Belarus makes 94 countries visited, or does it? Well, we’ll get to that. Either way, much to my deep frustration, Belarus is the first new sovereign ground that I’ve set foot on in 2020. What a shit year. That we can all agree on in any language, I think. Anyhow, let’s talk a bit about my colorful and brief visit to Minsk, shall we?
At some point in this blog I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my own arbitrary criteria for “counting” a visit to a country. It goes like this: Leave the airport and do something memorable. The latter of those is a low bar. It can be pretty much anything, a meal, a museum visit, whatever. Take note though… I didn’t put a time limit there. For example, my visit to Oman was a day tour. Same thing with Luxembourg. You get the idea. This is MY journey though, my bucket list, and hence… my rules. You do you. But those rules do create a problem with the fucking shitshow from today. Today definitely warrants an asterisk. I’ll put this out for the jury….
Does being held in an immigration prison on airport grounds count as “leaving”? I mean, my logic was that you can’t count a layover. This definitely wasn’t a layover.
And then of course there’s this consideration… how do you rank being interrogated by the actual “KGB” as a bucket list item? And I mean, prison without having to deal with the “sentence” or the “record” part does have a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel. Putting a nice coat of paint on it, I guess this is what you sign up for with “adventure travel”. Subtract the consequences and we’re basically just talking about really really shitty lodging. But you don’t know that going in there of course. Once my fate was sealed, I was dumped into a labyrinth of locked & guarded airport corridors where dozens of men were being held. I was immediately an extreme curiosity as an American getting tossed into the refugee/political prisoner camp. Several Russians and Turks excitedly and quickly brought me to another area and woke up the only guy that spoke English there. A Turkish architect that had been there for three days and who had likewise been detained for no specified reason. (we know the reason) This guy and his friend were extremely chill about the whole situation, lounging around in slides and shorts. They had been there for three days, but there were guys who had been there for as much as two months. So when they said “Relax, let’s have some lunch” I was admittedly like “guys what the fuck!? When is there a flight out of here!?” They served some “Sheriff Joe” level gruel, unidentifiable meat and borscht. I give that a solid 1 star review. Anyway. But look…. Dear reader, surely that qualifies as “memorable” right?
Look, I’m not trying to take shortcuts to 200 countries. But if these layabouts in Belarus don’t finish the job and they end up with King Joffrey when the son comes of age for another generation of USSR 2.0, I can’t be expected to check an uncheckable box. Who is gonna be shocked when protesting on part of a single day on the weekend doesn’t extricate an entrenched dictator. That being said, if the trickle of momentum continues and they go the way of Ukraine, I’ll be happy to roll back up into Minsk when I don’t have to worry about dudes in big ugly ass hats who still think it’s the late 1980’s fucking up my day. Also, look, if I’m going to prison for showing out against a puppet of Putin, it’s gonna be in my own country. Oh yeah, and about those ugly ass hats…. A little pro tip: when it comes to the intelligence services, the guy that’s dressed like it’s casual Friday is the head motherfucker in charge. The dudes in the those ridiculous uniforms are nobodies. If there is somebody that could decide whether your fingernails get pulled off or you get set free scampering off into the city, it’s a guy wearing acid-washed dad jeans and a fake Polo shirt with a Soviet-style high-and-tight haircut. Also, from my observations, the immigration and intelligence officials seem to be highly segregated by gender. Old school. The people that MAY stamp your passport are gonna be women. Pick a young one. If you pick a scowling short-haired one named Olga built like a bulldozer… well, you might just end up in a refugee prison with a shrug and no explanation. Room and board is free, but I’m thinking you’d rather just get some stamps on your hotels.com app.
Alright, back to Turkey in Business Class with my new friends. Is this one more country down? I’ll have to think about it.