Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013

I was up at two a.m., my stomach growling and my bladder in need of emptying in spite of my having had nothing liquid for hours. I forced myself to go back to sleep only to wake up at half hour intervals, hoping to hear some movement in the kitchen, but it wasn’t until five that the light went on.

I had slept with my clothes on since it was very cold in the room and there was no heating source of any kind. I walked into the kitchen and found the grandmother waiting for water to boil in what looked like an old-fashioned samovar. I brushed my teeth, cleaned my water bottle and when the water boiled, used some of it to dissolve the 3-in-1 mixture I had brought.

                                              An old samovar

I went back to my room and read some more while waiting for Saltanat who had promised to pick me up at 8:00. It was still raining when I fished my umbrella from the backpack and made my way to the pit toilet to answer nature’s call. I had to leave the door wide open for the space was extremely small and there was no source of lighting inside.

Saltanat showed up at ten to eight and asked if I’d had breakfast and I said that except for tea, which I had turned down, no breakfast had been offered. She called on the young mother of the house and she indicated breakfast was being made as attested to by the fact that a pot of milk was boiling on the hot plate most likely to make that most dreadful of entrees, the rice porridge.

I informed the woman I wasn’t interested in eating porridge and she offered to fry me an egg, but I just wanted to flee the place and, mistakenly, thought I could buy something to eat someplace else. Across the street we went with all my bundles and a taxi driver stopped cigarette hanging from his mouth. I refused to get into the taxi and had to wait under the rain some more.

We got to a building that was still locked up and there were some children, obviously Saltanat’s students, waiting for her. She told me they were there that morning to register for some kind of program. The classroom where the training was to take place was relatively spacious one, had a computer tower and a flat screen TV monitor acting as a screen.

Saltanat addressed the students in Kyrgyz and then introduced me as a “volunteer”, something I quickly corrected. The kids, from 3rd to 8th grade, could barely say their names and when I offered to play two games with them, they couldn’t follow the instructions. I then had to stand around until ten when the rest of the group showed up.

I couldn’t wait to ask Asel and Gulnara who’d had the bright idea of sending me to the home-stay place without first consulting with me. Asel tried to claim she’d discussed the situation in the car on the way to Naryn, but Willoughby stepped in and said no discussion had been heard by either one of us. Gulnara only said she felt the homestay should have been a better place than her brother’s even though she’d never set eyes on it. Asel's response was that such "hotel" was the place where all volunteers had stayed in the past. I reminded her that I wasn't a "volunteer" and stop calling me that.

I had already decided that I was going to do my presentation first, for the one measly hour that Asel had decided all four of us should have since she needed to be back in Bishkek the same day, and then high tail it on my own. Gulnara tried to dissuade me by saying that it would be a headache to find a taxi or marshrutka on my own, but I was convinced otherwise and recruited Saltanat’s help to make it happen.

At ten in the morning, only about twelve teachers out of twenty had shown up. Gulnara indicated that they had decided to run four workshops, one hour long each, without any breaks, so as to be done by two since many of the teachers lived quite far from the village proper. I was not quite satisfied that this was true and suspected the schedule was made up to accommodate Asel’s commitments back in Bishkek. I still have no idea why in the hell she was included in this trip.

While searching for my teaching materials, I came to realize I had lost or misplaced my house keys. A frantic search of every pocket in my new bag turned up nothing and I had to text my landlady to ask her to come to my rescue with her spare key once I got back to the city.

I was so mad about the whole situation that I could barely talk. Gulnara introduced me and I said nothing more, but got the teachers to do a whole class mingle for five minutes before showing them what a closed and open sort vocabulary activity looked like. Each activity was difficult for them to do and I just ended by doing the speaking activity using a dice to select a topic from the list on the board. To get teachers to speak without hesitation, repetitions or stopping was almost impossible.

My time was up and I explained to the teachers that I needed to leave immediately and gave the floor to Asel who was going to repeat her session on teaching vocabulary. Saltanat stepped outside with me to wait for the driver and told me how much she’d enjoyed the activities I’d presented and lamented I couldn’t stay longer to share even more.

The taxi driver heading to Bishkek drove an almost new car and I was fortunate enough to be the first one to be picked up, so I had front seat to myself. He made two more stops in the village, one of them to pick up a hefty package of what turned out to be meat of some sort and for a young man who smelled like an ashtray.

                    The road from Naryn heading back to Bishkek

We stopped once to have lunch and, wouldn’t you know it, my lagman noodles were completely cold. When I complained to the waitress, she just looked at me as if I had come from Mars. I pushed the dish aside and only had the last of the 3-in-1 concoction before using the bathroom and getting back in the taxi.

The car had air conditioning which was a blessing when passing the numerous road construction stretches where dust was flying everywhere. The driver didn’t head straight to Bishkek, but went first to Tokmok where he made two deliveries of meat, one stop in Kant and one outside Bishkek. He was courteous enough to drop me off right in front of my building, something I really appreciate it.

I had advised Meka to just leave the door unlocked once she got in, something she was alarmed to do, for she had a class to attend and I wasn’t sure exactly what time I’d make it to the flat. I was home around 6:30 pm feeling like the two longest days of my life had finally come to an end.

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