Exactly three months ago today, Farrell and I arrived in Kyrgyzstan. It was early in the morning, when most flights arrive at Manas Airport, and we had just spent over two days making the journey, including a 10 hour layover at a Moscow airport with no air conditioning during the height of the city’s bog fires. It was a pretty miserable journey and I was paranoid about being able to obtain the right visa or whether my luggage would actually arrive with me. We came to Bishkek with no experience in Central Asia or with the Russian language.
Now, with an entire three months of experience, I can honestly say that this has been the toughest place to live in and adapt to.
And I still have a long way to go.
Of course, the biggest trouble in settling in to a comfortable routine has been learning Russian. Out of all my travels, Kyrgyzstan is the most difficult in terms of the lack of English skills among people I encounter. Getting ripped off by cab drivers is bad enough, but the charades and wild gestures that have to take place so I can understand that I’m getting ripped off… well, it’s not much fun. My Russian skills are exponentially better than when I moved here, but I estimate at least several more months until I can comfortably carry out short interactions with people по-русски.
Actually, the problem right now isn’t so much that I’m completely unable to make known what I want in Russian, but rather that I don’t yet have the comprehension and listening skills to figure out how people respond to me. I can order food, but if the waitress asks me a question about my order, the whole interaction quickly spirals into chaos (on my part, at least).
And there have been other problems to cope with, the robbery being the biggest one, and the generally awful feeling I get about leaving my apartment for extended periods of time (especially now that I have an expensive camera again). Getting the companies established here (and what was supposed to be an U.S.-based NGO but is now going to be a Kyrgyz branch of a Brazilian owned company) has been moving more slowly than desired, leaving us with plenty of work and bureaucracy to fight through but little cash other than our own reserves (and the 400 som I would theoretically get for each issue of the AUCA New Star that I proofread. No, they haven’t paid me yet).
Ahh, yes. AUCA. One of the reasons I thought it would be a good idea to come here in the first place. There’s an English-speaking university here! We can study, become experts on Central Asia and take all sorts of classes. It can’t hurt, right?
Let’s just say AUCA tries really really hard, but it isn’t quite meeting my expectations. As my bank account dwindles, I have to think hard about whether to return next semester or dedicate more of my time to private Russian lessons and getting the businesses up and running. (Or maybe working on scouring the country for one dang cupcake tin?)
There have been plenty of positives though. Like I said before, I am learning some Russian. It’s definitely not as terrible as I imagined it would be (although I have four more cases to work on). I’m meeting lots of new people, some Americans, Europeans, and then those who I probably never would have had the chance to meet otherwise, like our Turkmen and Afghan friends.
And the cat is pretty cool.
No matter how much I miss having a real bed and more than one room, the current apartment is better than the first one by several orders of magnitude. Even with the recent plumbing problems…and the break-in…and the frequent power outages.
So, Bishkek has thrown some difficult moments at us so far, but I have a feeling that things are on their way to getting a lot easier. Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself for some horrible disaster. Oops!
If I could, I would totally drink a shot of fermented mare’s milk and toast a bright future for us in Bishkek. Well, I’m fresh out. Nutella will have to suffice. Thanks for all the support that you (family, friends, and random people who somehow stumbled upon this blog) guys have shown so far!