Tuesday, October 02, 2007

About being arrested in Kazakhstan and about simple leaders

I have not written here anything for a long time. The situation with internet did not improve anyhow - I still don't have it at home / in the office.
About International Congress and holidays in Turkey

In the end of August I went to Turkey for almost three weeks. There was International Congress of AIESEC in Istanbul for a little bit more than two weeks. The internationalism of International Congress - more than 100 nationalities represented - is amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that all of these people are young leaders in their own communities, so a lot of them are quite exceptional individuals. I had several interesting talks. I noticed once again that I am not content with the role of following the process. I like to lead it. It was a little but unusual to spend almost two weeks without explicit role for yourself, but just being one of many.

t was also a little bit unusual to represent Kazakhstan, not Estonia at international conference. I think I managed it well (you can see me on the picture in Kazakh national clothes along with Mari and Kadi from Estonia).
Unloyal to my organisation to say, but the holidays after the conference were perhaps even better experience for me than the conference itself.

I went to Cesme, a resort town next to Izmir, for three days. I spent these days with a good friend of mine - Andim, a Turkish girl I met in Berlin, when we both were interns there. She is extremely intelligent young lady, but also funny, nice and kind person. I wish the world would have more people like her...
Holidays in Cesme was a classical holiday-time - taking sun, going to the beach, swimming in the sea, good food, ice-creams, boat-trips, excursions. It was wonderful. Just doing nothing. Three days was enough, though. It is just not in my nature to spend too much time doing nothing.
After that I went to Izmir, where I was hosted for few days by Riza - former President of AIESEC in Izmir, we were working together in Russian conference this summer. As I predicted, I liked Izmir, this town next to the sea-cost very much. It reminded me a little bit of Split in Croatia and Alexandria in Egypt (though I have a feeling that nothing can ever be as beautiful as Split for me).
That was the second time I visited Turkey. And second time I realized that I like this country. I hope the internal situation in the country will improve and it will become ready to get a membership of EU in some years. Europe needs Turkey and Turkey needs Europe, otherwise Muslim fundamentalism and Turkish nationalism will keep on strengthening there.
About services in Kazakhstan
Service area in Kazakhstan is simply bad. I did not like Egyptian way of servicing either, where people are ready to jump on you just for the sake of servicing you (and getting money for that, of course) -it was just way too annoying. But Kazakhstan has another extreme - Soviet-like attitude "I don't really care whether you will spend your money here or not, you probably don't have choice anyway. And besides - why are you interrupting me from reading the newspaper and eating my peanuts?"
Kusjuures Eestis on ka palju ilminguid sellisest teeninduskultuurist, kuid siin riigis on see kordades hullem. Inimesed lihtsalt ei oska teenindada. Nad ei viitsi teha midagi ekstra, et kliendil oleks hea - alates poe sisekujundusest l6petades viisakusega.
But that's not the fault of servicemen. The clients are often extremely arrogant. I witnessed few times already when people were actually quarrelling in the shops simply because of not caring about each other at all.
That's another side of these societies, which call themselves hospitable: if you are a friend or a relative, you will be given literally everything in order to make your stay as good as possible; but if you happen to be a stranger, why should anyone care about you?
About being arrested in Kazakhstan
The date before I am writing this posting was the day I spent under arrest (exactly 24 hours). That was an interesting experience... It happened, when I went to Northern Kazakhstan in order to visit three cities during two weeks with a purpose to establish AIESEC there.
In the first city, the capital Astana, I succeeded. There were several dozens of people recruited, I held many meetings and presentations. Guys started to work.
From there, I went to another city, Ust-Kamenogorks, by train. No-one told me that this train will cross the territory of Russia of about 40-50 kilometers (the railroad was built during Soviet time, when there was no border inbetween).
In other circumstances it would be enough. But not when you are crossing the national border between Kazakhstan and Russia. So, I was taken off the train by Kazakh border and customs soldiers (somehow, I feel good that it was not Russians, as my experience with Russian border and customs has never been a pleasant one).
I spent 24 hours under arrest, occasionally going out with one officer for having food in local canteen and for visiting toilet outside. I was sleeping just on my clothes on the tables, which I put together - not the most comfortable way of sleeping...
The Kazakh soldiers were actually pleasant people, they had every right to keep me there. They were rather bored in this tiny dirty village, where they worked, so presence of Estonian working in Kazakhstan and traveling around the country was rather amusing for them. We have talked about all kind of topics and finally they released me.
Freedom is like the air we breathe - you can understand a true value of it, only once you are staying without it...
I was kept in the chamber with two guys, who had been taken off the train one day earlier. One of them was a Kyrgyz guy in his 40s, who is actually a citizen of Russia, but went back to Kyrgyzstan, committed some crime there and was put to jail for two years. Another one is a 59-years-old Russian guy, who had worked illegally in Kazakhstan for four years already.
Not the nicest company to spend 24 hours, one may think.
Add to this that in the very train I was taken off from, I was sitting together with six members of one Gipsy family - a dad, a mom and four children, who all shouted, played with all possible things in the train and needed a constant attention.
To be honest, I enjoyed this trip with Gipsy family - they were nice, though poor people, with whom we shared our food.
And I enjoyed staying together with these two older men next to me. There was just such a situation, when all three of us, under different circumstances, got together into one room. It was very uniting.
The men had experienced the things I have never been through myself. As we had plenty of time to stay together with, we talked and talked and talked (to be more precise, two men mainly talked and I was mainly asking)... Kyrgyz guy managed to buy a vodka through one of the soldiers - two men were drinking, I took couple of shots for solidarity as well.
One of them - this second Russian guy - impressed me a lot with his life-story. I created a new term to call people like him - a simple leader.
About a simple leader Sergey
Sergey - that's how the man is called - was born in 1952 in one small village. When he turned 14, he decided to start to live independently from his parents. His father approved the wish of his son, saying that he is free to do everything in his life which won't put his family to be ashamed of him.
Sergey went to bigger town nearby his village and went to study a technical specialty of tractor driver. After he graduated, he decided to travel around, having just sixteen years of live passed. During next years he traveled all around Soviet Union - starting from the most northern areas of Russia, ending with Caucasian mountains of Chechnya, doing all kind of possible jobs.
Then he married for the first time. His wife was cheating him, spending family's money on herself and her lover. Sergey left a house to his former wife and went to the army.
Sergey was a tall, strong man, who got an attention of recruiting officers. He got "a special task", true purpose of which he got to know just few years later...
He was sent to Navy in northern seas of Soviet Union. He served his duty on the atomic submarines, being an underwater engineer - meaning that he repaired submarines under the water. The job was dangerous and atomic submarines were, understandably, a secrete place to work. Sergey was earning much more than the ordinary soldiers.
Once their submarine heard S.O.S. signals from a ship in neutral waters. It was U.S. ship. Sergey and his team rescued the ship from some underground plants, which prohibited ship to move on. Americans invited Sergey and his team to their ship. It was the very end of 1970s, high-time of Cold War.
Sergey saw VHS and porn movie for the first time. He was describing amusement of American soldiers, when they were looking at Soviet man in his late 20s, who saw porn movie for the first time in his life. Then Sergey was teaching Americans to drink Russian vodka. Of course, they did not learn it :) Grateful Americans gave Sergey and his team 1000 USD each.
1000 USD in the end of 1970s in USSR - it was more than a dream. In addition, a good salary Sergey got from his dangerous post in the Navy. After 1,5 years serving in the Navy he got vacations and went home. He flied home through Moscow and went to the special shop, where you could buy stuff only for foreign currency. A stuff, which was not available for an ordinary Soviet citizen. Sergey spent all his Dollars for presents for his parents and other close relatives. Giving these presents out was one of the happiest moments in his life, he said.
In the middle of vacations, once, when Sergey came back home in the evening, he saw his parents wearing black and being sadder than usually. They just got the news that Sergey is being sent to Afghanistan with a special task. That was the task he was recruited and prepared in the submarine for.
He spent four years, fighting a war in Afghanistan, needless war, as Sergey told. Sergey crashed 27 guns of enemy. He got several awards. Once he rescued fifty-two young 18-19-years-old Soviet boys, who were just sent there from their homes. They were sent to very dangerous cave by one officer, who knew that they will most probably get killed. Sergey came there alone, called helicopter and crashed the enemy. He got injured and did not hear anything for one month. After he came back from hospital, the first thing he did, was going to this officer, who sent young boys to the cave, and throwing the full glass of water against the officer. Sergey missed, he said.
The consequences of that could be severe - the officer had higher rank than Sergey. Sergey was rescued by a Colonel, who knew about his bravery. Sergey said about the whole story and the officer was dismissed.
Sergey described how he and his men distributed food among the locals and how he let go several captured Afghanis, whose only fault was that Talibani men came to their village and gave them two choices: whether they will join their army or Talibani will kill all their families, rape their mothers, wives and daughters and burn down their houses.
Then Sergey suddenly cursed (the only time I heard him cursing) on Soviet officials and the war and started to count, how many friends did he lose in Afghanistan. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13... I saw the tears on his face... Sergey, Kyrgyz man and me took a shot of vodka each in complete silence. We did not talk for some mintes at all. Something magical was in this moments of silence...
After Sergey came back from the army, he got married with Tatyana, who accompanied the man for whole his life eversince. He got to know Taytana through a friend and said that the very moment he saw her was the "moment of truth" for him - he knew he was going to marry her.
Sergey did a lot of different jobs. His favourite one was driving a tractor in fields. He said that unlike many other men, he treated his tractor as a part of his own. Sergey won several prizes as the best tractor-driver in the area. His secret was, he said, that he spoke with his machine, he knew every part of it and every mood of it.
Four years ago, Sergey went to Almaty, because of better salaries there. By that time he had three children already. Sergey and Tatyana are workers in Almaty - they renovate apartments. Sergey tells he can do basically everything - from electricity till walls in the toilets. He said he has to refuse from many jobs - so big is the demand for his services. He showed me all kind of tools he had with him - he was going to Russia to repair the apartment of his elder daughter.
Sergey said that all the money he is earning (and he is earning quite a lot, he said), he sends back to Russia for his three children and six grandchildren. He said he has enough money for a travel, for necessary clothes and for food. The rest is going to his family.
When I asked, what is Sergey especially proud about his life, he said that he never lied to anyone.
A simple leader is simply honest.