Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 10

July 10, 2013

As I had suspected, my Internet funds had run out in the middle of the night, and the available connections in the area featured a security code. Luann had called twice after I’d gone to bed to say she wanted to meet later than we’d previously agreed. That was fine with me and I sent her a SMS to confirm.

Willoughby called very early in the morning to ascertain what my plans were for my two remaining days in Bishkek. I had thought about suggesting dinner on Thursday night to cap my experience here and was willing to pull out all the stops and go that fancy French restaurant, Ratatouille. Willoughby agreed wholeheartedly.

I had some flat bread, cubes of cheese and hot chocolate for breakfast while watching a documentary on the history of Ireland. What a bloody mess that place has been with thousands of lives being lost just because a group belonging to one religion, Catholic, Anglican, or Protestant, wanted to dominate the other.

I then sent a text message to Rasur to determine the most convenient time for him to pick up the laptop, and another to Gulnara for her to come by with the Forum stamp for the two documents she’d signed for me. Neither one answered right away.

I still had a mountain of scrap paper that I had accumulated from all my presentations and conferences attended. I decided on the spur of the moment to jump on a marshrutka and take it to the Osh bazaar so that the spice vendors could use them to make their paper cones to dispense their wares. It was tricky to hang on to the papers while maneuvering the mini-van, but I made it and offered it to first vendor I encountered.

He turned it down as apparently he thought I wanted money for it. I walked a few steps away and an older Russian-looking woman asked to see the pile of papers. I made it clear I just wanted to give it away and when she agreed to the deal, I placed the entire pile on the floor next to her stall.

I rode the marshrutka up to where the Carlson Wagonlit travel agency was located to ask them for information on how to pay for the excess baggage. Larissa confirmed I’d be asked to pay $6.00 per kilo and would have to pay cash only.

I rode another marshrutka back to the flat, but got off at the corner of Manas and Bokumkaiva so I could buy a shawarma sandwich, a plate of plov and some salad for lunch. Gulnara from Forum called as I was about to get off to let me know she was already waiting at the flat to place the stamp on the documents and pick up some things for Forum.

I asked her to give ten minutes, picked up my food and then hustled to meet Gulnara. I brought out the two documents in need of the Forum’s stamp and then gave her the green and black tea, sugar, and napkins I had left over from the open house party. She saw the bottle of sunflower oil, barely used, and asked me for it. I prepared a bag and gave it all to her.

Once she was gone, I had the plov and a salad of marinated mushrooms before preparing to meet Luann for coffee. I had suggested we visit the Manas Village that Elvira had mentioned to me and which we had passed on the way back from the Ala Archa State Park, and Luann readily agreed to do so. I walked to the 135 Coffee House and waited in the open terrace for her.

Fortunately, they offered Wi-Fi and I was able to get access to my mail. I had a message from the ELF program indicating my application was incomplete and I needed to contact them to set up a time for an interview since the one on file was already too old.

The skies had turned black and the wind was beginning to pick up. I hated the idea of missing out on visiting the village since I’d not have another chance to do so. Luann recommended ordering the hot chocolate that looked and tasted more like a chocolate pudding. At 220 som, or almost $5.00, I was hoping for something delicious and it was worth every som

Natalia called while I was having my chocolate and inquired as to my schedule for the next day as she still wanted to meet with me before my departure. I mentioned my commitment to Willoughby, both morning and evening, and she said she’d try to squeeze in sometime to see me. It had started to sprinkle as we left the cafĂ©.

Luann and I got on the #266 marshrutka and the driver signaled to us when we got to the village. Except for the sign at the corner of Manas, we found no directions for the place and had to ask two other people before confirming that we just needed to walk down a bit to get to it. The cashier’s booth was empty, but two security guards sat to the right and asked for 20 som for us to get in.

The village in question was supposed to recreate the Manas epic so revered in Kyrgyzstan, but I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the many different structures. If there was some symbolism attached to each one, we couldn’t tell since there were no signs of any kind in any language whatsoever. We took tons of photos and even got into the yurt at the end where every day items were on display.

The woman tending to the yurt beckoned us to put on the traditional velvet coat and headdress and to have our picture taken at different angles inside the yurt. Although I normally shrink from doing the “touristy” thing, I caved in this one time and had my photo taken several times.

Back outside, the rain had subsided and we took some more photos before proceeding next door to the other attraction I’d seen from the road: Flamingo Park, but not before walking in front of the Issyk-Kul Hotel, which appeared to be completely abandoned as weed had invaded the front entrance completely.

Flamingo Park was a kitschy take on Disneyland or Disney World that had fallen in disrepair with concrete chunks missing, rusting sculptures and green areas full of weeds. We immediately labeled it “The Poor Man’s Disney” and marveled at the many knockoffs of familiar Disney characters adorning the place. We paid 40 som just for the privilege of getting in and taking photos.

I had to plead with Luann to leave by 7:00 as Rasur was coming by to pick up the laptop he’d bought from me. We had to wait for a long while before getting into a marshrutka and got home at exactly five minutes to eight. Rasur was waiting downstairs, so I proceeded to pack up the laptop for him.

Luann had begged me to accompany her to a pop quiz, or trivial pursuit game, that night where Rebecca, David and Amada would be present. I was very hungry and wanted to do one more load of laundry before finishing my packing, so staying home was the logical thing to do.

Luann had been such a pleasure to spend the afternoon with that I decided to cave in and accompany her after I had finished the leftovers from my lunch. We walked to the Dragon’s Pub off Frunze Avenue and found the group sitting outside and already in the middle of the quiz. I was able to contribute to the answers on at least four occasions and our group ended up winning the contest, the first time ever they’d done so.

At ten o’clock, I was falling asleep and bid everyone goodbye for good after Luann took a couple of photos for the record. I walked back to my place feeling the pain on my legs from the walking I’d done Sunday at the park and all day today.

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