Archive for taxi
Story-hunting in one of the world’s top seven -stan countries — let’s blame the terrible titling on the 80 hours it took to get here.
But at least there are the cultural car crashes that expose man’s natural urge to play pop culture Battleship. We’ve got no languages in common, among the three Tajiks know well, and the three I can make sentences in, but we do have a code: those references. It’s hard to know anyone without talking — it’s easy to get crazy, to assume the worst, to find fault — and yet, when the Wandering Tajik fires a random name at a Wandering Jew, and when there’s a sound not of empty echo but of a clink against something solid — we know we’re at least playing the same game. Direct hit.
So, here: a conversation in the shared taxi “terminal” in Dushanbe, waiting hopelessly to set out on the the “15-” (read: 35-) hour trip to Khorog.
A man, smiley: “London?”
He seemed to be searching for more points of connection. I was out. “Ruski znayet?”
“No.” It was strange: me, the caucasian, ignorant in the lingua franca of the whole Caucasus. But I was too hot to be apologetic.
“Vandum, Vandum: Vandam.”
“Jean-Claude Van Damme.”
I asked my cheeks to lift into what I thought would be a smile. Looking satisfied, he walked away.
The Levant: Part Six
The closest I came to gunfire was just after we crossed the border into Syria. They told me it was dangerous, but I thought it would come from the cities, from the police, from around the crowds, and not on the road that cut up from Beirut through the mountains and back down again toward Damascus, Ash-Sham.
Leaving Lebanon at Masn‘aa, we would first reach Haloua, the town whose name means “sweet”. I had passed through each country’s checkpoint without an issue, accepted into Syria without knowing my destination, with nothing but my visa and tempered American smiles.
I sat in the back of the taxi. Just me, and the driver’s fat friend in the passenger seat. They had gained interest in me with the altitude, but lost it quickly when I told them that I wasn’t at all ethnically Lebanese. We entered into Syria and the fat friend lent me his phone, or rather rented it, fidgeting angrily when I had spent too long trying to make out my friend’s directions to a meeting point. Tension mounted as he demanded eight thousand lira, almost six dollars, for a five minute call. The scruffy driver took his friend’s side. Pressure.