It is said that learning a language alters your brain! Indeed this is so true! Learning a language ” fries” your brain! So I suppose that you can call that altering! It has been a week now, that for some reason or other, I thought it was a good idea to learn Russian. Why not? I thought, since I can’t go on a horse riding trip, I can’t go and sleep in a yurt. The main mountain passes in the country are still closed. They will not open until the end of May. So what to do? This is my best planned vacation! Hm! I think I am going back to UNPLANNED vacations!

I need to get a visa for either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, and as the Pamir Pass, my reason for going to Tajikistan, will be closed till the end of June, it looks like it is a much better idea to go directly to Uzbekistan. I need a visa. Normally a very straight forward affair. You go to the embassy, you fill out forms and you receive your visa for normally a minimum of thirty days!

However the Uzbekistan embassy has made this visa application into a special art. First you go to the embassy, the application is filled out on line. It has compulsory questions, well, the questions are compulsory but your answer are! So letter of invitation MUST be answered, except that as an Australian you no longer NEED a letter of invitation! Photo needs to be downloaded onto the form, except it doesn’t work! How many days do you want? Except that nowhere is indicated how many days you will receive!! All very complicated and totally unnecessary.

Finally you hand over your form , one photo and are told yo come back three days later by a young woman who obviously spends every spare moment sucking lemons! When you come back, the same sour puss gives you a bill. Go and pay it at this bank! Which bank? Luckily, Johannus, the German man who was here on Friday as well, and I were able to share a taxi to the bank. We paid, were charged a bank commission, and received a receipt. Back to the embassy, handed over our slips and received our visa for Uzbekistan! A process, that is normally rather simple, believe me, I have collected enormous amounts of visas in my time!

Egypt is the fastest, simplest and cheapest! Than there was the visa for Mauritania, which took three days and was made outrageously complicated. Let’s not forget the year I needed to go yo Sri Lanka to renew my Indian visa for six months, and the day before I flew out the Sri Lankan president was killed! Oops!! It took me over a month to get my Indian visa! Alt hose are exceptions though. It is a very simple procedure made terribly complicated. This is totally unnecessary!

In the mean time I have spend two weeks learning Russian. Very complicated language! Needed to learn a completely new alphabet , then remember this abc, then do my homework, study and cope with rainy and cold weather! I had two lovely young teachers, I was the only student in the class, and we ALL know that teachers make the worst students possible! My self contained apartment was only U$9 per night! Cheap as! Even the 160 minutes a day was just U$20! There is a very cheap canteen which cooks local food, and hot soups for lunch. Most of my Russian practice was done in this place! The first sentence I learned was ” no meat, please”! The local food is simple, but delicious. A lot of soup, stews and pasties. I specially like the potato pasties, or “самса” as they are called. I did get an upset stomach, as my body is obviously not used to the oil, butter nor milk products. Most of food comes from the local supermarket! Although today’s potato and cabbage mash was delicious and very reminiscent of the food in Holland. ( in winter)