We got a cat.
After a couple unsuccessful leads on Kyrgyz internet forums, Gulzara and I walked to a corner newsstand and waited for the seller to check if the latest newspaper had any local ads for kittens. She called a woman named Natasha and arranged to have Farrell and I pick up a girl kitten later in the evening. Since Gulzara had more important things to do with her day (school work, pssh), we would be left to navigate bilingual feline negotiations on our own.
The taxi dropped us off in front of a Russian banya (sort of like a Turkish hammam) on the southern side of the city, according to Natasha’s instructions. We waited for a few minutes when an older woman (with the obligatory older Russian woman short haircut), clutching something under her jacket. After a series of questioning looks and frantic head-nodding, to ensure that we were the clueless Americans who had called about the cat, she unzipped her jacket and transferred a tiny cat to my chest. It immediately started meowing loudly and Natasha repeated “пожалуйста Kirstin, please” as she readjusted my arms to squeeze the little thing more securely.
The newspaper ad had said that the kittens would be free to a good home, but we came prepared with money just in case she changed her mind. In fact, she requested one som, equivalent to about two cents in the U.S. Why? I’m not sure, and we didn’t have the Russian skills to figure out the point of asking for such a meager price.
I spent the next several minutes concentrating on the kitten, which continued to cry and dug its little claws into my shoulders. Natasha mimed instructions for the proper care of the kitten; clipping it’s nails, showing it where the litter box is, cleaning its ears but not with soap. If for any reason there were problems or we were leaving Bishkek without the kitty, she implored that we call and return her. Between this fury of Rus-glish and gestures Natasha frequently grabbed the kitten’s head and gave her goodbye kisses.
I had expected something more like a box of strays that I would be able to pick one and be on my merry way. I almost felt guilty taking away a cat that someone already seemed so attached to. She even named the kitten, but it sounded only like a jumble of syllables and I immediately forgot it.
Besides, I already decided on a name: Mamadjan, “lil Mama” or “baby mama” for short. It was the name of our landlord. Nevermind that he was a very unpleasant person to deal with, I just think it’s a fun name. It fits for a girl cat too, because apparently it’s a girl’s name in Turkmenistan.
So now our life in Bishkek seems a bit more permanent. Now it’s serious.