I have been in Bishkek since 3:00am local time last Friday. I am staying in the apartment where I lived when I was here in 1996-97 teaching English. So far I have been mostly resting, recovering from Jet Lag, renewing old acquaintances, and monitoring all the changesthat have taken place since I was here five years ago - and all the things that have remained the same as well.
Access to the Internet is pretty convenient here, and it only costs about $1.25 per hour at any of several Internet Cafes, and even a little less at the post office. I was going to write some earlier, but I wasn't sure about the status of
my bicycle. It got left behind in Moscow.
Turns out that in their hurry to get me on an earlier flight from MBS to Detroit (bicycle wouldn't fit on the prop-jet that I was originally ticketed on) my luggage only got checked through to Moscow. The transit clerk there noticed and did some things over an intercom to cause one bag to make it to Bishkek, but not the bicycle. Anyway I made a claim to Aeroflot before leaving the airport, and today I learned that the bicycle is actually at the Bishkek airport. (:-) I was ready to take the 30km bus ride out to get it and ride it to town, but my Russian-speaking host - who was dealing with Aeroflot on the phone said
"no way," it is their job to take care of this problem and I will see that they do. So now I am on hold a while longer, but at least I know that it is accounted for.
Tomorrow, one of the students from the university that I taught at for my first three months here has stayed in touch with me, and is coming from someplace in the countryside to visit me. He used to work at the American Embassy. I am looking forward to finding out why he left such a good job. I am also going to find out from as much as I can about the working of the visa process there. My former boss at the private language school I worked at after those first three months is worried about doing (or saying) the wrong thing and getting rejected (again) for a visa to visit the United States.
Turns out that lots of people would like to escape from the Former Soviet Union. The United States is at the top of the list for most of them, with Canada and Australia right up there too. Europe is on the list for many as well. As more and more want to leave, it gets harder and harder to get a visa, even for those who only want to visit - in this case to take further course work in English as a foreign language. And the events of 9-ll have made it even that much harder - especially for those applying for student visas.
Despite the low feelings resulting from not knowing the status of my bicycle, adventures are still happening. More will happen, I am sure as I get over Jet Lag, and get out and about more. Having a bicycle will help because I can go farther afield without having to worry about which bus to take and when there will be another one coming back. Near where I am staying, and lived before, there are some new markets, and simple family restaurants that specialize in traditional (and simple) Kyrgyz dishes. I went to one my first night here, and the owner started up a phrasebook conversation. When I went back the second night he invited me to his home for tea the next night (that was last night
as I write this). It was for more than tea, and his mother is a good cook. We ate, and had more phrase book conversations. I showed family photos and he showed pictures of his days in the Soviet army. We also watched the video of his brothers wedding in 2000. Mostly fast forward, so it was not too bad. Here the women guests kiss the groom (:-).
All for this time. Hopefully there will be more to tell before I leave
here in a week or so. Dale