Assalomu Alaykum! Salamatsyzby! здравствуйте!

Assalomu Alaykum! Salamatsyzby! здравствуйте! Hello!

My name is Kristina and I am a 26-year-old Austrian with a slight obsession with Central Asia and travelling to the more remote parts of the world. Learning a lot (of and about) languages, foreign cultures and trying to gain a better understanding of traditions while teaching German has been my mission in the past years.
Initially, this blog started out as a mere means to inform my friends and family about my life and adventures when I first moved to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It became a lot more than that to me after realizing that writing helped me to make sense of the strange world surrounding me, to deal with culture shock as well as to help me organize the chaos in my head. My Central Asian adventures haven't ended yet and I am looking forward to entertaining you with some more (crazy) stories from Kyrgyzstan in the very soon future!

I am also a couchsurf host - if you're planning a trip to Naryn, let me know on here and we can take it from there :)

I am always happy to hear from my readers, so please don't hesitate to contact me if you have comments or questions, about travel tips in Central Asia or about life in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan :)

Much love,

Freitag, 26. April 2013

How I didn't go to Nukus

Brief warning: This is a fairly long blog post, and it's very detailed. You may regret reading this, but it's still so fresh and the frustration is still there that I couldn't help myself.

Yesterday, I was already planning a new blog instalment on my newest adventures and travels in Uzbekistan. But - and this really shouldn't surprise me anymore - Uzbekistan always finds a(n incredibly nerve-racking) way to spoil your plans.

Two friends of mine (Paci & Pisi) came over to Tashkent not only to visit me, but also to go on an extensive trip within Uzbekistan. While I helped them with planning their itinerary, they were extremely motivated to go to see the remnants of the Uzbek Aral Sea. Despite these trips being extremely expensive, I thought, this is quite handy as seeing the Aral Sea is on my bucket list as well and going on a trip together means to share costs. So, I decided to take two days off and booked a flight to Urgench. Before the actual day of travelling, a lot of research was involved, such as organising in which hotel to stay, which tour operator to choose, which plane to take, how to get to Nukus from Urgench, how and when to get back to Tashkent, and a lot of other related and time consuming issues.

The plan for me was as followed: 
Thursday April 25th: Fly to Urgench (Khiva) and join my friends who were already there, do some sightseeing in Khiva, take a 3-4h bus/taxi to Nukus in the evening
Friday 26th & Saturday 27th: Aral Sea Tour
Sunday 28th: Do sightseeing in Nukus, flight back to Tashkent in the evening.

A little complicated, but pretty straightforward.
Now, this is what really happened: With a little backpack and quite proud of myself for having been able to get up at 5am without snoozing my alarm about a million times, I took a taxi with a chit-chatty taxi driver to the airport. Even the milizia at the airport were surprisingly friendly and I thought, this day is off to a good start! As I entered the airport, however, I could already sense that something may not go as expected when I didn't see my flight on the 'Departures' table. I doublechecked my ticket for time and date and still went to the counter, where a lady told me in non-existant English that "flight cancelled". Great. She brought me to the Airport Manager, who luckily spoke English, and who then explained to me again that the flight was cancelled but that they could put me on another flight to Urgench that night. Well, with my itinerary, going to Urgench in the evening would have been absolutely useless because I needed to be at Nukus early in the morning to go on the Aral Sea tour. I explained that to him and he said, no problem, we change flight to Nukus tonight, no extra charge. I thought, well, I can always see Khiva another time, but at least I'll still be able to do the tour. However, the problem is always this: promising things around here is done very easily and quickly, and it's definitely a cultural thing that things here are always done orally and that people rarely get any sort of written confirmation. This is also something I had to get used to when working here, as there are often issues where people promise you things or discuss something with you on the phone and give you some sort of order, but the promise or information from one person is useless if you talk to another  person about the same issue the next day. I asked him firmly if he could assure me that he would organise a seat for me on the plane that night, and he said he would try. "Trying" wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it was all I could achieve for now. Home I went, admittedly a little depressed and annoyed, but after texting Eric about my misfortunes, comforting myself with some hot chocolate and praying that I would be able to fly tonight, I went straight back to bed. 
Eric then told me that, apparently, something similar has happened to Rob who also wanted to fly to Urgench with Aziz, the helpful security guard of the British school who has helped foreigners out numerous times before. Rob was also told that his flight was cancelled and that there were no seats for another early flight to Urgench....until Aziz called someone, pulled a few strings and suddenly they were able to board a plane of which they were told that it was fully booked. Standard Uzbekistan. So I took my chances and called Aziz to ask if he could do the same for me, and after a few hours he called me back to inform me that they have now booked me on the Nukus flight and that I should be at the airport 2 hours beforehand, just to make sure. I was somewhat relieved and was counting the hours until I could finally go on my well-deserved holiday.
I went to the airport, queued at the counter and was told that 1) the flight to Nukus was delayed to 10pm and 2) that I wasn't on it. I started arguing with a different airport manager again, as he was the only person in the entire airport who spoke English, and ended up being close to tears because I didn't get anywhere with it. He could neither put me on the flight, nor tell me what I could do, nor help me out in any other way, but at least he was sympathetic because he saw how desperate I was. He, however, was also extremely busy because of tons of other people like me were pestering him about the delay of the flight. The problem was also that, apparently, they didn't know if the plane to Nukus would be a small or a big one, so that they wouldn't be able to tell me until about 8.30pm if I could be on the flight or not. It was 5pm, so that would have meant 3.5 hours of stupidly waiting around.  I called Aziz again and had him talk to another important-looking but only Uzbek speaking guy on the phone if he could convince him to get me on the flight. That guy promised him that he would personally make sure that I would be. Sounds good, right? Except that this stupid asshole was a fecking liar, as he didn't even know my name and did not have my passport details (and he didn't ask me about them either). You can see from my use of language here the level of annoyance I had reached by that time. 
I sat down for a while and tried to think what I could do. I did not want to give up that quickly, knowing that persistency is what you need in order to achieve what you want in Uzbekistan. So, I called the Aral Sea tour guide to inform him about the situation and inquired if it was possible to still do the tour if I took the flight to Nukus the next morning at 7am. He said that it wouldn't be a problem and that I should just let him know when I have booked my new flight. With some new hopes, I went to the English speaking airport manager again to ask if that was possible, and he said yes, but also said that the Nukus flight that night was now no longer delayed but cancelled. He did, however, lead me to to the ticket selling counter and said I should just try to get on the plane the next morning. He left, and I was able to inform the lady at the counter about my problem in RUSSIAN..obviously it was broken Russian, very basic and I still had to use my hands, but she understood what I was talking about and I am genuinely proud of myself for having managed that situation so well in a language that has only caused me troubles to far. So, I asked if she could book me on the flight to Nukus the next morning. She made a sad face and said that it was fully booked. I asked her again, just to make sure, and she confirmed what she had just told me - again making a sad face. I stood there in pure desperation, rested my head on my arms while leaning on the counter and just thought to myself Das kann einfach nicht wahr sein. An Uzbek guy standing beside me tried to comfort me in Russian, smiled at me and said that we would find a solution. Very sweet, indeed. The lady at the counter then told me that she would keep my passport and ticket, and that maybe things change when I sit down and wait. What?? How should that help? My Russian skills did not suffice here and I didn't understand what she was saying. So, I gave up, and called Nodi if he would come to the airport and help me out. A sweetheart as he is, he came 15 minutes later and confirmed that there were no seats to Nukus left - until Monday. This is it, I thought. There is no way I can get to Nukus. (except going by bus, but that would have taken me 22hours on bumpy roads, and after all that hassle I genuinely wasn't in the mood for that). 
Nodi then asked the lady about reimbursement, and she said that we would have to get a confirmation from the airport manager first that the flight was actually cancelled, and go to the airline's headquarter/travel agency today before it closes. If you don't do it within the day on which it is cancelled, you get 25% less. Honestly, what stupid rule is that? And what did that mean for us? It was 6.45pm, and the travel agency closed at 7pm....Nodi and I raced to the airport manager's counter, boxed a few people aside to get his signature and stamp, and sprinted outside to catch a taxi. Of course the taxi driver took the slowest route possible, and we got there at 7.03pm. There were just closing the doors and it had just started raining, as Nodi and I hurried out of the taxi and pleaded with the security guys to let us in. Luckily, they understood the problem and did so, but the ladies there would refuse to serve us. They did, however, acknowledge that we did try to come in time, and said we could come again tomorrow without having to pay any fines. Another one of those oral promises....
I am meeting Nodi at the travel agency again tonight after work, and I am praying that they will refund me the full amount...

Update: They refunded me the full amount! Good news :)

1 Kommentar:

  1. Wow, that was some adventure Kristina, and you didn't even leave the city! Much good karma is coming your way. :)