Central Asian Experience

Finally, it has arrived. Today is my last lecture day at the American University at Central Asia. I can finally enjoy a long, relaxing bath without worrying about my lectures for the next day. I can finally move on to other concerns, perhaps google where “Tumar” is, so I can shop for souvenirs, eat the world’s sweetest walnuts, and buy a felt teapot warmer.

It has been a tiring but wonderful week in Kyrgyzstan. The faculty and staff of the Economics and Business Division of the American University at Central Asia have been quite amazing with their hospitality. They took me around Bishkek, booked me an apartment at the city center, hosted many of my meals, booked me a tour to Ala Archa National Park, and provided a sim card and a university card so I can navigate easier. I now have in my possession a bottle of white and red Georgian wines, all because they took me to a Georgian restaurant for dinner.

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The gang at the Ala Archa National Park

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The river is slowly starting to freeze over

I like Bishkek. I feel at home with the culture. I like that people are ethnically international (although they probably only speak Russian). While the cab drivers may not be capable of speaking what to me is understandable English, they were never hostile and I never felt I was being cheated. Waiters and waitresses were respectful. My students are really eager to learn; and despite the class running from 6:30 pm to 9:10 pm, they engage and I see them fight the urge to feel the tiredness of the day. It is very difficult to not like the place. I have absolutely enjoyed my visit here, and I would definitely, definitely want to come back in the future. In my books, the world’s happiest people are the Kyrgyz. They are just extremely pleasant to be with.

October 21, 2016 | Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Here now in Bishkek

I’m finally here. After almost a 4-hour flight from Copenhagen to Istanbul, a 2-hour layover at Istanbul, and almost a 5-hour flight from Istanbul to Bishkek. To say that I am tired is an understatement. As usual, I was not able to sleep during the entire flight. Even after a hot bath and an hour-long nap, I still feel wasted. I start teaching tomorrow, and boy am I worried I’ll start snoring in class. I guess the jetlag does not help either. Bishkek is 4 hours ahead of Copenhagen. That means that if I can’t sleep early and well tonight, there will be hell to pay tomorrow.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how well everything has gone so far. It was very easy to find my gate Istanbul Atatürk Airport. I only had my backpack as a carry-on, so I did have to go through the trouble of justifying why my carry-on should be carried on instead of checked in for free (I don’t understand why someone would refuse a free check-in of their carry-on though, unless you have breakables or electronics inside). I was approached by a woman who spoke no English about her carry-on. I thought she needed help talking to the airline staff about having her carry-on checked in, so I offered to help her talk to the guy. When she called her friend to help with the translation, it turned out she wanted me to carry her carry-on bag aboard the plane because she had too many carry-ons that she did not want to check in. Super weird. But I politely turned her down and told her that I do not carry bags that are not my own. She went on to ask help from someone else.

Both flights, from Copenhagen and from Istanbul, were uneventful. There was no turbulence. Perhaps, the most happening event that occurred for both my flights was the inability of the flight stewards/stewardesses to completely hand-out passenger drinks and meals before the earlier-row passengers finished their meals and started getting up to go to the toilet. Having seated at row 20C and 5D with Turkish Airlines, I greatly recommend seating near the last row if you need frequent toilet access. The acrobatics required to get pass the trolleys just to get to the toilet was crazy.

But in fairness to Turkish airlines, the food was not bad (and the alcoholic beverages were free!). I had the meatballs to Istanbul and the chicken to Bishkek. The meatballs may not look that appetizing, but it was actually pretty good. In fact, it tasted so much better than the chicken.

Greg and Jaya, colleagues from the university I’m connected here in Bishkek met me at the airport and together, we took a cab to where my “home” for 6 days is going to be. The flat they rented out for me is huuuuge!!! And I have my own living room, my own kitchen, and my own bathroom complete with a Japanese a$$-rinsing toilet and an amazingly big bath tub. They also made me breakfast for me, homemade (and too much for one person!). ❤

After freshening up and resting, I agreed to attend a rap concert with  Greg and Jaya. One of Greg’s friends, Ksenia (who will be interviewing me later for an early morning show), was scheduled to perform. Unfortunately, the 5:30 pm rap concert only began 2 hours later, after all the BMX bicycling competition concluded. We decided to walk around the city instead. According to Jaya, I had about seen most of the city during our walk: the president’s palace, the parliament, the state history museum, the philharmonic hall, the Panfilov park, and many more. The day ended with  dinner at this Jordanian restaurant named Pur:Pur. Food was amazing and wine was pretty good.

October 16, 2016 | Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan