Sunday, May 14, 2006


One Last List

Number of hours left in Bishkek: 10

Number of hours of travel to follow: 27

Time in Bishkek when we leave: 6:35 am, Monday

Time in Boston when we arrive: 8:05 pm, Monday

Number of hits on this page since November: just south of 5,000

Estimated amount of mutton eaten since November, in kilograms: 23,456,789

Number of bags packed and waiting in our living room: 7

Estimated collective weight of said bags, in kilograms: 150

Estimated percentage of that weight caused by gifts and souvenirs: 87

Estimated percentage of that weight caused by shoes and clothes: < 1

Number of bags given this morning to a charity: 11

Estimated percentage of the donations involving clothing and shoes: 92

Number of pairs of underwear staying behind in the Bishkek trash: 14

Number of pairs of socks staying behind in Bishkek's trash: 26

Most unexpected addiction to crop up since November: Merinda orange soda

Number of times I will again have to "sleep" in the bed in our apartment: 0

Level of my glee on realizing that fact this morning, on a level of 1 to 10: 9.5

Number of hours between landing in Boston and my first massage appointment: 19

Estimated enjoyment factor of said massage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 11

Length of layover at Heathrow, in hours: 6

How said layover will be spent: basking in the glow of a pregnant friend

Number of years since last seeing said friend: 7

Number of children who have cried because I am leaving Bishkek: 1

Number of adults who have cried because I am leaving Bishkek: 0

Song listened to most while in Bishkek, according to iTunes stats: "Strange," Patsy Cline

How much that stat shocks me, on a scale of 1 to 10: 8.5

Number of potential rental properties we are already scheduled to visit next week: 11

Number of dogs I've stopped to pet in Bishkek since November: 987

Number of weeks still between me and seeing my dogs: 2

Desire to end this list, on a scale of 1 to 10: 9.5

Number of posts remaining on this blog: > 2 (so stay tuned...)

Friday, May 12, 2006


This Isn't an Ending, Even Though It Looks Like an Ending

You remember Ryspek, right? From a couple weeks ago? The one on trial for a triple murder charge who recently won an open seat on Parliament? Yeah, you remember Ryspek.

Well, he's been murdered. It happened yesterday afternoon as he was coming out of a mosque in a village outside of Bishkek. According to reports, he was shot a number of times in the head and chest by three men in a dark Audi who were all wearing masks. It was reported that the masked men were firing Kalashnikov submachine guns. When the Audi was found earlier today in Bishkek, there were three Kalashnikovs in the trunk. None of Ryspek's guards were wounded and they didn't get off any shots at the masked men in the Audi. At least two students near the entrance to the mosque were shot and wounded, though. Following the shooting, his guards put Ryspek's body into his car and drove him to his family's home in Cholponata, forcing the police to search nearby hospitals, morgues, and the trunks of many cars trying to locate the body. When his body arrived home, a man "close to the family" made a statement confirming Ryspek's murder and his subsequent travels. The body was reportedly examined by a physician but no officials ever saw it, nor will they, as he was buried this afternoon.

Wanna play conspiracy theory? C'mon, it'll be fun...

So, three men in a moving vehicle fired 30-31 shots (according to the number of shells recovered on the scene) from submachine guns and managed to hit only their intended target and innocent bystanders located directly behind the target. The armed henchmen on either side of the target failed to get off even a single round but then managed to get the body into their car and away from the scene before anyone could id the body or ask questions. No officials saw the body and no evidence outside of the guns has been recovered from the car driven by the shooters.

If I could figure out any reason at all for the US to be involved, I'd throw out the CIA just for fun. But, alas, I'm not that clever. But lemme ax ya this: is he really dead? I mean, if you were a newly-elected Parliamentarian with a triple murder charge still hanging over your head and a fairly sizable chunk of the population more than a little pissed off at you, wouldn't you maybe want a little vacation time? Or a lot? Say, the rest of your life? No, probably not. But it'd be a better story if it worked out that way. If his family suddenly moves to some obscure South Pacific island, I'll be the first to scream I told you so! In the meantime, we'll have to simply enjoy the fact that his murder case was today suspended indefinitely. Which, I guess, is something. We'll also have to agree with the head of the Bishkek city police department, who "thinks that the murder of [Ryspek] Akmatbaev is a result of criminal showdowns. Where do you see politics here? [he asks]." [from AKIPress] But, Mr. Police Chief, what about the fact that the sitting Prime Minister is both a political opponent of Ryspek's and a known criminal boss himself. And that PM Kulov was also very loudly accused of having Ryspek's younger brother murdered last fall during a prison riot. What about that? Not political. Right. Sorry. The thing is, it's virtually impossible to even guess at who could have done this -- there are just too many options.

I don't know what happens now. There will be another election soon, I assume. And the rise of the civil society movement may increase. It is likely that other officials, President Bakiev included, will join with the police chief in wondering where the political motivation is in this. And that will pretty much swing the country right back around to where it was last fall, before this whole thing got going. Only there are now more dead bodies. And a man with a hole in his head.

And on that note, I go to bed. Which I will do exactly three more times in Bishkek. This tour, anyway.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


It's Hump Day!

So mostly I've been sitting in the apartment in front of the computer reloading the craigslist Providence rentals page and frantically emailing landlords to ask them things like "Can a 90 lb golden retriever who functions more as furniture be considered a 'small pet'?" We're leaving in four days and I want a place to land that is mine. Not that my sister doesn't have a wonderfully comfortable futon. It's just, you know, when going home doesn't actually involve a home, it loses a bit of the sexiness.

Beyond that, I also got drunk with a bunch of guys from the US Embassy beside a keg of Steinbrau's finest lager and an impromptu bon fire in a brand new Weber grill sent from the States. It was fantastic, and not merely for the gossip we learned about members of the current administration (for instance, in Dick Cheney's travel rider: upon his arrival anywhere in the world, El VP's hotel room must be at exactly 68 degrees and the television must be tuned to Fox News). That was followed by my lying around the apartment moaning with hangover and the repeated whimper of "Christ, when did I get so old?" There's also been packing. Almost all of the packing is done, actually, with the obvious exception of the few bits of clothes we're still wearing and not just burning when we leave.

Oh, and there's this, too. It's a picture of Zamira, the so-called Bread Lady you may remember from my early love-letters to lepyoshka. She makes the bazaar less bizarre, if you know what I mean. And her voice--squeakier than Bernadette Peters after a tank of helium--ranks high among the things we will miss. If you ever find yourself in Bishkek, swing by the west end of the bazaar on Jibek Jaloo and say hello...


Thursday, May 04, 2006


Assorted Nonsense That Has Spilled from My Mouth over the Last 24 Hours:

I think "Tofu Dad" should be slang for something. Only I'm not sure what that something is.

As we only have a little over a week left here in the land of meat, I think tonight I'd like to eat enough meat to induce Meat Sweats. Seriously, I'm talking Competitive Eater-style gluttony.

This is the most difficult confection I've ever attempted to eat in my life. But I'm not willing to give up on it yet, as it still contains a fair bit of deliciousness.

I think the starboard/port thing would work really well when informing someone they've got food in their teeth.

What is the virtue in my showering right now? I mean, what effect will my cleanliness have on the greater good of the world? Yeah, I didn't think so. Best just get used to my man stink.

Nine Days? Nine days is nothing. I've spent more time than that in the bathroom since we've been here.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Developing Dial-Up

I just spent over an hour trying to upload a one minute QuickTime video of E doing a Buster Keaton routine with some wee slippers we were given as a gift and failing to realize that I was filming though the camera was roughly a half foot away from her head. It ends in serious laughter. (It's much funnier than that description may have let on. Really.) But, alas, it is not for you. The dial-up in these parts doesn't cater to such things. Hell, the high speed connection friends of ours have in their apartment is only marginally faster than our dial-up. So, no video for you, Internet. And I got nothing on deck. Sorry. Maybe tomorrow...

In the meantime, go explore the Urban Dictionary and find all the slang you never knew you needed. My favorite today: Man Cookies.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Details about Kyrgyzstan I Would Not Have Guessed Would Be Missed but Nonetheless Will Be

juice boxes in the hands of every third adult

driving on sidewalks

mouthfuls of gold teeth

unexpected vodka shots in the corner kiosk at 9:00 am

official holidays seemingly every three or four days

women's bizarrely dyed hair

street food

children staring at me and calling out "Hello" in English as I walk past

the drunk guy in the apt above us who carries a conch shell wherever he goes


stray dogs

this blog (tho decidedly less than the rest)

Monday, May 01, 2006


I Haven't Been This Let Down Since I Didn't Get the Casio Keyboard I Was Banking on for Christmas in '85

The giant, we-might-have-to-hide-behind-the-locked-door-of-our-apartment, not-ending-until-some-changes-get-made-god-damn-it protest over the weekend was over about twenty minutes after it started. I'm exaggerating, but not by much. The square was empty of all but normal traffic by noon. Sure, it was raining pretty hard, but c'mon! I was looking forward to some good people watching. And there were rumors floating around on Friday that Prime Minister Kulov was going to resign his position as soon as the rally started and join the crowd in their call for change. Instead, he accompanied President Bakiyev out to the square sometime shortly after things got going and the two of them convinced the protesters to pack it in and come back in a month. By then, said the politicians, changes will have been made. Or, you know, you can get your protest on then. In the meantime, though, why don't you go on and get out of the rain, have a cup of tea, maybe a nice lunch, and head on back to wherever it is you come from. And change your wet socks soon as possible, 'k? You don't wanna catch a cold.

When Erin and Janika and I walked through the Ala-Too square around 2:00 Saturday afternoon, it looked like this:

Ala-Too Square, 2:00pm Saturday, 29 April 20006

which is exactly how it looks most all the time. Except there's usually more people moving around. You got some serious staying power, protestors. You get an E for effort and a T for nice try.

Beyond the crushing blow that was the lack of protest and mayhem, this weekend was surprisingly action-packed. Friday night we went over to Janika and Elham's for some delicious fricasse made by Janika's cousin Katerina, here on vacation. There were about 25 people there at its height and about 67 liters of beer. Needless to say, it was a late night. By the time we left it was down to us and about five Germans too drunk and/or tired to speak English, so any inter-ethnic communication was done primarily through body language and vocal tonality. Mostly there was laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.

Saturday we met up with Janika and Katerina and another German from Friday night, Heiller (here working in orphanages teaching kids to read) for dinner at Time Out, a restaurant halfway down the next block south of us. Though it was after 7:00 at night and none of us had done anything more strenuous with our day beyond going for a walk and watching movies, the atmosphere at the table during the meal can only be described as "hungover."

After the no-holds-barred fiesta that was dinner, we walked down to the Metro Pub for the late night jam session scheduled as part of the first annual Bishkek Spring Jazz Festival. (It was, for the record, actually scheduled as a jam session; I'm not just being hokey.) The music on stage that night was variously described by those among us as "rigid," "competent," and "unfortunate" (with the exception of a Puerto Rican band who came in from Almaty around midnight to save the day). We opted to get drunk and the good times picked up from there. It was an especially good move considering it was our first foray into the large ex-pat community and therefore our first experience with nightlife surrounded by a large number of Americans. I've gotten used to not being around our kind, so to speak, and the results were mixed at best. Let's just say that the culture shock on the tail end of this trip will likely be greater than those experienced at the front.

Sunday passed as Sundays pass, with much time spent on couches with books and computers and imagined playtime with dogs. (That last is pathetic, I know, but the dogs always get good treatment on Sundays and as I'll be seeing them soon, I had a little fantasy time with the mutts. What? Don't look at me like that. Oh, whatever.) Then today we went on a mission--thus far successful--I can't talk about currently. Suffice it to say it involves artwork, a man with magic feet, and four people soon to be legally bound. Well, two and two, not all four. I'm not sure all four's legal anywhere. Not even Massachusetts.

Anyway, following phase one of Mission Magic Feet, we came home with Zemfira for a lesson in how to make manti, the ubiquitous Central Asian dumpling. It was delicious. If you happen to find yourself sitting at our table sometime in the future, feel free to request manti. In the meantime, you'll have to imagine their deliciousness and simply enjoy their surface beauty:

Manti & Zema

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