In an attempt to be caught-up and on-the-ball upon my return abroad in September, I’ve decided to combine all these little ideas for individual blog posts into one smorgasbord of interesting bits. So, here you have it! What I’ve learned, loved, lacked and l-acquired (?) while in Central Asia.
Snot Rockets in Paradise:
If said more than a few times in the past, but I am super, super, super germaphobic. I hate the idea of eating off other people, with a passion, once that may have even brought me to tears. Something about the thought of someone else’s slimy saliva sitting on my food, or the idea of getting sick from their germs… ugh… well it makes me cringe. I came a long way during my time in K-Stan, and sometimes I am able to block this fear out of my head completely and just dig in. (I only said sometimes…)
Well if this wasn’t bad enough, there are definitely other parts of the culture I find a bit on the disgusting end of the spectrum. Watch out when you’re walking behind some local guys. Let’s just say they have a tendency to spit or blow snot rockets off to the side, and if you’re in the right place, you just might get caught in the crossfire.
Plastic Bag Much?
In Bishkek, a city where the majority of people commute by public transport, or just plain walking, locals need a way to carry items to work, school, etc. The funny part about this is they choose to do so in a plastic bag. Everyone has a plastic bag. They are so popular you can even buy them at little kiosks with their own local brand names. Erica hit the jackpot when she bought a plastic bag displaying a picture of an eagle with the line, “Protect Feral Animal” on it. You have to love those great English translations.
Meet the Family:
The Kyrgyz are definitely quick to take you as a part of their own family, and one such experience stands out in my mind. Ryan and I were finishing dinner in the apartment when I heard someone shouting outside, “Do you speak English?!”
I popped my head out the balcony and looked up to see my upstairs neighbor hanging his head out of the window. After a short exchange, he invited us up to his apartment, where we were fed lagman (yum!), introduced to his entire family, and then made part of said family. How nice!
There’s a term the students at the London School liked to use when a foreigner comes in and then starts worrying about a price difference of 5 soms, or starts to enjoy local beverages. When this happens, they’ve “gone local”.
Remember that poll I had about drinking fermented mare’s milk? Let me refresh your memory:
(I have since omitted polls since redoing my site, but let’s just say that the majority of people did not want to drink fermented mare’s milk.)
The drink is actually called Kumiz and is as disgusting as it sounds. But, when you are at a table of foreigners with a pitcher of this stuff in the middle, and a table of local Kyrgyz look at it and say, “I want what they’re having,” you know you’ve done it. You’ve gone local.
When it’s hot, it’s hot!
I had heard stories of the heat in Bishkek, but didn’t believe it would actually be that bad until one day it reached 110 degrees while I was living on the 8th floor of an apartment building without air conditioning. I wanted to die.
Maybe High Heels DO Look Good With… Everything?
Another student told me a fairly bad joke that goes a little something like this:
Q – How can you spot the Russian woman at the beach?
A – She’s the one in the high heels.
I don’t know how those girls over there do it, but they are always sporting a pair – rain or shine! And just like worrying over 5 soms, in time I began to think, “Hey, maybe those heels would go good with my bathing suit.” No, I don’t have a pair yet, but give it time people.
Bishkek – Nightlife Hotspot?
No, not really. But, there are a few places to go after nightfall for some action, take for instance, the Golden Bull where we found this Kyrgyz stripper/flame dancer.
Where Everyone Knows Your Name:
I flew out of Almaty, Kazakhstan to come home, and that involved yet another Kyrgyz-Kazakh border crossing experience. I had all of my stuff with me (I have acquired a LOT while in Bishkek), so the taxi driver let me keep my bag in the back of the taxi and explain to the border guys what was actually in it so I didn’t have to carry it. As I was standing there talking to one, I heard another from behind say my name.
Crap. I turned around to see a familiar face – one of the ten border guards that I dealt with back in June. He started asking me why I hadn’t called Rinat back, and when I would come back, etc. I got out of that one by saying I needed to go have my passport stamped, but as I was walking out I was shouted at to see my backpack.
Lies. All lies. He didn’t want to see my bag. He wanted to verify with my passport that I was in fact that American girl that Rinat was desperately phoning the previous month or so before. Wow.
Room for seconds? Keep checking back…