Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 2012

A light snow was continuing to dust the streets when I got up this morning, but didn’t seem to be sticking around. The apartment felt chillier than usual and dark as well and I was really hell bent on seeing spring as being just around the corner. Darn it!

I set out to go through the box of books I had packed when moving from the other apartment and which I hadn’t opened yet. I figured I should decide which, if any, of the books I still wanted to keep and plan on giving away the rest to either Forum or Willoughby who could then give them away when it was time for her to leave as well.

Naoe sent me text reminding me to bring my flashdrive so she could copy the music in it for future Zumba lessons. I was the only one present for this class, so I just asked her to demonstrate some of the steps in slow motion while playing some of my favorite tunes from the list. She told me it takes her weeks to put together the choreography to a new song.

Back at the apartment, I had lunch, did my hair and started a load of laundry. I started to soak the garbanzo beans and marinated chunks of beef to try and make a “cocido” even if I don’t have half of traditional ingredients needed. Willoughby called to say she was at Sierra Coffee and would be coming over shortly to bring the printed resource booklet and go on with our plans for the weekend.

I made coffee when she got in and we then agreed to go to the museum next to the White House and then to dinner at the Lebanese restaurant she’d discovered a few weeks ago. The museum, a dark and imposing place full of bronze statues on every floor, took less than hour to tour since portions of it were blocked off and all the signs were in Russian only. The place seemed to be a favorite for canoodling couples who took advantage of the dark corners to embrace and kiss.

There was a photographic exhibit on the second floor apparently honoring the men who died in the uprising of 2010. It appeared as if the families had donated personal items from many of them and these were on exhibit inside glass cases showing anything from clothing, to personal ID cards, to books and medals. It made for a very somber exhibit, and I wished then I could read all the signs to learn more about these people.

The full-size yurt on the third floor, along with some costumes and artifacts gave me an idea of how life was in Kyrgyzstan before the Soviet Union took over. I wonder if any remnants of that culture survives today outside of Bishkek. We saw intricate examples of silver jewelry, felt embroidery and knitted rugs that seem have fallen out of favor with people here in the capital.

Snow had continued falling as we waited for a marshrutka to get to the restaurant, and it took us a whole hour to make it there. The inside of the place was rather grand except for the flat screen TV on every wall. I requested they turned down the volume on the one closer to us, and we proceeded to order a combination plate with all the typical Middle Eastern appetizers such hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, tabouli  and pita bread.

Willoughby ordered a beer and just to keep her company, I did the same insisting to the server that I wanted mine to come together with my meal, but as usual, another server showed up with the two glasses of beer about a minute later. Willoughby advised me to just take it as most likely it’d just sit on the counter until the food was ready.

                      Here's Willoughby facing our glasses of beer with their respective straws.

The meal came in by dribs and drabs with a cold salad and tabouli arriving first, then kibbe and falafel, cubed potatoes in a greasy sauce and some other items I couldn’t identify. We had to ask for a plate and utensils and never got napkins. The kibbe was passable, but the falafel didn’t even come close to what I’m used to eating and both seemed to have been fried a second time just for us. The pita bread was a white, cold and tasteless disk of flour not worth touching.

If this was the best they could do for Lebanese cuisine, the place ought to be closed down immediately. Willoughby took the leftovers home and we walked upstairs to see if that was different and found that they have private dining rooms for special functions there and they were quite elegant indeed. A guy was serving plov from a huge container and insisted we take a bite of the beef to see how tender it was, which we did.

Willoughby and I agreed to wait and see how the weather turned out the following day before deciding whether to attend the ballet or not. I waited for trolley #10 for quite a while and when none came, I jumped in a marshrutka that could take me close to my flat. It was a bit unnerving walking in the snow on the desolate side street until I got to my building.

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