Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 29, 2013

When I opened my eyes this morning, it was light outside and that meant I had overslept for sure. Checking my watch indicated it was half past eight and I had meant to be at Lingua by nine as Willoughby had invited me to go along for a visit to the towns of Tokmok and Kant where she and Elvira were going to be explaining how to complete the CATEC application. We were to gather in front of the Opera Ballet Theater at eleven where Elvira’s husband was going to pick us up and take us there.

I rushed through my morning routine, packed my breakfast and ran out the door not even knowing what the temperature might be as my Internet account had run out of money already. The milky skies indicated snow would soon be falling and my breath trailed behind me as I ran to get into the approaching trolley. A young woman offered me her seat and spoke to me in English as she’s married to an American and works for the Hyatt Hotel right across the street from Lingua.

Angelica, the new receptionist for the bookshop, was the only one at Lingua when I got there. Zarina and Gulnara came by later on and welcomed me back with a big hug. I explained my desire to accompany Willoughby and Elvira on their outing and since there wasn’t anything pressing for me to do, we all agreed it would be no problem to do so.

Willoughby had been observing Julia teach her class for the staff at the Children’s Library and Elvira had been teaching at the AUCA. We all convened about the same time and got into the car to drive for about an hour to the town of Tomok where the distinctive mark was an array of aircraft positioned in different parts of the town. It was time for lunch and we stopped at a Dungan place where I ordered lagman noodles and tea. The place was crowded as the food was good and inexpensive.

We then drove to the public library where, eventually, fourteen teachers gathered to hear us talk about the necessary steps to complete the application and insure that it would be considered by the selection committee. We then drove some more to reach the city of Kant where the American Corner is located. Willoughby mentioned that she was originally slotted to that particular post but when a suitable apartment couldn’t be found for her, the Peace Corps sent her somewhere else.

At the American Corner, we coincided with Bill Middleton, the librarian from Almaty, who was visiting this particular one to inspect the newly added facilities. Elvira inquired about the possibility of adding an American Window to another region, but his reply was that the region was “at capacity”, meaning no more money would be budgeted for new projects.

Joel Deen, the other Peace Corps volunteer, was also there, and we finally got to exchange the Russian study materials we had discussed previously. We then learned that a misunderstanding regarding the date had occurred and the teachers had shown up yesterday. Today, only one teacher did so and Joel agreed to help her complete the application so we didn’t need to hang around.

I noticed that the entire drive had taken us through another bleak area of the country highlighted by ugly buildings and some farming sections. There doesn’t seem to be any “center” to these places, just a makeshift feel of vendors gathering on a spot and then giving it a name for future reference.

Elvira asked if she could drop me off near the Turkish bazaar and I agreed since I had really nothing to eat at home. It was getting colder by the hour and I rushed through the market buying some fruit, some Korean salads, flat bread, milk and dry fruit to add to my muesli. I then caught a marshrutka across the street and made it home only to realize I still needed to go to the Narodni supermarket to pay for my Internet service.

One of the young employees helped with the transaction since this was a new company and a new machine and I had no idea how to do it. Back at home, I watched CNN for a bit getting more details on that horrific fire in a nightclub in Brazil. It seems completely inexplicable that any club nowadays would allow pyrotechnics displays after all the other tragedies that have beset country after country under similar circumstances. The fact that the club only had one entrance and exit and that security guards tried to prevent the customers from leaving without paying their tabs is simply unconscionable.

Natalia wrote to provide me with the schedule for Jennifer’s upcoming visit. She’ll be present at the Forum session on Saturday, for a meeting about CATEC later on the same day and then at my first presentation at the Bishkek Humanities University next Tuesday. I wish her observation would have taken place after I had had a chance to get acquainted with the teachers there; however, I got to do what needs to be done then.

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