Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10, 2013

I managed to add the few remaining references to my paper and emailed it to the committee who will be reviewing all entries for approval for the American Studies Association symposium before getting ready for our last day of presentations in Batken. I kept my window open and could hear tons of birds cheerfully singing out there on the trees.

I had two slices of salami and a chunk of cheese, the bread had turned into a stone, before Elvira knocked on my door. She started the first session while Uluk, Jygit and I went from one photocopying place to another trying to get the certificates printed along with the handouts I’d need for my presentation on teaching poetry.

We had to settle for printing the certificates at one place and then waiting at another until the owner, who appeared hung over from the celebrations the night before, finally opened up his business. His copier needed a new toner cartridge as the copies were barely legible, but he ignored my comments about changing the cartridge.

My presentation on writing poetry was almost painful as most of the teachers had trouble creating an acrostic, haiku or cinquain despite the many handouts giving them the vocabulary they would need. Most of them were in need of a dictionary, which they didn’t have access to anyway, and were unable to produce a finished product in the time allotted.

When it came time to hand out the certificates, a woman representing some branch of the local government came in and, as usual, went on to give an extremely long speech before actually allowing us to hand out the certificates.

We had the requisite group photo taken and then had Uluk and Jygit take us to lunch at a restaurant near the bazaar where I had usual, plov and salad, and a beer to celebrate the successful completion of three seminars in a row.

Uluk and Jygit had promised to take us to the village where they hold a summer camp every year for local school children and so he drove out of town until we reached some verdant hills. After that, we continued on to reach the summer pastures where the locals take their horses and cattle to graze during the summer months, or jailos.

We encountered countless families picnicking on both sides of a creek being fed by a spring. Both Uluk and Elvira stopped at the point where the spring first surfaces to drink from it while I was stupid enough to dip my toes in it to cool off and thus gathering the wrath of Elvira who pointed out this was the only source of drinking water for the people down below.

The scenery was gorgeous with no house or road in sight and only the presence of a few horses grazing nearby. Uluk mentioned that Tajikistan was only two hours away on foot. I sat down my purse and shawl on the ground to have some photos taken with the guys and then forgot all about it.

We had driven half way down the mountain when I remembered it and poor Jygit had to turn around and drive back up the mountain to retrieve it. Just as we got to the spot, a group of visitors pointed out to him that his front tire was flat. Fortunately, he had a spare tire, looking a bit bald to me, and we were able to proceed after, to my immense relief, I had found my bag and shawl in the same place I’d left them.

I offered to buy the guys a beer when we got into town and we stopped close to our guesthouse to do so. We ran into the one teacher who had attended two of our sessions, but then had been prohibited by her principal from continuing because he hadn’t been provided with an “official” letter inviting her to this professional development opportunity. Shame on him.

We waited for Laura and Amelie, the French girls, and then followed them to the house where Jim and Bill lived. They brought out more beer and some glasses to accompany the one bottles Laura had brought and then we got into their SUV for the short drive to a reservoir some people here call a “lake”. We got there, after a torturous drive on some impassable road, just in time to watch the sunset
I had one glass of beer and refused the potato chips. We had an amenable time sharing stories and jokes until it got dark. It was time to get dinner at a place Laura recommended near the airport. The building looked as if it had been bombed and the owners were trying to reconstruct it. Wires were everywhere and different materials made up the walls. Socks hung out to dry from a cushion-less tapchon nearby. Cheerless would be a good word to describe the ambiance.

It was either plov or fried fish again and I went for the fish, which turned out to be had been fried who knows when and it was extremely salty on top of that. I swear that cooks around here never taste the food before offering it to their customers and then couldn’t care less when you complain about it.

I passed up on both the beer and the tea fearing my bladder couldn’t handle any more liquids for the night. The family who owned the place seemed to be celebrating something as the music was ear-splitting loud and some of them could be seeing dancing. I was exhausted and could barely take part in the conversation as all I wanted to do was find my bed after a very long day.

We got back to the guesthouse at half past ten and I took a few minutes to start packing those items I knew I wouldn’t be needing in the morning before preparing for bed. I couldn’t be any happier about going back to Bishkek.

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