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My first day in Kirgizia

September 19, 2010

The flight into Bishkek nearly scraped the mountaintops of the Tien Shan, the “Celestial Mountains” that stand between Urumqi and my new hometown. I was a bit delirious from a long night with little sleep. From Beijing I had to fly to Urumqi, where I was herded into a bus and escorted to an anonymous hotel somewhere in the desert metropolis. The ceilings in my room were unusually high and the television didn’t even pretend to work. “Ну, это безплатно” said my newfound roommate, a young Russian from Kyrgyzstan named Roman – “Well, it’s free.”

I got about three hours of free sleep and then it was back to the airport, where for the second time that day I had to pay $150 for my overweight luggage. After they got their money, though, I got on the plane easily enough. I sat next to a Kyrgyz woman and a Uyghur. They were inexplicably named Clara and Eric, and in piecemeal Rusian I told them about myself. A good icebreaker when I’m traveling is to tell people that I’m a quadruplet. In formerly communist countries, it never fails to elicit the same response. “No, the government didn’t give us any money,” I said as they shook their heads.

At the airport, I was met by Alyona, the program director at the London School of Bishkek. I will be taking intensive Russian and Kyrgyz classes there for my first month in Kyrgyzstan, and they arranged a homestay for me with a local Russian family. We hopped in a car with a tracksuited driver and sped off towards the city, through fields and under countless political billboards for the upcoming election. Arriving at my new apartment, my new mother invited us in and stared in wonder at my ten months worth of crap. Her name was Marina Nedashkovskaya. She was a large, jovial woman who greeted me in Russian and didn’t stop talking for another hour. I could hardly understand her but I smiled and nodded my head whenever I thought it was appropriate. After some tea and breakfast (bread with kielbasa and cheese – delicious), I passed out in my new bedroom.

When I woke up, I had more tea and learned that I had a host brother who was my same age. His name was Danil, and he asked me “Do you want to be a bodybuilder?” I was confused, until he suggested we go out with his friends and we ended up at a gym. They sat around the weight room and urged me to do a bench press. I politely declined. We drove around listening to hip hop, and I explained that, well, if I had to choose, I guess I’d be West-side. Danil told me that he saw Coolio in concert last month in Kazakhstan and they smoked hash with him out of a Sprite bottle. Coolio signed it afterwards. What a nice guy.

We changed my dollars into som and went by the London School, where I was reunited with my fellow Fulbrighter, Kurt. He was in the middle of Russian conversation class so I checked my e-mail and then headed back home for lunch. Over golubtsy, my Russian family explained that Kyrgyz are “the neegers of Kyrgyzstan” (foreigners love using this word, however much you protest) and asked me if black people ever call me “Snow White.” Danil suggested we go for a drive up into the mountains, so we threw on our boots, hopped in his friend’s car and were off.

The roads were bad and it was so foggy in the foothills that there was nothing to see, so we sat in the car and listened to creepy Russian electronic music – “I’m a sexy guy, a super sexy guy, I’m a sexy guy, you think I’m sexy too?” On the way down, a rock got stuck in our axel and we had to jack up the car to fix it. Danil and his friends asked me if I could help them make resumes. They want to go to Afghanistan, they explained, to be soldiers and fight terrorists.

When we got home, it had gotten dark, and I unpacked my bags and watched some Russian TV. I met my host-sister, Dasha, who seemed nice and spoke good English. I explained that I woke up that morning in China, and I was quite tired. I fell asleep still a little amazed that I was finally here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2010 7:46 am

    That’s a fantastically helter skelter start. It’s gonna be awesommmme

  2. Palmer permalink
    September 21, 2010 6:20 pm

    I’m a sexy guy, a super sexy guy. I’m a sexy guy, you think I’m sexy too?

  3. Debbie Keen permalink
    October 6, 2010 4:22 am

    Adventure on, Dennis


  1. Keen on Kyrgyzstan, In Review « Keen on Kyrgyzstan

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