later. Well this one’s a doozy.
I’ve certainly not been feeling 100% since arriving in Kyrgyzstan – a country I still need to use the spell check for. But most of the time you can chalk it up to a hangover, or perhaps eating something dodgy like Burger King. Usually I’ve simply ridden it out with a vat of water and a boiled egg, in spite of a number of friends being sick as a dog when passing through these parts. I always thought my stomach was a trooper. Long story short – after a particularly hard core Sunday Funday Shit-Show Matinee, I found myself venturing trepidly to death’s door.
Doubled over in agonising pain in the right of my abdomen, I woke with sheets soaking wet. I was swimming in a sweaty puddle of my own making. Spasming and shaking uncontrollably, I managed to vibrate to the bathroom like a clitoral stimulant on speed, where I both projectile vomited and pebble dashed the toilet pretty much at the same time. Liquid from both ends, leaving me a convulsing, crying and gibbering wreck on the bathroom floor. Jesus Christ I had nothing left to give! Take me now! This was no ordinary hangover. Something needed to be done.
So the next morning and with the help of a dear friend (who would like to remain nameless, so for the sake of argument, from hereafter she will be known simply as – Sheila), we tracked down a local medical clinic with English speaking specialists and in I went to get a check up. Slipping those little blue plastic hygiene things over my footwear, the doc fondles my tum as I lie on a bench. She’s got her suspicions, but requests that I return the following day for an ultrasound, blood tests and to put my poo in a bucket. No problems says I – then I check my passport. I’m on the last day of my 60 day visa free allowance. I make a beeline for the border to renew.
You know where this is going right? Yeah. I was ONE DAY over. ONE FUCKING DAY! Still with some kind of creature growing in my stomach, I’m attempting to cross the border into Kazakhstan (and then swiftly return) when halted by a uniformed guard. Since neither of us can do maths, he produces a ring-binded office calendar in front of a growing queue of curious Kazakhs, and we proceed to point to and count the days since my last entry. “1…2…3…4…” totally in sync like a fucked up version of Sesame Street. Sure enough it’s 61. My protestations for “being in hospital” fall on deaf ears, and I’m told to return to Bishkek to apply for a visa.
Now that could have been worse (in that moment – oh it gets better – or worse – whichever way you look at it), as I half expected to be detained at the border and thusly a dead dog and fish would have resulted. As it stands, I have to apply for an “exit visa” so I can leave the country and then come back in – all sins forgiven – and begin my 60 day visa free stretch from scratch. Alright fine. More of that anon – now I need to return for my ultrasound.
Most of you dearest readers will know my dad died from prostate cancer. Now although I’m only 36 – any sort of problem down there and I’m automatically leaping to the notion that I’ve contracted that as well. I have to get regular check ups post 40 anyway (and that’s not too far off) so I’ve been doing my fair share of googling my symptoms, brought to you by those wonderful panic-inducing folk at WebMD. So far I’ve got lung cancer, diabetes, genital warts and vaginal thrush. DO NOT SELF DIAGNOSE.
The worry is still there though, especially after she starts zapping me with this cold thing and begins ringing tiny dots on the monitor that appear to be inside me. I’m then told I need a gastroscopy. Yeah sure – no problem. What’s that..?
IT’S A FUCKING ROD SHOVED DOWN YOUR THROAT INTO YOUR STOMACH. I’m held down by this large, Russian looking behemoth-nurse as a doc tries his best to choke the life out of me – driving a long, black tube into my gullet. “RELAX!” his assistant demands, barking in broken English, her manly hands pressing me into a torture position. My eyes plead with her (did I detect a smile?!) tears streaming, choking, rolling into the back of my head. It’s a good job I was told not to have food for 24 hours or this is going to look like that dinner scene from Alien. Apart from there being photographic evidence of wetting my pants at a friend’s 9th birthday party, it’s the most uncomfortable experience of my life.
I’ve got chronic cholecystitis, and several duodenal and stomach ulcers. Basically my gallbladder has given up on me. I’m also lactose intolerant. Here for your viewing pleasure, is a picture of my prescribed drugs:
So that’s it. The game is up. Years of eating and drinking garbage have finally caught up with me. 36. Not a bad run. Now for the beginning of the end. The slide into obscurity. Wasting away in a nursing home, pooing myself and drooling over the nurse who changes my colostomy bag – male or female – I’m not fussy at that age. Goodbye cruel world.
But before all of that – I need to be legal in this country. So popping more pills than Winona Ryder and once again with the amazing help of Sheila (without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do this), we set off around the city to figure out how the fuck I can stay in this country. And what a nightmare it turns out to be. However pictures speak a thousand words, so since you’ve come with me thus far I decided to treat you to a visual diary of events.
First we went here:
They told us we needed to go here:
Then they sent us here:
Where I had to pay a 10,000 Som fine. That’s about 110 GBP. Then we went back here:
Where we handed over the fine receipt before waiting an age for this:
Which we had to take back here:
Back to the start, where we had to fill out two application forms, provide a covering letter, two passport photographs, and a further 1050 som (11.60 GBP), get a stamp from some big-wig in a glittery gold office, then told to come back the next day, where I would finally get this:
An exit visa which gives me 5 days to leave the country and didn’t even use one of the two passport stamps I handed over. That shit costs money.
I hope you enjoyed that little picture journey dear readers. What took you seconds took us hours. All of these “offices” couldn’t be further from each other in the city, back and forth between each one, in sweltering heat, traffic at a standstill while my newly found ulcers struck up a conversation. We attempted to beg forgiveness for outstaying my welcome – by one day – blaming obvious health issues, but the sour faced officials were having none of it. Soviet bureaucratic bullshit at its finest – someone’s pocket is 100 quid better off.
And so there we go. One hell of a crazy few days. But I’m coming out clean on the other side. I’ve been eating like a champ (with occasional slips) and once completely off all my drugs (non recreational), I’ve really been making a big effort to cut down on my drinking. One plus point is that I have successfully stopped mixing drinks. I’ve only had beer since all this transpired – and I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I honestly feel that’s an achievement. Hell I’m convinced it was those 22 bloody mary’s and 7 vodka red bulls that rotted my gut in the first place. The point is – I’m getting better. There’s a long way to go – but I’m getting better.
And to make sure I don’t finish on a dour note – here’s a picture of a dog in a bath and a fish. If only to prove I haven’t killed them.