Friday, June 28, 2013

June 25, 2013

I had set up my alarm for 6:30 just in case, but it wasn’t necessary as I was up at five when light started to filter through my curtains. I had packed almost everything I needed except for the laptop and a few snack to bring along the way.

Willoughby showed up at 8:00 and we immediately grabbed a taxi parked in front of the complex to take us to the terminal where a young man brusquely grabbed our bags and took us to a marshrutka parked across the street. I insisted we could only go with him if we got the two front seats. He agreed and placed the our backpacks in his minivan and went out to search for more passengers.

We don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden, everyone in the marshrutka exited it, picked up their bags and ran across the street. We did the same and found a newer vehicle with the two front seats still available which quickly filled in allowing us to be on the road at exactly nine o’clock.

We had a pit stop at a new roadside restaurant where the bathroom was spotless and odor-free. Why can’t other places imitate it? Sure, the building was new, but the other places are also charging a fee that they could invest into building toilets such as this one that don’t make you feel like losing your lunch during your visit.

                       View of the landscape taken with my tablet camera at a pit stop

When we got into Cholponata, the driver indicated he’d continue further down the road to deliver other passengers, so we were able to get to the Green Pub without having to hire a taxi. We ordered a beer and the pork steak with barbecue sauce as it was listed on the menu. It was as divine as the first time with the fries being delivered piping hot as I like them.

The waitress called a taxi for us to take us directly into the Aurora Sanatorium as neither one of us wanted to walk from the main road carrying our luggage. It cost 300 soms and I agreed to pay it from my allowance for the trip. The place is showing its age with the gray buildings losing some of its concrete chunks in some places.

The pre-conference event was just breaking for coffee when we walked into the lobby. Both Gulnaras, Jennifer, Natalia and others greeted us until I said I needed to get to my room and get rid of my heavy shoulder bag. Jennifer said: “Go, Ercilia. We don’t need you now.” To which I replied tongue-in-cheek: “have you ever?” Jennifer didn’t find it funny at all.

Natasha, from Lingua, pulled me aside to say she really needed for me to chair the meeting with the Peace Corps volunteers who were going to organize the evening entertainment on Wednesday. I felt I had no choice, but to say yes.

                                               View from my window

                                   View of the lake from my window

Willoughby and I got rooms on the fourth floor facing the lake. We each had a double bed, a night table, a piece of furniture that could double as a desk, a small fridge and a teakettle and bowls to brew tea.

Wi-Fi access was to be had only in the lobby unless I was willing to pay 100 soms a day for access in my room. The day was clear and the waters placid. I knew the water would still be too cold for me, but could see guests at the hotel coming back with towels over their shoulders.

We went down for dinner at 7:00 and sat with a couple of other Peace Corps volunteers. I wasn’t particularly hungry and had thought that a bowl of soup or a salad could do for dinner. There was a mound of something on a small plate at each seat, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell what it was. A local teacher said it was shredded chicken with melted cheese on top. And that was supposed to be our salad!

The second course, if you can believe this, was a cornmeal porridge. We were all looking around puzzled while trying to decipher whether the kitchen staff had confused the times of day and thought they were cooking breakfast instead of dinner. The porridge wasn’t bad once I tasted it.

The main course was another mystery dish, as we started labeling them, and even the Peace Corps volunteer who had offered to eat my salad, couldn’t tell what it was, but said it tasted like meatloaf somewhat. Willoughby ate nothing and I had the porridge just in case I could get the munchies later on.

The Peace Corps volunteer’s counterpart didn’t take lightly to our derisive comments about the meal and asked me if I had tried beshbarmak, a dish I’d come to loathe for its limp noodles, greasy flavor and excessive quantify of meat. I said yes, three times in fact, and still didn’t like it. They both felt I needed to visit the Naryn region to have a different experience, but I thought to myself, spare me, please.

Once dinner was over, I approached Natasha to find out where our meeting to plan the evening entertainment was going to take place. I was surprised to find both Gulnara from Lingua and Amanda present for it since I’d thought no one but me was available. Gulnara spoke most of the time until we agreed to just have a “Find someone…” form of mingle activity prior to the raffle that Chynara had been assigned to carry out.

I really couldn’t see the purpose of my presence, and Willoughby’s, at that meeting. 

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