Combat paintball

In case you’ve ever considered making the arduous move out to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, but hesitated because you didn’t want your paintballing skills to fall out of practice, then fear no longer. There is a paintball club in Bishkek.

It makes sense, right? Bishkek can be dangerous and citizens should be able to hone their skills of shooting small, neon-colored projectiles at each other. Plus, what a great use of space. What else would you do with a giant, rusted, really-this-should-be-condemned warehouse other than fill it with tires, beer advertisements, and kids hopped up on adrenaline?

Otherwise I bet it would just be filled with homeless people. Boooooring.

Combat (Комбат) is a bit hard to find. There are very few signs, but without realizing it, I had already visited the area once before while getting lost on my way to a loft-opening party. Go toward Dasmia and ask the cab driver if he knows where “Bishkek Naan” is. No matter how abandoned and sketchy it seems, just walk through and go around to your left until you eventually bump into this door:

(No, really. Those are the best directions I can muster, and the people who run the place won’t be any better.)

For 350 som (about $7.50) we rented the entire warehouse for three hours, all necessary equipment, 50 paintballs, and full battle rattle (Brown, shapeless, and perpetually damp. Us girls of the group were not too thrilled to suit up). The people who work there only speak Russian, but rules and safety instructions are easy enough to understand through gestures. When somebody holds a paintball gun up to their face and mimics their eyeball exploding, the message transcends language barriers.

A swift, massive snowstorm had blown in that morning and our planned group of 20ish quickly dwindled to six people; four girls versus two guys. I believe the girls gave a valiant effort and I even managed to get a few direct hits on my opponents. But geez do those little paintballs hurt!

I was a bit trigger-happy and was the first to run out of paintballs, so I bowed out and took on the role as frontline photographer.

Yes, I brought my precious 7D onto the battlefield without my mask (too hard to look through the viewfinder with it on) and in direct danger of being pelted with greasy paint. Crazy? Perhaps. Worth it? Of course (especially since nothing happened to my face or the camera).

Parts of the roof were missing and most of the windows were smashed out, so after a few hours it was miserably cold and damp inside the course. I hear they have an outdoor course as well that would be amazing on a warm summer day.

Anybody in? I’ll take any opportunity to use the phrase “full battle rattle” and sarcastically reminisce about my time in the sandbox.