Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013

It was my turn to oversleep as the day turned out gray and I didn’t wake until almost seven. Willoughby was already up and dressed quietly knitting away on her bed. I made coffee quickly and took a shower so as to wash my hair conscious of the fact that there wasn’t going to be any hot water back in the apartment.

Jill chose to sit with us at breakfast and talked about how nervous she was at having to give the last keynote speech that morning. She has a booming voice and a bubbly personality, so I wasn’t worried about her ability to deliver a lively speech. Maria, a student of American Studies at AUCA, also joined us and told us that program was being phased out for lack of enrollment as students can’t see the benefits of getting such a degree.

It was too bad we missed out on her presentation for her English was very clear and her topic interesting as she related that in Kyrgyzstan it doesn’t really matter what the student majors in as long as they have a degree. She mentioned she’s held several jobs since she was 17 years old and no one has ever asked her to produce any credentials.

We had suggested to both Elvira and Asel that we meet to discuss the possibility of having a picnic sponsored by Forum to cap the school year and suggested June 8th as the most suitable date. Elvira was only interested in having all members of Forum have their picture taken in front of the conference’s banner. I had sent a text message to Elvira the night before suggesting we meet after the roundtable.

She never responded, but approached our table at breakfast time to speak to Jill and didn’t even say good morning to Willoughby and I. When I asked her about a response to the text message, she claimed not to have had time to read it. This is the same woman who even checks her messages in the middle of her presentations. I swore right then and there that I wanted nothing more to do with this woman.

Jill’s speech as the best of all I had heard. She spoke very fast and very loudly, didn’t fumble with her slides and hit every point the different presenters had alluded to. I was highly impressed and applauded her repeatedly. A roundtable about the future of American Studies in Central Asia was to follow and I had no interest in it whatsoever, so I went back to my room to continue to work on my e-book.

We returned to the conference hall when it was time to do the evaluations, obtain the CD with all the papers that presenters had submitted and pose for a group photo. We then had 1.5 hour free time before lunch, and this time I approached Asel and reminded her of agreement to hold a meeting with the Forum members. Her reply was that she doubted there was any interest in such a meeting then for all they wanted to do was have their photos taken with the different presenters.

I cursed under breath, silently sending all of them to hell, and told Willoughby about the reply. We agreed we would not pursue the issue any further and would in fact just travel to the Alarcha Park on our own and have a grand picnic by ourselves.

Willoughby helped me work on some problems I was having formatting some of the documents that included tables for the e-book and thus we were able to reduce the number of pages. Her previous work in the production of a technical magazine has surely come handy for me here.

Lunch was another lackluster affair and I refused the white corkscrew pasta they had offered with some beef slices requesting instead that more sautéed vegetables be added. The Polish couple who had been constantly talking through each presentation was sitting next to us and the guy offered an apology indicating that his boss spoke no English and he had to serve as her interpreter.

Having served as an interpreter myself in the past, I wanted to say that in that case they needed to sit at the back of the room so as not to disturb the presenter and not at the front as they had done throughout the entire conference. I went past Elvira on my way to the bathroom, but she didn’t even look my way.

The weather had turned windy and chilly as we waited for the bus to pull up to the main entrance. Since I could see the entrance from my room, the minute the bus got there, Willoughby and I took our bags and secured the two front seats again. We left half hour ahead of time and made only two stops, one to buy smoked fish, I got four of them, and the required bathroom one in another pestilential hole in the ground one.

The sun was shining weakly when we got back to Bishkek. I asked Azema to help me locate a taxi and she decided to share one with me. When I got to my apartment, I found that someone, most likely the landlady had been there and had closed the kitchen window and drawn the drapes. I was livid with fury and quickly sent her an email letting her know I hadn’t given permission for anyone to enter my apartment in my absence. I’m still waiting for a reply.

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