Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28, 2013

We needed to be ready to be picked up at 9:30 in the morning, so despite being extremely tired and sore all over, I got up at seven and went downstairs to make coffee. Mohammed brought out the hot plate and then begged me to help him reconcile his accounting book as he was short and would get in trouble with the administration.

I tried using his big calculator, but it wasn’t working properly and had to go back to my room to secure my own. We added the columns twice and came up with the same number. I then noticed his breath smelled of alcohol and could almost swear he’d been drinking beer from the bar and now could not account for the missing bottles. I left him there shaking his head indicating this was going to be the end of his job.

Packing was a headache for even though I hadn’t purchased anything at all, my suitcase was bulging and my bag full of teaching supplies couldn’t hold another item. Elvira offered to carry the laminated pictures and my coffeemaker in her wheeled bag for me. The driver came promptly for us and we set out for Jalal-Abad.

The ride was a comfortable one in a relatively new mini-van. The landscape was gorgeous with the emerald green hills all around us and neatly carved rectangles of land being readied for rice planting. The skies were ominous with clouds and the weather much cooler than I had anticipated. I wore my earbuds and listened to Malena Muyala for most of the hour and half ride.

The nicely paved road we’ve been on turned into a potholed nightmare the closer we got to the city and then we were riding on just gravel. On the way to the guest house where we’d be staying for a week, we passed the burned-out shell of the Uzbek University campus that had been destroyed during the 2010 uprising. Next to it stood the site of a former café that also being burned down.

The guest house in question turned out to be quite pleasant in appearance, but both of our rooms faced the busy main thoroughfare and when I requested a quieter one on the opposite side, the administration wanted an additional 500 soms or 10.41 per night. I refused too pay since the difference would have to come out of pocket. I sulked for a while and then decided to play music from my computer to muffle the sounds coming from the street.

I had noticed that the guesthouse offered Wi-Fi and wrote down the password immediately. Despite the clerk’s assertion that the signal didn’t reach the third floor rooms where we were lodged, Elvira got a signal and so did I. We were ecstatic as up to now we had been taking turns using the portable modem Willoughby had loaned us.

The owner recommended a Turkish café nearby for lunch and my order didn’t look anything like the photo on the menu with my getting some cubes of beef with no color or sauce and just plain rice and shredded carrots. I demanded that some sauce be added, but the staff said all they had was ketchup. I returned the dish and simply refused to eat it.

The waitress returned again having poured some kind of broth over the rice and demanded I consume the dish because I was going to be charged for it anyway. I turned it away and ordered the usual lentil soup I’ve become accustomed to by now. We left the exact change for our soup and salad and left the restaurant.

Back at the guest house, I took a short nap and before heading downstairs to make coffee, knocked on Elvira’s door and found Gulnaz, the Forum representative who had been so helpful in securing our lodging and making photocopies of the handouts ahead of time. We shared a cup of coffee and then walked to the venue where the training sessions will start tomorrow.

It was overcast and even cooler than it had been before lunch. I desperately needed a light coat or heavy sweater of some sort, but going shopping was the last thing on my mind. I had borrowed a sweater from Elvira, but it had neither buttons nor zippers to keep the wind out.

The locale for the training sessions will be the School of Economics and Business. The classroom in itself was locked, so Gulnaz said goodbye. Rain was threatening to start any minute, so I convinced Elvira that we should stay in tonight and just buy a few grocery items at the nearby convenience store.

We got cheese, salami, flat bread, and juice. Elvira bought some green apples for herself and I offered to share some of the leftover pastries I still had from the restaurant in Osh. We had a quiet dinner all by ourselves in the dining room area.

I got an additional comforter from the ill-humored housekeeper and then retreated to my room to try and sleep in spite of the constant sound of cars going past my window.

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