Friday, August 20, 2010

The Beginnings of Life in Bishkek- Arrival Day

Well, 3 connecting flights, 2 snickers bars, 2 cliff bars, 6 stew dinners later, one unexpected cup of tomato juice (sounds like apple juice to the Russian ear apparently) and 28 hours later, our plane touched down on Kyrgz soil. Some returning Kyrgz clapped when the landing gear hit the ground, others clapped when the plane actually stopped. Hmm... Seriously, Aeroflot was a great airline. The Airbus A330 over Greenland was very well equipped and the crew was great. Likewise for the flight to Bishkek.

We entered the cleanest, brightest, bluest and most well-tiled airport we have ever seen, this impression surely aided by the amazingly ugly and stiflingly hot and smoky Moscow airport. We have heard about the smoke in Moscow, but the “Winston” smoking stations inside the airport left little room for smoke from wildfires. Apparently all you have to do is stand near the “Winston” sign to light up. Hmmm... maybe duty-free cigarettes burn faster or something? Okay, back to Bishkek. With little trouble we navigated the visa process. Then out we went to collect our bags. It was the only 5 minutes of the trip when the two of us had to haul all four duffles, the rolling carry-on and the red backpack alone. Not too shabby, eh? Then there, outside of the baggage area was Jerry, the school's director and his driver Zair. Jerry very quickly reminded us of Ken, Peter's dad – knowledgeable, experienced, holistic in his approach to employees and friendly. Into a white Land Rover Discovery we went, full to the top with baggage and equipped with both a diesel engine, a manual transmission and a snorkel. Perhaps we didn't need to bring quite so much!

Within a half hour we arrived at our apartment, a drab Soviet style building. After unloading and hauling the bags up a short flight of stairs, we come upon our first security system. A door with a code – three numbers that must be pushed all at once. Zair did that for us. We have no idea if we can do it ourselves. Then into a small entry way with an even smaller elevator. It looked a little questionable and we wondered about this place we would be living in. Two different trips by the elevator got us all up to the 7th floor where we encountered our second security measure – a blue gate with a lock behind which were two apartments. Finally, after some finagling with the door lock of our apartment we were inside.

I was overwhelmed by excitement and relief. Here was a place where we could live, in fact a place I've(Katie) always wanted to live since my first trip to Ukraine. The Soviets may have tried to stifle creativity for economy, but people continued to create beauty in their living spaces. Tall ceilings, open spaces, hardwood floors with beautiful area rugs, solid and engraved wood doors, granite window sills with windows offering a view of the city (and the mountains, if it were clear), big rooms, airy kitchen, and two bathroom spaces – one with a toilet and a sink and one with a bathtub/shower and a sink, oh and solid wood furniture to serve as closets, hutches and the like. It will fit us well.

Jerry left us to our own devices after making sure we had working cell phones with his and everybody else's number. Peter studied the map of Bishkek while I began creating chaos by unloading the luggage. Then the two of us dived into the madness and found a home for everything.

What, you may ask, has been the hardest part of our journey so far? Simple: Getting up from our two hour nap on Wednesday afternoon. It felt like, and was to our bodies, three in the morning.

Items of interest: The washing machine is tiny and probably a luxury around here.

We don't know how the hot water heater works, but after fiddling with the knobs on and off for a couple of hours, finally giving up and deciding to take a cold shower, the water turned from cold to hot!

Stocked in our fridge is a whole roasted chicken and, in the chicken bag, a tortilla that is the size of 2 ½ frisbees. I tore apart the chicken to make ourselves some lunch. A small bag of whole milk was also in the fridge.

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