Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 27, 2013

Sasha was watching TV at the bar when I knocked on the door of the bar coffeemaker in hand. He retrieved the old hot plate and got the coffee going while I went back to my room to catch up on my correspondence for the next twenty minutes.

Elvira came at eight and we went downstairs to have breakfast, rice porridge again, and then back to our rooms so I could pick up my bag of tricks, as I like to call it, before proceeding to the Agha Khan School where I was going to present a three-hour workshop on vocabulary and speaking games to a group of sixteen teachers.

I had previously emailed the necessary handouts to Burulcha, the AEPE program coordinator, and we had agreed to meet a little before twelve in front of the school. Jyldyz also agreed to meet us there as she needed to sign some document for Elvira and hand out some receipts as well.

I’d seen the Agha Khan School the first of arrival in Osh and remarked to Elvira as to the beautiful red brick building and well-kept grounds, assuming immediately it’d necessarily have to be a private school. We walked into the school’s canteen and I had plov and salad while Elvira and Jyldyz went for the manti. Burulcha then came to get us and took us to a classroom on the second floor.

Contrary to my expectations, the classroom didn’t have a whiteboard, but a worn-out black board, the kind that lets chalk slide to the floor when you write on it. I did a short introduction, got the teachers into pairs according to their homophone cards, and had them introduce their partners.

For the next three hours, with a short coffee break in between, I put the teachers through a hectic pace of multiple vocabulary games and speaking activities. We had a group photo taken, and I promised to email other games and handouts the minute I had time to do so.

Burulcha insisted on taking us out to eat even though I told her repeatedly I’d had plov only three hours earlier. She took Elvira and me to a gorgeous place with an Aztec motif where I finally had a chance to enjoy a latte made by a true barista. I was on cloud nine and, of course, had to have a second cup of latte before leaving the place.

I agreed to have only a bowl of lentil soup, but did taste the salad ordered by Burulcha, while she and Elvira ordered shish kebabs for themselves. When I asked our very professional server who had come up with the idea of decorating the restaurant with a Mexican motif, he acknowledged having no idea.

Burulcha asked me if I’d had a chance to visit one of the Turkish/Roman-style baths so common in the city and I said no while letting her know I’d love to have a chance to do so. She offered to take us to one within walking distance of our hotel and once there, we let the clerk know we’d come back in the evening.

After a brief stop at our hotel to get rid of our bundles and pack towels and some toiletries, we rode a marshrutka to visit the Suleiman Mountain, looking more like a line of low-lying hills to me, that seems to stand in the middle of Osh. Elvira started her ascent from an area where there were no steps or railing and I remarked on how unsafe that seemed to me. I stopped and refused to go any higher.

She then asked a group of teenagers sitting nearby about another approach that would offer steps for people like me who lack the agility of goats, and of course just as I’d suspected, there was an “official” entrance to the mountain charging 5 soms per person and offering both railings and steps.

It took about half hour to get to the top where couples and families had their pictures taken and a religious man sitting inside a dark and claustrophobic room appeared to offer advice. Further down, people of all ages were sliding down a smooth rock supposedly in search of relief from back pain. Money was being collected in a plate at the end of the slide. I just wondered who had come up with such harebrained idea.

Having nothing further to look at, we came down the mountain and into a “museum” inside a three-story yurt, musty with the odor of places that are never aired out, and containing little of interest to me as there were no signs or plaques next to the items being displayed.

I was itching to experience the bath hoping it’d be just like what I’d seen on Russian TV. We paid an admission fee of 200 soms or $4.16 and were given a key to the locker room where we undressed and placed our belongings. I thought we might need to take a shower first, but Elvira headed to the sauna first thing and I just followed her.

It was hot enough to make soup in there and the two women lying on their towels made room for us egging me to take up the highest rung where the heat was at its most perverse level. I only lasted a few minutes as I felt that my lungs were being scalded and quickly moved down to the first one. I asked about the origin of the heat source, but no one knew for sure.

We then tried lying down on the Turkish bath with its heated floors. I had wanted to have a massage and the beating with birch branches, but this establishment only offered an extreme form of defoliation. I watched the young woman work on a rather obese older woman and it looked painful.

Elvira was willing to wait so I could have a chance to experience and I did. Since I haven’t had a chance to use even a loofah for months, I had layers upon layers of dead skin that the young woman roughly went about removing. I screamed when she got near the back of my neck and near my breasts and I could the water getting darker and darker with my dead cells.

I reassured the woman that I did bathe at least once a year. She was a university student working on weekends only and extremely effective at her job. As her rough mitt did its jobs, I felt I was being scrubbed to within an inch of my life. The upside? I felt I had a completely new dermis when she was done with me. I’d be willing to do this treatment at least once more before I return home.

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