Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 25, 2013

I was delighted to find the three Tajik teachers already at the cafeteria when I went down there and Aziza told me a fourth one would be joining them shortly as her flight had been delayed. When I asked where she was coming from and was told Shahriston, I immediately knew it’d have to one of the two lovely teachers I had worked with at the Access summer camp last year in Istaravshan and it was indeed Nigora that had been chosen.

She joined us a few minutes later and we hugged for the longest time as Nigora told she never thought she’d see me again. She still looks frail and stooped despite our many conversations about aiming for a better posture and becoming a more assertive woman. She’s only 32 years old, but looks around 50 as she has a hard life in the village where she lives.

After breakfast, we proceeded to the larger conference hall that could accommodate all the Access teachers and coordinators for a general session with another warm up activity and a poster session where the different groups showed up what they do on a regular basis. Off we went to lunch after that, and upon our return, the group was divided and we stayed with the teachers for professional development sessions conducted by the ELFs.

We had a break before boarding the bus that would take us to the Public Affairs Officer’s apartment for a reception. We were doubtful that his place could accommodate all of us plus some guests of his own. Nigora sat next to me and looked in wonderment at women driving, the Christmas decoration still hanging from trees and buildings, the tall buildings and many shops. A constant refrain came out of her mouth: “They are free to come and go, to shop and eat out, and go anywhere at any time. It’s not like us in the village.”

It was a snug fit at the apartment where we were treated to canap├ęs and wine among other drinks. Groups quickly formed and out came the cameras with everyone posing with their favorite peeps. I needed to make my run to the Ramstor right next door and invited Aziza and Nigora to go with me in spite of Nigora’s misgivings about walking at night in a big city by ourselves. We passed the Cartier, Tiffany’s and Baccarat stores before realizing we needed to head in the opposite direction.

I wasn’t able to find an American brand of chocolate chip cookies and had to settle for some other ones that looked like it on the label. Nigora was looking for some presents for her kids, but found nothing suitable. The Red Mill muesli I bought turned out to be about $12.00 a package, so I only purchased one and then we left.

Jennifer introduced me to a tall middle age man who was an alumnus of FIU. He is currently teaching at a private university in Almaty, but doesn’t have a master degree yet. He knew Eric Dwyer, one of my favorite professors at FIU, and was interested in coming to Bishkek to visit. I gave him my card and asked him to look me up. I had another glass of wine and then it was time to go.

With no traffic to deal with, the ride back to the hotel took just a few minutes. The usual hard core party goers had stayed behind to go to some club or another. I was happy to be in bed reading my book.

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