16th – 17th August 2017: The journey to Kazakhstan (Loo Jun Wen)
Finally, the day of departure has come! While riding in my parents’ car on the way to airport, I was excited but also a bit fearful for the uncertainty of our journey there as we had to transit in Bangkok and Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Both cities were places I have never been to, so that unfamiliarity is slightly intimidating but mostly exciting!
We took the 1530hrs flight to Bangkok and after having a meal there, we departed an Uzbekistan airline towards Tashkent. Along the way, many of us were fantasizing if we could have exited the airport in Uzbekistan and explore the town as we knew that the need for a visa to enter the country already diminished that probability. But we still hold on to that faith. At least I am sure Wesley did!
Upon reaching Tashkent, we descended the mobile stairs which led out of our plane. As I whipped out my phone to take a video of this ‘never-seen-before’ and exotic place in Uzbekistan, I was summoned over by an Uzbek soldier, ordering me to delete the footages which I have taken. I was rather shocked at that level of control which quickly formed my very first impression of Uzbekistan. A strict nation indeed. Without being too rebellious, I deleted them but I know iPhones are smart enough to revive deleted media, so I was not very much affected.
As we entered the airport, we had to surrender our passports in exchange for a handwritten boarding pass while the officer simply told us to wait for our next flight (9 hours later) and our passport will be returned to us. I am puzzled and powerless, we simply adhered and laze around the waiting area, watching people, shopping from a small duty free and just lying on the ground. It was around 2am, so understand everyone was tired and we all slept simultaneously.
I stayed up and observe the people around and realised it was difficult to pinpoint their nationality as they had mixed features of Russian/ European and Chinese, some more than the other. Speaking in unfamiliar language (Russian), me and Wesley were struggling as we spoke to an Uzbek lady travelling to Beijing with her family.
Ver soon, we were the only few passengers remaining in the airport as the hour dragged on, night become day and hunger become real. As arduous as it was, the wait was finally over as our passport were handed back to us personally and we departed towards Kazakhstan in Air Astana, which have the best economy seats so far, albeit the lack of inflight entertainment.
Finally, we landed in Kazakhstan and was picked up a very Russian-looking man to our hotel where we were greeted by Edwin and Kim Boon, familiar faces once again!
Looking back, I think the team did well in keeping together and not walking off by themselves. This is especially important as we are in a foreign place and as expedition leader, it will be difficult to account for everyone if each had their own separate agenda.
If there is one thing which I feel can improve on is my decisiveness and communication skills. Sometimes given unfamiliar circumstances, it was difficult to determine the right course of action. So, times like these here, I would seek consensus and discuss the next course of action with the rest, to arrive at a decision together. Communication wise, I feel that there are many things which I wanted to say, but did not surface upon delivering the speech. Hence, after trying to jot down my train of thoughts in my notes (on the phone), it helped me better remember the things I wanted to touch on, making the speech less impromptu and less chance to go wrong.