Woke up at 3:00 a.m. Kyrgyz time, went to bed at 10:30 p.m. U.S. Central Time. Meaning I had a day that was about 30 hours long. Thank you time zones.
Not much to note besides it was a relatively uneventful travel, no pictures were taken since most will power was being taken to simply stay awake to try to make the time-zone change a little less difficult.
So far it has not succeeded and has put my body under some pretty serious stress, hoping that it will straighten out fairly quickly. I have to say I found out that sitting in a plane makes one incredibly hungry, much more so than I expected for simply sitting and watching movies.
But, got up at 3 to be picked up at 3:30 to get to the airport by 4:30 to wait for the plane at 6:30. Everything went pretty well except for the fact that Kyrgyzstan generally does not like to give out information so we had to wait until about 10 minutes before boarding before we finally knew which gate to go to for the plane. Luckily, only two gates are used currently and it is a small terminal. They did not like my passport photo though and had to double check that it is me.
Got to Istanbul, a much larger airport, got some food. Sadly, the simit in Kyrgyzstan tasted better than the simit I could get in the Turkish airport. So, good on Kyrgyzstan for that one, kind of sad state of affairs for Turkey. I also did not get a chance to get a Turkish coffee while I was there, probably a good thing, since the simit didn’t work out too well.
I pretty much simply waited that layover out until the gate was announced and went there to go through the extra security precautions that are currently in place. Otherwise known as, a double-check of the passport and your carry-on bag. Then got seated for an 11 hour flight.
Made it through that flight just fine, except part way through the lights were dimmed and everyone closed the window blinds. I don’t know why though, all those people that slept probably just threw off their internal clocks even worse than I did since they may not have been able to sleep as well that night when we landed.
But, made it through, had dinner with the family, fell asleep on the car ride. Got home and went pretty much straight to bed. So, for a 30 hour long day, not really too much happened.
Well, here I am at the end of the last week. I am leaving early on Monday so I have the weekend to spend in the city, get some last shoro, kurut perhaps souvenirs in. It has been a calm week so far, just going around and saying farewell’s to the various people I’ve met and preparing for a brutal return flight which begins at 6 a.m. meaning my day will begin at 3 a.m. Luckily I’ll have a stopover in Turkey and can grab a good coffee!
I am pretty excited to be done with my internship since there is nothing going on in the office and time is moving pretty slowly. The internship was probably one of the more unfulfilling things from this trip. Friday night I have gotten my teachers to agree to go to a restaurant with me for one final good-bye, thank you and gift giving. I have been forewarned that tears will be shed then.
Sunday, I quit being lazy and finally wrote some posts for the organization I’m with too! You can find those posts at students.sras.org. Below is a list of links to the ones that I have written. You can get a little bit more detail about some of the places I visited and things that I did through them.
Well, it is Sunday night here. The last week starts now.
I am surprisingly, not ready to leave. I am only finally getting to really know the city and get comfortable. It took some time and effort but I had finally started making head-way, and now, I get to start packing.
This past week, I learned that Russian managers are not comfortable with students getting too comfortable in places that are not officially designated for them. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was invited to spend time in the Teacher’s Room. I had acted upon that invitation and was spending a lot of time there after classes, talking to the teachers who are, honestly, much more interesting than most of the students here. As a plus, I got more Russian practice too.
That comfort and practice was put to a grinding halt when I received an email from one of the managers of the school saying that someone was uncomfortable with me spending so much time in the teacher’s room. Therefore, cease-and-desist your enjoyment, friendship, conversation and Russian practice and remove yourself to the uncomfortable, over-heated library or elsewhere. Upon talking to my teachers though, I found out the only person who claimed discomfort with the current arrangement was the manager them-self.
With one last week left I am torn between just letting it go and just do my best or “rock the boat” by returning to my usual habits. The worst part is I really cannot be sure if anyone was honest when they said that it was okay for me to be in that room since people here tend to not answer honestly if they perceive it as not being wanted.
Case in point: ask a driver which road you are on and if they aren’t sure, they just don’t answer and proceed to drive. This has happened, twice.
Onto fun things though.
Gifts for my teachers are bought, last of the postcards are written, almost 4,000 words worth of articles for my program are written, watched a good movie in Russian, Friday night went out with others from my internship.
Also got to see a new park that was really interesting and could use some work, more places for Boy Scouts, when I come back, definitely going to start a troop here.
I have also grown to like the taste of shoro a strange drink of corn, wheat and barley(?) boiled for a long time, slightly fermented and a touch salty. The bottles say that “Shoro is strength,” and surprisingly enough, it is true. I found that when I drink this strange concoction I do feel fairly well hydrated and nourished, especially when I drink it with the cheese/yogurt salted things called kurut, hopefully I’ll get some more of that this week.
I also explored the National Kyrgyz Library finally, it is a pretty nice building. If I was staying I would definitely get the year long pass and that would become another favorite place to stay/study.
I also stumbled onto a cultural festival/fair which was really interesting and was the perfect chance to pick up some important pieces for my parents. It was also really interesting getting to see so many of the hand-made felt coverings/rugs that Kyrgyzstan is known for, they are called Syrmak and quite a popular tourist buy, they are quite beautiful though and I have been told that most of the symbols have specific meanings.
Well, I’m already at the end of this little adventure. Two weeks left, both of which will probably go by very fast too. It’ll be nice to be home, but I’ve made a couple of really good friends here who I will miss a lot.
I went back to Issyk-kul this weekend too with a fellow intern and some of the teachers from my school here in Bishkek. It was a packed weekend again, but I managed to keep my camera with me this time so pictures will be included in post. The weekend in general went a lot smoother too, no bribes, no fines and a lot of sunburn.
We left after school and work had finished, meaning we did not really leave Bishkek until around 6 p.m. really. After stopping and being shown what really good “kurut” is at the rest-area we stopped at. We got to Cholpon-Ata and the driver went past the bus-station, as happened last weekend, we got him to let us off and then had the joy of trying to find the hostel in town we had booked. No one seems to have ever heard of this specific hostel even though it is right in the center of down-town but after around 45 minutes of searching and slightly frantic midnight phone calls the host found us and walked us to the place.
Upon arriving, we found that a) they had lied about the gender-separated rooms and b) there were drunk men in all of them. Making it uncomfortable for another one of our companions who, luckily, knows someone who has family in the town and they went to spend the weekend with them instead.
On Saturday, after having gone to bed late and being woke up by our roommates, who seemed to really enjoy the squeak of our door, and as such walked in and out quite a bit, we had a surprisingly good breakfast (by my standards) and took off to the beach since we had a booked afternoon. My co-worker and I swam a bit and they tried one of the salted fish that people walk around selling on the beaches here. With only the one day to really spend in Cholpon-Ata though we decided to see some of the other attractions in the area.
The first place we visited was a complex named “рух-ордо” (Ruh’-ordo) which has small buildings dedicated to some of the major world religions including: Catholicism, Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Buddhism. Yes, those are the “major religions” of the world here. This complex had a strange mixture of items in general, including a statue of Hera in front of a Yurt, a statue of Aristotle and a pool in the middle of a building that was empty and seemed to serve no genuine purpose. Our tour guide did not ever talk about the pool from what I understood and no one seemed to be bothered by the strange elephant in that room.
After our tour there we took off to the “Hippodrome” in the area to see national horse games of Kyrgyzstan, we found out later on, that they were being put on by a local political party since elections are coming up. We did not watch the whole thing but the opening ceremony was great, they had a group of horse-riders who did some quite impressive feats, including running alongside the horse for a few steps then jumping up and over the horse to run along the other side and then jumping back into the saddle, leaning over to grab cloth from the ground while on a running horse. It seemed like a great start to a sort of miniature horse-trick Olympics. Then they just started doing races. After about 3 races and an hour and a half of talking in Kyrgyz we left and had dinner.
After dinner we ended up returning to the religious complex because there was a festival/competition going on Saturday night called “Making Asia.” We came late so I am not entirely sure what was going on but we got to see a few songs live and it was certainly an entertaining show nonetheless. After that we had decided we had had enough of Saturday and went to bed.
Sunday we met with our other companion from earlier and went to a different beach. We spent a good part of the morning there and in the afternoon, after gathering all of our stuff in one place for leaving the city, we went to an open-air museum with various petroglyphs and other similar artifacts. Although there was minimal information there, it was free and something to see.
It was already mid-afternoon by then so we got on the marshrutka and headed back to Bishkek for a relatively uneventful ride.
And so starts my second-to-last week in Kyrgyzstan this time around.
Last week was a very busy week for me, as such I did not make the time to write a post sadly. So I will probably be making up for it in the next two posts: one for talking about the week and another for photos since my camera is currently in a friend’s apartment, three hours away from Bishkek; it was a long weekend.
To start the week off, Monday and Tuesday after classes finished I went straight to a small film conference called “Eco-Cup.” Both days, all day long they were showing various films about the environment and sustainability, mostly documentaries, including “Rise of the Eco-Warriors” and “Recipes for Disaster.” Sadly, by the time I got to the conference after classes I only had time to watch one movie each day but it seemed like it would have been fun to watch all, or more, of the films.
Wednesday, I think, I got free ice cream! My teacher promised me that if I turned in a homework assignment entirely free of mistakes she would buy me ice cream. I thought she was joking to be honest. But, turns out, she wasn’t and Wednesday we had time, I went with my other teacher and a few of the teachers from the school for about an hour we sat and talked. I also found out that I can come into the teacher’s room and do work there whenever I want.
That last fact would not normally matter except for it is a room with a working air-conditioner. So, I am now a part of the furniture of that room after classes.
Thursday this happened. A fire-fight with supposed terrorists not even half a kilometer from school. I was standing at the bus-stop wondering why there were so many cars on the road right after this happened to be honest. I did not know what happened until I had returned to my home-stay and received an email from the Embassy saying that it had happened.
Friday, started like normal and then in my first class one of my friends, an English teacher at my school, came in and asked if I wanted to go to Issyk-Kul with him for the weekend after classes. Issyk-Kul, being the main resort area for Kyrgyzstan and so much more comfortable than the city temperature-wise was a definite yes for me. So, after classes ended I quickly went to the home-stay packed my stuff and headed to the bus station.
At the bus station I got to again experience the taxi feeding frenzy that is Bishkek. I had barely stepped off of the marshrutka and 5 men were asking where I was headed, I made the mistake of answering them and they started basically fighting over getting me to their taxi. I’m not entirely sure how, but I managed to fight them mostly off and found my way to a long-distance marshrutka going to Cholpon-Ata.
Almost 5 relatively uneventful hours on the road (two stops) we finally got to the town I needed, Cholpon-Ata, but the marshrutka did not stop like I expected it to and actually drove through the town, so I had to get out at the next one and get a taxi; that was only the start to an interesting weekend, frankly on Sunday, it felt sort of like I had just stepped out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
We were stopped by police who wanted a bribe, fined for every possible thing in the guest-house we stayed in, ended up going to an entirely different town to meet some other kids who were supposed to be having a party and spent the night on a beach in a gated neighborhood that frankly looked like some of the nicest places I’ve ever seen in the U.S. and Canada; it was an incredibly strange, new side of Kyrgyzstan to see and I am not sure how I feel about it.
Got back Sunday and went to a “Culture Festival” that started off good but quickly turned into what seemed to be the equivalent of a talent show so I left early, returned home and did homework. It made for a nice calm ending to such an odd weekend.
So begins another week, this one should be much calmer. In the moving around, as I said, my camera was left with another friend who was staying for a few extra days, so when I finally get my camera back pictures for the story will be posted.