Bishkek: Where the Grass is Green but the Gardeners are Grumpy


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July 5th 2014
Published: July 7th 2014
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Greetings all, from the Land of the Mighty Sheep. That's what the name Kyrgyzstan means...no, that's not true, I just made it up. But it could be! Even living in a city I see sheep every day, it's amazing! Anyways, in this blog I'm going to get in my Delaurian and go back in time a bit, to the time before I came to Osh, and was spending regular time in Bishkek, the capital city of KStan. Some of these pictures have probably made their way onto other blogs, but I haven't actually written about the city that never sleeps. Or wakes.



So after the first two weeks of training, we were taken in child like groups into the big city for our first experience of the high life. For most of us, it was the first time back in an air-conditioned building since flying out of Istanbul, and the first time eating at a Kyrgyz eatery that didn't specialize in beer. We were toured around the city by lovely K-21's, the intake of volunteers who have already been here for a year and have one more year left in their service. Most of us were bustled around to big shopping locales, the Osh Bazaar, the all important Sierra Coffee (think Starbucks but with Russian menus), and ending at the Peace Corps headquarters. It was a pretty great day, but made me want to go back without the group and just meander! And maybe get a better picture of the Lenin statue, some of you know my love of Communist propaganda! Which I did.



So for the next weekends, we headed into Bishkek for the days and got to know the city at less of a breakneck pace. For anybody visiting Bishkek, there is a great app that you can download called bus.kg and it tells you what marshutka/bus to catch to get from your location to where you want to go. So download it, it works great and you do not need wifi to use it, just to download it obvi! Anyways, enough plugging, Bishkek is a pretty easy city to get around, mainly because it's a Soviet city and runs on a pretty decent grid. Of course, being unable to really spot street signs makes knowing your exact location somewhat testy, especially if you're on a marshutka, standing, sweating, and you can't see out any windows. Real life, though the sweating doesn't actually factor into lack of navigation abilities, just comfort.



Bishkek is the place where you can pretty much buy anything, and for less soms than in smaller towns. The main place to shop bazar style is Osh Bazar though there are a couple of other bazars, one in particular that is a clothing mecca. Osh Bazar is one of those places that you just feel like you might get robbed at any minute. There is just a vibe, plus if you're observant you would have noticed the large gaggle of men standing at the entry to the bazar hawking a multitude of cell phones. Which they 'found' in the bazar...In peoples pockets. Osh sells pretty much anything you can imagine, quality to be determined, but you can haggle your face off, and depending on your language, might just do ok.



Another all important place in Bishkek is Sierra, as I mentioned before. Sierra serves delicious bevvies, has wifi, air con, and is a haven in the heat of Bishkek. It's also the place where, as a white person, you will run into somebody you know. I don't know if I have ever gone to Sierra and not seen someone I knew. And it's not like I know a ton of people in this country. They also have a decent bookshelf, that you are not actually supposed to take the books from, just enjoy while in store. But that rule may have been disregarded. A few times.



Another really big deal in Bishkek is the burrito place. They make awesome burritos and sometimes even have guacamole. Enough said. There is a park right across from the burrito place where you can go and sit and eat your delicious Mexican food, and leave a drippy puddle of rice and assorted burrito innards on the ground. They are delish, but they are messy!



One place that could be on your list is the Botanical Garden. Which is said to be open 7 days a week. We went there on a Sunday, and saw people coming out of it, so we let ourselves in. And then wandered around a bit before getting snapped at by a vicious dog and then being snapped at by a grumpy gardener. He only spoke Russian so we had no idea what was really going on, we did get the gist that the place was closed. And was closed on Saturdays too. Huh? That's an odd schedule for a place of leisure and floratic beauty. So not open 7 days a week then, thanks Lonely Planet. Grumpy Gardener then tried to extort us and then we would have been able to stay, but that wasn't happening, so we turned for the exit gate and he accompanied us to the gate, made sure we ruffians were well and truly out, and then slammed it for good measure. Just so we really understood, no language skills needed. We just stood at the gate and watched as he stomped back into the garden. So now I have been kicked out of a movie theatre, a country, and a botanical garden. So hardcore of me.



So Bishkek is actually a pretty nice city, a lot of green and trees and what have you. It's also hot as hell in the summer. Riding in marshutkas on these hot hot days can be a near death experience. Since marshutkas have no windows that can open, the heat that gets stored inside of them make them into a virtual oven. You sweat out of pores you did not know you had, I can tell you that for free! A couple of times when I went I wore jeans, I'm pretty sure they shrunk on me over the course of the day, like that episode of Friends when Ross wears leather pants. I peeled them off that night and my legs were stained blue from the heat/sweat of the day. Yay for baby wipes! Oh Bishkek.



So last blog I started a question section, and a few people actually asked questions, which is awesome! So lets answer those!



Regarding the pot plants, does it just grow freely, do people smoke it? What's the deal?!

So the pot plants do just grow freely, but apparently, there are two kind of marajuana plants, female and male. And the stuff that is scientifically proven as a medicinal aide is not the one that grows freely here. So no, it doesn't get you stoned. Which is too bad, because KG is a developing country and a good boost of medical marajuana sales couldn't hurt! Though that's a slippery slope maybe...

Is there any wildlife?

Beyond the barnyard I haven't seen much. I would think there are mountain goats and such up in the mountains, but I have not heard of anything near where people live. Also, at some point hunting came up, and my LCF just shook her head as if that's the dumbest idea conceivable. Why go out into the forest and maybe get something when you can just slice open the sheep in your yard!?! She's got a pretty major point.

Do you have a cell phone???

Ha, yes, I have a cell phone, a basic Nokia that the PC issues. Service is pretty good, though at 40 minutes and 7 seconds it cuts off your call and you have to call the person back. This is how you can keep track of how long you have been talking, especially if you get cut off more than once, Chatty Cathy's!!! As far as communication goes, in the larger towns and cities, you can find bars and restaurants with Wifi, but most people won't have wifi at home. Most volunteers end up buying a USB modem that plugs into their computers and is basically a portable internet connection. I have a few really good places here in Osh for wifi and have been able to Skype with both Canada (with video) and Madagascar (absolutely not with video, fun fact Madagascar wifi is even worse than Kyrgyzstan's!!!). There are also Internet cafes here, and some of those really dark smelly gamer cafes. One here in Osh is called World of Tanks. Aggressive.





But I think thats all from me about Bishkek. I'm going to take a video of my new home here in Osh and try to get that posted in the next couple of days. I've been putting it off until I heal a bit. Oh yes, I currently have bug bites all over my body and I look like I am in the first phases of leprosy. I even have them on my face, which really is just a kick in the pants. Don't need footage of that online! But no worries, Cribs: Osh City is coming soon.





Thanks for the feedback from the last blog, I appreciate it all, and again, any questions, no worries as to how random, mundane or ridiculous they may seem, shoot them over and I'll at least feign knowledge on the subject!





Tootles!!!



The content of this blog is purely my own. The opinions and views expressed here do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.


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7th July 2014
Osh Bazar

Off to market
They all look similar but suck us in and we must go check it out.
9th July 2014
Osh Bazar

Greens?
Fine photo of lots of dried things, but my big question is, Do you get greens, and if so will you get them through the winter, or will you just be having a dismal diet of sheep, tea and bread? Glad you have the big Osh for entertainment.
9th July 2014

questions
Do they have toilet peper there? Just asking because when my mom visited a friend in Egypt, she was told to bring a suitcase of toilet paper (which she did).

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