Friday, April 15, 2011

In Which a Fear is Addressed and Action Taken

Maybe it's the INFP in me, but I've conceived a deep-seated antipathy to marshrutkas; there's something about being confined at such close quarters, with so many people, that makes me exceedingly weary. In the beginning, it was interesting and exciting and new. Now it's just squashy. I particularly hate the fact that you can't see out the windows for the bodies, and the driver will only stop if you ask - and when you don't know where you are, and you're frantically racking your brains for the right phrase in Russian, it can be a bit stressful.

Or maybe it's just that I have a very western attitude to personal space. I get tired when it's invaded.

Either way, I've begun to walk pretty much everywhere. I prefer the independence and the space. I'm learning the names of the streets in a ten-block radius: Moscovskaya, Sovietskaya, Jibek Jolu, Chui, Toktokul, Pravda, Karpinsky, Frunze. I walked home from a friend's place in the rain tonight. There aren't a lot of street lights, even on the main arteries, but there were enough cars to throw splashes of light around. My legs are long and when I'm walking on dark rainy streets I walk with purpose and I can set a cracking pace; my jaunty shadow stretches on forever. 

At the top of Gogolya there's a mosque. At night the minaret is lit with green spotlights that make it hazy in the rain and silhouettes are cast by the men in the tower who call people to prayer. It's a beautiful building; you can see inside the high windows of the rounded prayer hall, how the ceiling is gorgeously decorated in deep blue. 

Tonight I was having dinner with a group of women friends - all single. They started to confess their fears - about dark streets, unscrupulous taxi drivers, about language and door locks and marketplaces. Someone asked if I found anything particularly scary: I  said - actually, I don't really get scared - and then she looked at me thoughtfully and said - actually, that's something I've noticed about you. Which struck me, because I don't think of myself as a particularly fearless person. 

So, as I strode home with my jaunty shadow, through the puddles, past the mosque, I contemplated the extent to which I feel afear'd. And I came to this conclusion: I'm not afraid for my safety. I'm not afraid of new experiences. I'm not afraid of losing material possessions or my health. As Juliet said to Friar Lawrence in Year 8 English today, what must be shall be. That's quite a good m.o., in fact, and a certain text. But I don't think these things together make me fearless. Indeed, I have many fears that aren't of a daily nature, but hearken ahead to future things, and they can be bunched up together in one word. 


That was my conclusion tonight. It took all of five blocks to reach it, and another two blocks to determine that this was a fear to be overcome by the end of my time in Bishkek. Because, after all, if I'm not scared of the dark, why should I be scared of the future? Both the dark and the future are under the dominion of the same king; all things have been placed in his keeping, and he is beautiful, strong, good and true.

Fear not, for I am with you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

...underneath are the everlasting arms.

Here endeth the lesson. Assessment will be conducted in June 2012, at which time the candidate will undertake to show that she fears not.


  1. Erin,
    You are a marvellous writer. I was just listening to a report on the ABC Radio National Book Show about the publishing of the portions of C.S. Lewis' translation of portions of the Aeneid. The man being interviewed suggested that Lewis felt he had a lot in common with the hero in that both were looking for a country, understood metaphorically at least in Lewis' case. For Lewis, his conversion to Christianity was a homecoming. I find the same things hinted at in your quote from him here.
    Be assured that your posts are much appreciated, inspiring and thought provoking.
    John Nelson
    John Nelson