It’s my last day in Bishkek, after a very enjoyable sojurn to Osh, before jetting off for London and the real world. As it happens, I’m sitting in the same sweltering heat in the same internet cafe where I posted my first blog way back in August. Many thanks to everybody who followed me. I won’t be updating any more but if you are interested in information on Bishkek, or have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a colleague once heard a man on a marshrutka say (in Kyrgyz): [satisfied sigh]…. Ah, Kyrgyzstan… life is good!
Had my first opportunity to see the mountain scenery of southern Kyrgyzstan on Sunday when I went there with a group of students at the language school where I’m volunteering. It was billed as a fun English-speaking day out, and that was exactly what we had. After a two-hour minibus ride across, at times, some pretty bumpy roads (and stop for some refreshing kumis – fermented horse’s milk, which I’m getting a taste for) we hiked up to an idyllic (the only word I can think of) spot next to a river in the alpine mountains and played some langauge games, did a quiz and ate a fantastic lunch of a smoked lamb and potato stew, cooked over an open fire. Definitely a Kyrgyzstan highlight.
Jalal-Abad city is only an hour and a half away by taxi from Osh, so today, being at a loose end, I headed over. It’s actually pretty close as the crow flies, but one has to take a big detour round a chunk of Uzbekistan that sticks eastwards into Kyrgyzstan. It was a pleasant journey, though, especially as we got into Jalal-Abad oblast. As we descended in to the valley where the city lies, I was struck by how green it was.
The city itself doesn’t have a huge amount for tourists. I mooched around the broad, leafy streets, ate a splendid shish for lunch, strolled around Pushkin park, had a spin on their geriatric-looking ferris wheel (rather too much creaking and clanking for my taste) had a beer in a park cafe and headed home.
And so, after a mad but pleasant dash to Almaty in Kazakhstan for a new Kyrgyz visa (I couldn’t renew in the country) I’m writing this in what is essentially a comfortable bedsit in Osh, where I’m volunteering at a local langauge school for a month. I did my first classes today, and they went very well; the students here have had almost no time with native English speakers but their English is pretty good, and they are very motivated. Osh is pretty warm now – low 30s – and feels very pleasant. The tranformation with five months ago, when I was here for new year is amazing; formerly burned-out shops are up and running as web cafes and restaurants and in the evening the park at the foot of Mt Solomon is really lively, with fountains, restaruants and plenty of people promenading. People say there is still plenty of tension around but I haven’t noticed it, and indeed my classes have both Kyrgyz people and some Uzbeks. Maybe things are looking up here.
My eight months at the London School in Bishkek are up, and I’ve decamped to Kazakhstan for few days to check out Almaty before (hopefully) reentering Kyrgyzstan on a tourist visa for a month to spend some time in the south of the country. Feel very bereft have left all my great friends at the school, both locals and expats, and on Friday I had a splendid leaving party along with Will, a friend who is also leaving. The next month should be fun, but it really feels like the end of something special. And I’ll really miss the cat.
Everybody who comes to Bishkek notices the vast numbers of stray dogs trotting around. They’ve clearly evolved to be cute and furry, presumably because that makes them less threatening, although, sadly their days would appear to be numbered. Anyway, here are some of my favourites.