My First Friend in Central Asia

I’ve written previously on *Hama’s dream about Jesus and first time taking communion. This is the story of how I met Hama, my first friend in Central Asia. It is frankly amazing how eternity can hinge on something as small as a guitar peg.

I met Hama on November 26th, 2007.  I was nineteen. I had only been in Central Asia for about two weeks and was hoping and praying to find a local friend.   Since I could sort of play “the four golden chords” of evangelical worship songs (G, D, Em, C), my team asked me if I would be willing to play guitar for our weekly worship time.  They managed to find a beater guitar from somewhere which was short one plastic peg to hold in one of its strings.  So, I decided to trudge off to the bazaar to try and find one.   My language was very limited at the time and since I didn’t even know the correct term in English, I had a really difficult time trying to explain to the shopkeepers just what it was that I was looking for.  I was butchering phrases in the local language in a small dark shop with violins, sitars, and Central Asian tambourines hanging on the walls, when someone called in a tall smiling man, maybe thirty years old.  

“What ya ‘on about, man?”

Hama proceeded to ask me in his thick street-British accent (quite the unexpected juxtaposition in our corner of Central Asia) who I was and just what it was I was looking for.  

I explained my quest to him and we set off to the various music shops to find this guitar peg.  The shop that had them was closed for a little while for the afternoon lull, so Hama invited me to one of the local tea houses.  We ordered some chai and started talking and I found out that Hama had been a refugee in the UK for six years, in Leeds, England, which was where he got his thick accent from.  “I learnt English from the violence people,” is what he kept on telling me, referring to the Leeds drinking crowd, meaning that his English was regularly interspersed with four-letter words, especially when he was very angry or very happy.  

As we sipped our piping hot tea from minuscule glass teacups, and I tried not to burn my American tongue, Hama turned to me.

“Bleepin’ bleep, man! I’m so bleepin’ happy we met!”

I smiled at Hama through the cigarette haze and crashing noises of domino games in the tea house, hoping he wouldn’t see that, yes, my eyes were watering because I had indeed burnt my tongue on the tea. I didn’t know it at the time, but Hama was going through some intense reverse culture shock after returning to his homeland in order to get married. Rough as England was for him, he deeply missed having western friends.

It looked very different than I had expected, but God had also answered my prayer and brought me a friend. We had no idea the ride we were in for.

Photo by JK Sloan on Unsplash