I have four more days left in Kyrgyzstan.
The boxes have been packed and taken away. My apartment now has a hollow feeling, and each human footstep, each growl from Hannah and each meow from Harry the cat echoes throughout the apartment, bouncing off the bare walls and the empty floors.
While we don't physically do the packing, preparing for the movers is a lot of work and took me weeks of preparation (sorting through things, getting rid of stuff, etc.). I was exhausted this weekend following the pack out, but there's a certain amount of relief I felt once it was all done. There have been less distractions: no television to fill the silence, no major cooking and cleaning, no need to rush out of bed in the mornings; it just generally feels like the pace has slowed down in response to the emptiness and probably also the exhaustion.
I'm sure there's some sort of Buddhist philosophy or meaning to take away from this like "Less is More," but instead, I'll share some recent cultural experiences during my final days in Kyrgyzstan and then a takeaway.
The Kyrgyz are generally uncomfortable with dogs. Many fear the sight of Hannah the friendly and goofy golden retriever as we walk down the street. Policemen stop and ask me why she isn't muzzled, and people cross the street just to be safe.
Of course, this means that dog poop presents even more discomfort. I receive strange looks when I pick up Hannah's poop and carry it down the street to the nearest trash bin, and recently, in my apartment building, after a year of picking up Hannah's poop and throwing it in the communal trash bins, the guard's wife created a stir. She argued with my housekeeper about having to empty the poop bags out of the trash bins. When we asked what she wanted us to do with the poop, she said she wanted us to flush it down the toilet. We clarified, "You want us to flush the poop IN THE BAG down our toilet?" She responded, "Yes, I want you to flush the poop in the bag down your toilet." When we expressed our concerns, you know -- like, clogged pipes, she finally threw her hands up and said, "Fine! Poop wherever you want!"
After that, we heard nothing for around four months, leading me to assume the issue was over; however, I walked out of my apartment one day and found two bags of dog poop from the trash bins tied to my door handle. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated, but a solution was found in the end that didn't create any additional outbursts.
While there have been no outbursts, there was a follow-up. The guard knows I am soon leaving and asked my housekeeper if I was taking my dog with me. Why? Because he wanted a dog to take home to their village. Does he think Hannah won't poop if she lives in the village?
I've kept a very close eye on Hannah ever since and will ensure her safe return to America.
A colleague offered to host a farewell gathering for me at her place over the weekend. However, she called me late Friday night before the party on Saturday to say that we needed to reschedule or change the venue due to a yurt suddenly appearing outside her apartment building.
We immediately knew what that meant, which is that someone had died. In Kyrgyzstan, when a Muslim passes away, the body stays or is placed in a yurt for around 24 hours, and steady streams of loved ones gather over the course of a few days to mourn, eat and sacrifice animals.
We rescheduled the party out of respect.
A Side of French Fry
A new burger joint called Burger House opened recently in Bishkek. My colleagues were all raving about it, so we decided to check it out. When you park outside the restaurant, there seems to be all this promise. It looks very California on the outside in spite of the fact that it's part of an old Soviet-style building. When we walked up to the counter to place our order, we received excellent customer service, something not always found in Kyrgyzstan. But after ordering and being seated, things took a drastic turn. Well, maybe not a drastic turn. Only one thing happened, but this thing was so tacky that it probably foreshadows the restaurant's future success.
You see, there is a middle man between the kitchen and the server. This guy, let's call him FrenchFrybek, takes the plate from the kitchen and puts it on the counter. He then calls a server over to pick it up and deliver it to the customer's table. This process and workflow is out in the open for everyone to see. Well, my girlfriend saw FrenchFrybek take a fry off my plate and eat it.
I'll be surprised if this place remains open for more than about six months. I promptly placed a review on Trip Advisor to warn future patrons that they might also lose a french fry.
Bishkek has been a good place to land for a while. Central Asia is a part of the world that is fairly untapped in terms of tourists or investors. It's pretty unknown in the West. Most of my family and friends still ask how Russia is despite my attempts to correct them for two years. ["How is Russia? I wouldn't know. But, Central Asia is good."] There aren't many expats here, meaning I've had experiences that not many people will have in their lifetime. It's a beautiful country.
My biggest takeaways aren't the cultural aspects I've been exposed to or the memories I've made; I get to take the best part of Kyrgyzstan and my time here with me when I leave: my wonderful girlfriend.