I’m in living in the future! I’m now in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which is 10 hours ahead of my home time (Eastern Standard Time, GMT -5). Trying to calculate the time for my home is sort of funny, because I often have to go back a day. I’m feeling so Bill & Ted right now.
My first thought about the landscape here was, “It’s so beautiful… It’s so flat!” I arrived at 5 AM, just before the sun rose. It wasn’t until I the sun came up that I saw the huge mountains not far in the distance. I’m used to mountains (Appalachia!), but these are incredible. They are snow-capped and jagged, and have a clear beauty that I’m sure you can only appreciate in person. On the drive from the airport to Aidai’s apartment, we saw many short houses along the road, which she said look very “how to describe it..? Soviet.” In a funny way, the houses reminded me a lot of Mexico. The world feels so huge & small at the same time.
Breakfast was very delicious, and I learned that Kyrgyz fruit is way tastier than American fruit. Watermelon back home is mostly just sweet, but here it actually has a flavor. Melon, too, has so much more flavor that it almost tastes creamy! The peaches smell very sweet, and instead of becoming mushy when ripe, they feel solid and thick with very delicious juice. I feel like I’m in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, when the main characters eat Narinian fruit (or is it a toffee from a toffee tree?) for the first time. This fruit is a big deal.
After breakfast, I ended up sleeping literally all day, and I woke up just before sunset when Aidai and her mom could break their fasting for Ramadan. We ate well again, and then I got to see downtown Bishkek. Dinara and her sister, two volunteers from Kazakhstan, are also staying in the apartment, so we had a good group for exploring. We walked around parks and main squares with monuments dedicated to Kyrgyz soldiers, the epic story hero Manas, and different writers. I noticed that there are much fewer street lamps here, so unless you are on a main road or even a main path in a park, there is very deep darkness.Even in the capital city, you can see the stars clearly at night. In one park, there was a permanent bounce house for kids to play on. There was also an amusement park with a number of small booths and arcade-type games. We rode a ferris wheel!
I am enjoying myself very much, and I will try to post updates as often as I have access to the internet.