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Friday, September 14, 2007

P.J. O'Rourke in Kyrgyzstan

Speaking of Krgyzstan, here's P.J. O'Rourke in this month's ForbesLife:
All this began--as such things tend to--over a couple of drinks. I was having them with my friend from Yorkshire, Adrian Dangar, whose surname is only slightly misspelled. . . . I was telling him that I planned to go to one of the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia to write about how, or if, democracy is developing in a place with no democratic traditions. This seemed a safer way to investigate the question than going to Fallujah. I was wrong.
Eight months later . . .
A fellow named Djuman Kul, who looked like Genghis Khan and was wearing a felt hat as tall and amazing and elaborately embroidered as anything the Pope dons for Easter, was choosing my mount from a herd of wild Kyrgyz horses. They were wild enough, at least, that nobody had bothered to name them. I had been picturing something on the order of a shaggy little Mongolian pony that would let my feet drag reassuringly on the ground. But these horses were five feet tall at the shoulder. They were thin and boney-headed as fashion models but sinewy like a California governor left outdoors to eat grass all winter. And the horses were stallions, with Floyd Landis levels of testosterone. Like Floyd and Tour de France officials, they were kicking and biting each other.

Djuman Kul led the lone palomino forward. He told me in Kyrgyz, Shamil translating, "This horse is strong, but kind." I wish I had not overheard Djuman telling each of the other trekkers, "This horse is strong, but kind."

I dubbed the horse "Trigger" and hopped aboard. There is a trick to this. You turn the left stirrup backwards, place your left foot into it and, springing with your right leg, swing yourself up so that you...slam your whole body smack into the side of the horse. Shamil helped me up.

I had an excellent, if precarious, view of Kyrgyzstan. It looks like the American West. Not the dry-gulch Western movie American West, but the whole West--purpled mountain majesty, fruited plain, noble forest spires, canyons as grand as all get-out, packed into one place with about as much sign of human habitation as Lewis and Clark saw. (Sacagawea, please go to the satellite phone.) It would have taken my breath away if I hadn't been too scared to breathe.
Later, immersed in the Kyrgyz mountain landscape...
"I think," said Shamil, "when we die this is what we see."
Here's the full article. Minus the cool pictures. You'll have to buy the magazine for that, but it would be four bucks well spent.

Interestingly, at the end of the senate session (picts), President Valentine showed members of the Kyrgyz delegation pictures of Utah. They were appreciative of the red rocks of Zion, Capitol Reef and Escalante - but their eyes really brightened when they saw pictures of the forests, rock, and snow of the Uintah and Wasatch Mountains. "That's home," they said. President Valentine said that's my home too. Smiles all around.


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