Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10, 2012

My day started out waiting at the corner for a minibus that wasn’t packed to the gills with riders. I let two of them go by as I could barely make out the head of the driver for all the passengers surrounding him. I then became concerned that I’d be late for the meeting at Lingua where we’d be discussing the conference they’ll sponsor next year. I finally got into another minibus and a young guy yielded his seat to me, which was really nice as I was carrying some materials with me.

Natalia and Munara were already there and Anna arrived a few minutes later. Gulnara needed a note taker and I agreed to do it. We basically spent the next hour mapping out whose responsibility would be to handle the different aspects of putting together an international conference. I admitted earlier on that I had no experience whatsoever in this field, but agreed to work with Anna in the selection of the participants to the conference coming from Kyrgyzstan and the reviewing and selection of proposals for presentation.

There is apparently some friction between Lingua and the Forum Association of English Teachers and Natalia stayed afterward to discuss this issue with Gulnara while I waited meet with Gulnara and sketch out the memo that would go to all participants in the meeting outlining their respective obligations. I bought a meat turnover from the vendor and shared in the teachers’ lounge with Idina and Nargiza while they peppered me with questions about the United States.

Gulnara had to attend another meeting and asked to stick around until she was done. I got a message from David, from the American Councils, that he was back in town and ready to meet with me for a cup of coffee. We agreed to meet at four in front of the Opera Ballet Theater, but when Gulnara finally made it back into the office she informed me that Matt, the Peace Corps volunteer, had been instructed not to come in today as demonstrations were expected around the main square. She pleaded for me to take over his advanced English class as she hadn’t had a chance to call the students and cancel it.

I decided on the spot to recycle the Columbus Day lesson I had prepared as the students were expected to have a review that day in preparation for an exam. I had a similar response from these students: they knew practically nothing about the holiday, didn’t feel it impacted their lives, except for the food items they would not have had otherwise, and would not take sides on the controversy.

David picked me up at five and we went to a Turkish restaurant where I indulged my crave for lentil soup and eggplant salad that came with chunks of garlic and lots of spices. He relayed he had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan and subsequently became a recruiter for the FLEX program and then for the American Councils. He now has a Kyrgyz girlfriend and owns a coffee shop in the Eastern part of the country which his girlfriend manages it on a daily basis.

His overall assessment of the country was that nationalism was on the rise and that meant trouble for foreigners working and living here. He felt that women were treated despicably while young men had little chance of getting decent jobs and became bums that roamed the streets at night causing mayhem. He was planning on a sticking around for a few more years and then leave even though he felt that things at home weren’t that great either.

He walked me to my bus stop and I got into another crowded vehicle, but had to get off after a couple of blocks for the driver kept taking passengers and I could barely breathed much less tell where in the heck we were. I walked the remaining blocks on a cool night, my first one out on my own, encountering lots of people on the sidewalks. A couple saw me wearing the traditional kurta from Tajikistan and he greeted me: “Asalam Alaykum”. I replied in kind and smiled.

When I got home, I sat at my computer to email the handouts needed for the presentation tomorrow to Balizat as Gulnara will be absent once again. It was time to head to bed.

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