Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2

July 2, 2013

Unable to sleep again as I try to keep track of all other tasks left undone, I got up before five to continue working on my final report, which needs to be a minimum of ten pages in length.

Laira had promised to come for coffee at ten, so I cooked a sort of ratatouille adding the carrots, onions, garlic, eggplant, cabbage and peppers I had at hand. The kitchen turned into a steaming sauna before I was done. I did the dishes and set aside the heavy pot, cutting board and salt and pepper shaker I was going to take to Zarina.

Laira later texted to say one of her daughters was running a fever and she wouldn’t be able to come after all. I did a couple loads of laundry and could finally close up the kitchen and turn on the A/C unit to cool off the flat.

Natalia called to ask if I had retrieved the embassy’s invitation to a reception to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow. I notified her I had just learned about it and would pick it up late in the afternoon. She felt it was important that I be present for this event as I was considered a member of “the family”. I said I’d try to make it as it’d be held across the street from the embassy’s compound and hopefully getting in wouldn’t be an ordeal.

Called the dental clinic and got an appointment for Thursday morning to get my teeth cleaned. Damira called to say she was in the area and wanted to come in earlier than we had agreed to. She had lunch with me, viewed the photos from the CATEC gathering and was convinced to open up a profile page on Couch Surfing so she could have a chance to meet with other foreigners to continue to practice her English.

It was as hot as the Dickens when set foot outside to get on the trolley. I used my big shopping bag to carry the items I was giving Zarina which constituted a problem when riding the trolley as it was packed with people even on such a sweltering day.

Zarina was at her desk and gave me a big hug when she saw me. She had photos on her cell phone of the place where the building of her new house is taking place and I took a look at them. She wanted to know if Lingua was giving me some kind of farewell party, and I said I hoped not.

Leila, Anna, Aigul, Asel, Larissa and Gulnara were all in the office still, and I got the perfunctory greeting from all of them while confirming lunch on Friday with Gulnara. Having nothing else to do there, Damira and I proceeded to take a marshrutka to the Christian Orthodox Church I’d seen several times and wanted to take photos of for my collection.

I was not able to go inside the church because I lacked a scarf to cover my head while a guy wearing track pants, a T-shirt and tennis shoes stood inside admiring the architectural details. I tell you, these churches can be so ridiculous when it comes to attire, but what really burns me is that it’s only applicable to women in all of them.

We took yet another marshrutka to the Faisa Café and arrived there at ten to six. Willoughby called me a few minutes earlier to say she was at the corner of Sovietskaya, too far. She was to take another marshrutka to join us at the café.

We saw no signs of any foreigners inside and even asked one of the servers, but they hadn’t noticed any group of foreigner gathering yet. Willoughby arrived wearing the dark blue skirt I’d given her in Saint Petersburg. She looked great in it.

At six o’clock on the dot, Jana and Alex arrived with a small sign reading “CS”. I had notified one of the waitresses that we’d need at least two tables pushed together as we were expecting between 7-8 people. We placed the sign facing the entrance and made a round of introductions. Jana and Alex are from Germany and have been traveling by motorcycle around the Eurasian continent.

We then had someone from Turkey, Cate, a guy from Canada, an American from Saint Petersburg, FL, someone from Russia and at least six locals wanting to meet foreigners mainly to improve their conversational skills. I ordered a variation of lagman with rice instead of noodles, a salad and water as the place doesn’t serve alcohol, but what I really wanted was a very cold beer.

Our conversation or several of them at some point, revolved around the difficulties of getting visas to travel around Central Asia and China. We all shared funny anecdotes about dealing with corrupt or incompetent border crossing officers.

The food was disappointing, bland to say the least. Alex asked if he could finish my meal and I was more than happy to oblige. The heat was oppressive as the tables are set very close to each other and there wasn’t even a ceiling fan to provide some breeze. I begged to leave at about 7:40, but we had settled the account all together and by the time we were finished, everyone else was ready to go.

Cate and Damira walked with me to my intersection, and then we bid each other goodbye. Damira indicated she wants to have me come over to her house Saturday night.

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