Saturday, July 12, 2003

What a great life I have. I say this as I feel good about what I'm doing and feel like living here really gives me the freedom to do what is right without anyone really standing in my way.

Though this life is somewhat of a double-standard, meaning that what I can get away with, the natives in most cases can't.

For instance, today while driving my dump-truck (I usually rent a smaller truck, but since were having such a good harvest, all trucks were already rented) to pick-up some gravel for some cement work at the factory, I was kind of unjustly waved down by the Stepanagert traffic police, who were conducting a "sting" in Martuni.

Of course since I know the law and knew for sure all they were interested in was shaking down a working stiff with a truck for a bribe, I ignored their request for me to pull over and continued to drive.

I made my way to a depot that sells cement and no sooner that I arrived, did the traffic police car pull up. Out of the passengers seat of the car emerged a familiar traffic cop who sometimes works at the Lachin boarder.

I walked up to him as my workers loaded cement up on the truck to see how he was. After a few minutes of small talk, the unfamiliar cop in the drivers seat asked me why I didn't stop?

I asked him what the offence was for him to even consider stopping my truck, knowing this was all about a bribe?

He said that in my truck there were too many passengers, to which I told him that the chief of police long ago told me that I can have as many passengers in the cab of the truck, just so long as I don't allow people to sit on the roof or bed (which my driver a year ago had done), which even common sense equates to danger. I said he could contact the chief to confirm this amended Martuni law.

The unfamiliar cop asked me for my documents, which I agreed to produce, at which time the cop I knew said it would not be necessary.

Mind you, I understand that he was just "doing his job," but I also knew for sure from the past that all this was about is how much he could shake the common person down.

As soon as the traffic police pulled away, one of my workers asked me if I paid a 500 dram bribe (the minimum going rate these days). I told him I don't pay bribes of any kind and then went on to use a few choice words (in Turkish) to describe my feelings toward bribe-takers. We all laughed, since very rarely do I use foul language (though lately such language is on the rise).

I'm still an economic stimulator to the Martuni internet cafe since my land-line is still not working as it should.

I called the head of the Martuni division of Karabagh Telecom today to see what the latest was on our connection.

It seems that they will once again be sending a crew to work on the main cable and I should not feel too bad (though I do), as it's not just my connection, but everyone's Stepanagert line that is in horrible shape including the main line, meaning anyone who calls outside of Martuni from a land-line.

He went on to tell me that he can't give me a solid date as to when it will be fixed and added that if he was the one doing the work, I could be sure that he would do everything in his power to remedy the problem fast.

Not to stretch this log out too much more, but I want to point out to you what goes on in this internet cafe in Martuni.

Instead of porn, as one would expect the youth of most places in the word to surf, what is popular here is chat.

When I came into the cafe, a saw familiar faces of the 23 to 30 year olds at one computer (I was at the other) and them chatting with some Azerbijani sitting at some computer in who knows what part of the Islamic world.

The 30 year old was outraged that they didn't know where Karabagh was and then later learned that they knew all about Karabagh and just didn't want to recognize it.

Him and is buddies, many of who are former Minister of Defence Samuel Babayan's elite forces were making threats to what I would guess was probably some college student that if given the chance could keep.

On the one hand it was comical to see these bare-handed bone-breakers slamming down on the keyboard when pounding out their treats, but on the other hand I was saddened at the hate these very genital youths had towards someone who they personally didn't know, but knew they are an enemy to our nation. Though I don't fault them for this hatred, since even I saw with my own eyes what the Azeri's did to us, but there is a side that I think everyone has wishing we could all just get along and live in peace.

Just a quick note on the latest scandals to hit the US. Something about the war on Iraq and the threat of weapons of mass destruction that the CIA admits was in fact misinformation that should have never been reported. A little late I would think since that is the information that triggered the war. Also the report of the female solider who was not captured, but was in an accident and was taken to an Iraqi hospital for treatment and then "rescued" from said hospital. I'm not sure if this I just Russian news propaganda, but everyone here in Martuni is talking about it and believes it to be true.

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