Sunday, 9 September 2007

Kyrgyz Life

Bob says: Our gastronomic tour of Kyrgyzstan is near an end. To help understand the Kyrgyz psyche it's important to delve into the national obsessions. Apart from the culinary delights (why not put dill on everything!), sport plays a big part in Kyrgyz life, from goat carcass polo (I kid you not), to wrestling and weightlifting yer Kyrgyz are keen sportsmen. Perhaps the most dynamic of these sports is the motor slalam. Practice for this high risk sport is carried out by almost all drivers at all times, and the kyrgyz government has kindly left most of the roads littered with potholes to facilitate high achievement. In addition to the potholes, farm animals and people also provide the drivers with sufficient slalam obstacles.
The object of the sport is to navigate through potholes/farm animals/people/slow moving traffic with minmal use of the brake. Techniques for this includes use of the whole road regardless of oncoming traffic, indeed, should there be an oncoming vehicle the real skill of the driver is shown by how close they can get to it before moving slalam style to the other side. Farm animals are treated to the horn repeatedly and it is assumed they will recognise that a fast moving vehicle is approaching and take avertive action (this has proved to be the case so far). This technique is also relevant to people.
When approaching slow moving traffic it is of the highest importance to get round them ASAP, remember, never brake, it's a sign of weakness. Waiting for the so-called "safe" opportunity to pass is simply not in the spirit of the sport. One of the most skillfull manoeuvres is the blind corner overtake with oncoming traffic. The skill involved in this has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately my eyes were closed at the time so I simply have to believe that we made it round the corner.
One last point, should all options on the road be exhausted and you may be thinking of using the brake, don't. It is perfectly acceptable to manoeuver off the road!
Should motor slalam make it to the London Olympics, I guarantee a Kyrgyz gold medal. Their only serious competiton would come from the Albanians.
Other sports increasing in popularity include the Toilet Relay and Squat Shot. The toilet relay is facilitated largely by the aforementioned culinary delights, and the distance between yurt/guesthouse to outside toilet/target. The squat shot is a highly skilled sport involving hitting a rather small target or hole whilst remaining conscious. Holding one's breath can be a mistake as it may not give you enough time to position, fire the shot and get out: a large intake of breath could be fatal!
Practising the above sport has led to dramatic weight loss. I am currently down to belt loop No. 5. For scale, post Dando Christmas is usually belt loop No. 2. I am considering publishing the Kyrgyz weight loss programme.

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