I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty solid, normal routine down in Bishkek with classes, friends, and family dinners. But, really, when I stop and think about it, life isn’t so normal here. I’ve put together a list of a few weird occurences that are bound to leave someone scratching their head. Enjoy!
When animals attack. This was a weird one for sure. I was walking to my home when I found myself confronted by, not one but, two hissing cats! I hate cats to begin with, and this was straight out of a Stephen King movie creepy. I was doing nothing out of the ordinary when from out of the bushes came a cat hissing at me. It sat in front of me on this narrow path, basically blocking my way, and continued to hiss every time I took another step. Just when thought things could not get any freakier, another cat popped out of the bushes hissing at me! What is going on here?! If you remember my pre-trip preparation from long ago, I never did quite get those rabies shots, and for fear of getting infected with the disease – quite the last thing I need while in Kyrgyzstan – I slowly turned around and took the long path home. They won, those hissing cats. I can’t believe I let them win.
When people attack. I have witnessed a few fights here in Bishkek. The first time I was at Osh Bazaar when I looked over to see a few guys rumbling in the dirt. One of the guys was apparently drunk, and the other, dressed in a suit, eventually got loose and started running away as fast as he could with a cell phone in his hand. The blatantly drunk guy totally got his phone jacked. The second fight was just this week during my walk to school. One guy was shouting and kicking another guy in the face while a girl was in the middle and trying to break it up. I have no idea what it was about, but it was very awkward to witness. And the third also happened this week while walking to class. It was between a marshrutka driver and some guy in a car. They got out and yelled at each other until the guy in the car wacked the other in the face, making the marshrutka driver bleed. Man, mornings are not good around here!
When you get infected with bird flu. I have no idea if bird flu has ever been an issue in Kyrgyzstan, but I started to wonder a few weeks ago when walking to school. Two mornings in a row, there was a street corner with a huge pile of dead chickens waiting for the trash collector. This seemed very out of the ordinary to me since they looked to be perfectly good chickens, besides the whole being dead part. It wasn’t as if they had been mauled by an animal, and they weren’t pieces of leftover chickens. Why would anybody in poor Kyrgyzstan get rid of something that would make them money?! I remember saying to myself, “Ok, Brooke, let’s not get sick. No one wants to hang out with a girl who has bird flu.” Oh, and what happened just 2 weeks ago? Yes, that’s right. I got sick. Remember all that feeling great in Bishkek jive I was spewing a month earlier? Must have been all the vodka.
When your host family doesn’t care that you have bird flu. Remember how I mentioned our family dinners were communal activities where your personal utensil is also the serving utensil? Remember how, at the same time, I questioned what would happen if one of us got sick? Well apparently people here don’t understand that sickness is passed through saliva because when I told my family I didn’t want to reuse my utensil in the noodle dish because I was sick, they said it’s normal and I should anyways. Fine. At that point I was secretly hoping they would get sick to prove a point, but even after my little sister got the sickness, they continue to cough, spit, touch all food; they continue to drink off the same glass; they continue to not understand that I don’t want to be sick again! Wow, am I glad to be moving into an apartment at the end of this month!
When your apartment warming gift from your landlord is an entire sheep in your freezer. When I lived in New York last summer, the landlord was keen on giving us a 6-pack of Brooklyn beer whenever the rent was paid. Here, however, I guess the gift is an entire sheep?! Ryan and Chris just moved into an apartment about 10 minutes from school – a far cry from my 45 minute walk now – and I will be joining them at the end of the month. Ryan sent me a text message saying that the landlord came with a big duffel of sheep meat and put it in the freezer. What?! Could this be how life in the Kyrgyz apartment renting market is really like? No, sadly it is not. The landlord is just using the freezer for a bit, but at least he will be cooking up some plov with it in return.
When people think you are 10 years younger. Wow. Today at the language school, some Kyrgyz kids said I looked 15! 15! Need I say more?