Our time in jail, contrary to popular belief was for the most part… Not pleasant by a long stretch, but mostly hassle free. There were no fights but some people came and others went, and naturally some people got on and some people didn’t.
We kept to ourselves but answered the usual questions about where we were from etc, as we obviously stood out amongst the usual local crowd and managed to get along with the russian we had learnt. Everyone in the cell after all were all in the same situation. Our daily routine would be to be taken out in the morning into the jail grounds, which on our first morning was the first time we had seen the place in daylight.
The building in which we were staying was one of many small buildings inside a larger walled complex. We were escorted outside and our names were called and we were separated into 2 groups, about 20 men in each. After that, our pictures were taken and each group was given a single loaf of bread to split amongst the group. Whilst this was all happening I managed to get the attention of one of the guards who looked to be in charge and asked if we could call our embassy. Parts of the conversation were obviously lost in translation but he knew what we wanted to do and after about 2 minutes of trying to have a conversation he called our friend who had left his number, he wouldn’t let us talk to him and after he hung up he just walked away.
After, we were ushered back indoors and placed in a room with stone walls which resembled a make shift canteen. There we were served one bowl of noodle soup each with some bread by the few female prisoners in the jail, who were all staying in a single cell down the corridor from ours. We were then taken back to the cell where we would sit all day and just either talk or be stared at by people in the corners on drugs or playing card games. Some of the older men had managed to bring some money in and had paid some of the guards to bring food in for them. Which they were nice enough to share with us. So occasionally we would be able to have a drink and some salami sandwiches as we couldn’t drink from the tap next to the “toilet”, because of its magical diahretic effect on us. And the last place we wanted to find ourselves, was over a hole in the ground with diahrea trying to go to the toilet in front of the best part of twenty men in close proximity. So understandably we refrained.
The occasional problem arose maybe once a day, once when we were separated from the group during role call, taken inside and told to strip and asked where our dollars were. We had no dollars, but they seemed to think we were just rather good at hiding them. And another case where we were all suddenly woken up in the middle of the night and told to exit the cell and made to line up against the wall in the corridor whilst two men, who we assumed were policemen, slowly stood and eyeballed each man individually as if to be trying to find someone who had committed a crime they were investigating. They asked a few men some questions and then we were told to go back to sleep.
On one of the days we were even taken to what people in the van were telling us was a court. But we were not allowed to go inside. Instead we were told to stay in the van with the driver whilst a man with a file of papers went inside. They had said our friend could join us because he was our “translator”, but because we were not allowed inside, once he met us there he was told to just sit there with us. So he did just that, we talked and he told us he had let our parents know and was in contact with the embassy.
That night we slept well… Kind of, occasionally with both eyes closed, knowing something was being done.