Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3, 2013

It has become apparent to me that peace and quiet in Bishkek are not to be had as long as you live in a Soviet-style apartment complex where neighbors don’t seem to care for each other’s comfort. By mid-morning on a Sunday, the owners of the flat across the landing started to hammer away precisely on the wall shared with my bedroom.

I flew into a rage and knocked on their door repeatedly until a young woman came out. She claimed to understand some English and I think I made very clear to her that it was Sunday and no work was supposed to take place on that day. I returned to my apartment and not ten minutes went by before the hammering resumed.

This time, there was nothing polite to say. I rang the door bell until she came out again and just yelled at her to stop being such an obtuse person and stop the noise as I had a cold and my headache was being made worse by their racket. Apparently a decision must have been made to stop hammering and instead I could still hear someone doing sanding or something similar on the wall.

I had to flee my apartment for on the other side, the army of little savages had started their daily stomping. Even with the music on, I couldn’t stop from hearing them. I sent a note to the landlady letting her know this level of noise was unacceptable as it normally went on until close to midnight.

I called Willoughby and we agreed to meet for coffee before the ballet. It was colder than it had been for the past week and I wish I had dressed warmer as I cooled my heels waiting for her. We walked to the Masal coffeehouse and were served lukewarm coffee once again. When I mentioned it to the affable young server, he insisted that only freshly brewed coffee could be served piping hot but not the ones that were milk-based. He definitely needs to attend a barista course soon.

Jennifer joined us at the Opera Ballet Theater and we were pleased to see that the place was almost full to capacity with lots of children in attendance. We were subjected to the typical Russian-style speeches from three government representatives at the stage who spoke about honoring a local dancer and in favor of promoting the culture of ballet among the young. The last part of the message seems to have been lost on the young boy next to me who played video games on her mom’s cell phone during the entire performance.

The program was short and sweet, no intermissions, and some decent dancing except for a tango number that seemed to have no tango steps and much less ballet in it. I had suggested grabbing a bite to eat after the show and remembered Willoughby mentioning that there was a decent Chinese restaurant behind the Tsum department store, so we headed that way.

We were sat in an area where people, mostly men, were smoking and where a TV screen showed a program with Chinese subtitles. When I complained about the smoke, Willoughby inquired as to the possibility of there being a non-smoking section and there was with the additional bonus of not having to stare at a TV screen.

The food was a bust as the only edibles portions were the fried rice and the broccoli flowerets. I couldn’t find the eggplant in my dish and the sweet and sour pork proved to a be a tough piece of meat rolled in flour, deep fried and then ladled with what tasted like ketchup, and I refused to eat it. The beef broccoli was tough and stringy and came in a flavorless watery sauce. We requested chili sauce repeatedly, but apparently they couldn’t understand what we meant and brought us actual chilies in a bowl.

I was taken aback when Jennifer asked me what my plans were for next year. She must have picked up on the puzzled look on my face for she then asked me: “You know your post is not being renewed, don’t you?” I told her no one had bothered to notify me and she then went on to try and justify this action by informing me that the embassy and her office had made the decision to re-write the proposal for my post to request a senior fellow who could help out with the textbook project being undertaken in Kyrgyzstan.

Since this is the second time that I’m denied the chance to extend, I can’t say I was surprised just dismayed to see that no one had had the decency to pull me aside and tell me. And these are people working on the diplomatic front, mind you. Jennifer insisted on paying the bill once again and we proceeded to walk her back to the Hyatt hotel where Willoughby and I got into a taxi to our respective destinations.

The little monsters next door were at it again, so I chose to watch a movie until they went to bed. “Bitter Moon” was a distressing flick to say the least. 

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