Below is a piece I wrote regarding an incident that happened in Kuwait, where a Kazakhstani shooter won an event and rather than the national anthem, Borat’s parody played instead. I hate everything below. I post it to remind myself that people change but the stories we tell don’t – or at least, not if they’re put for the world to see. Please accept my apologies in advance, world.
Butterflies dotted around a bush, forming an assortment of colours long forgotten. Orange, blue, yellow and green mapped itself in all directions. Tulips blossomed beside maple trees; birches mingled with raspberry bushes. Birds hummed somewhere in the distance.
Shooting. Maria awoke to shooting. The dream was over and the day had begun.
The cold bit her lip. Snow drifted in the background. “Aim, breathe, shoot. Repeat. Aim, breathe,” she mumbled to herself. The motion was automatic. In fact, most of the time she shot with her eyes closed.
She was told this would happen eventually. Often, a shooter reaches a point where the gun becomes an extension of oneself – and after eighteen years of practice, Maria felt as though she was nothing more than a gun herself.
“You will make the country proud,” the rough Kazakhstani accent of her coach bellowed. She just nodded and nodded and nodded again, wondering if there was warmth in places besides her dreams.
There was. And there were flowers. And there was sun. And there were beaches. And people in bathing suits.
Far detached from the frigid whiteness that was Kazakhstan, Maria felt that there was also happiness – and it was here in the sea of colours that was Kuwait. As she made her way to the international competition, she felt eerily calm. She said it was because she was wearing a T-shirt rather than a winter jacket.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the colours around the arena. But she shot a perfect score.
The audience roared with each target downed. They roared as she stepped on the podium. Then they fell silent. This was her moment. From the heart of nowhere in Kazakhstan to the colourful world of Kuwait, she had finally made her country proud. With her hand across her heart and a gold medal gleaming around her neck, she’d remember this moment forever.
“Kazakhstan greatest country in the world. All other countries are run by little girls.”
“Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region. Except of course Turkmenistan’s.”
“Come grasp the mighty penis of our leader. From junction with the testes to tip of its face.”
Emotionless during it all, Maria waited until the mockery of a song ended. She looked around, knew the tune well. Borat, she whispered. Her gold medal glimmered in the light. And rather than break down, rather than be infuriated as her coaches surely were, she smiled.
Because she learned that during the cold and the endless winter in Kazakhstan, there is still warmth somewhere. Most of the time, she found it in her dreams. Today, though, she found it in herself and her accomplishments. In the end, no national anthem, no country, and no parody, could change that.