1. Leave Bishkek
Tokmok - Animal Bazaar and old stuffWhen I first came to Bishkek, I hadn't made any contact yet with any locals, so I went back to CouchSurfing and found Stephen and Maki, an American/Japanese couple who have been living in town for a couple of months. They'd been spending most of their time exploring the city and learning Russian, but hadn't seen the surrounding sights yet. They offered to let me tag along on their trip to Tokmok (60km away), and I readily agreed.
|Big ass sheep (Literally. The butt is pure fat. Delicious.)|
Tokmok is known for two things: an animal bazaar and a restored old minaret in an ancient ruined town nearby. The animal bazaar was exactly what it sounds like. Animals, people selling them, and it's a little bizarre. Sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, cows, horses and who knows what else of all shapes and sizes were up for grabs and were being traded in Kyrgyz, Russian, and frantic gestures. It turns out you can buy a decent horse for 60,000 som (~$1,250)
|Eeyore says hi|
|I wonder if the carved faces are meant to look like the deceased?|
It was interesting to then compare that cemetery to the more modern version down the street. Here, traditional kyrgyz burial mounds have been combined with traditional Russian headstones and photographs to create a distinct style:
|Here the identity of the likenesses are a little more explicit|
2. Make some friends
Bishkek connections (plov, school, dinners, mt. Rainier, etc.)
|Belting the Beatles in Bishkek|
I first just met him for drinks with a couple of friends from Turkmenistan. I met him again for drinks with two of his friends from when he worked at the UN in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, who were visiting. The next day he showed us all how to make plov:
|Rashid explaining the importance of the bone marrow in plov|
|Multi-national dinner party, from left to right: Rashid's roommate - Turkmenistan, Val - Kyrgyzstan, Vojtech - Czech Republic, Mario - Switzerland, Rashid - Uzbekistan, Inna - Turkmenistan|
|plov. plov plov plov.|
|After dinner. Addition of Bernt - Austria (left)|
3. Wander and observe
...and stand in line at embassies
|Another taste of home: Mt. Rainier must be the most common "mountain" photo in the world.|
|Yes, I believe he does.|
|Changing of the guard|
|Restaurant plov (not as good as homemade)|
|Campaign season for Bishkek expats? Nope, just restaurant marketing.|
4. Meet some "police officers"
in Osh BazaarNo photo for this one. While walking to Osh Bazaar a man in street clothes tapped me on the shoulder, showed me a badge and asked for my passport. I had heard about fake or simply corrupt police officers doing this to make a little extra money on the side. I had also heard that they had no right to do this, so I said, "Nyet." and turned to walk away.
Then he grabbed my sleeve, pulled me back, and repeated, "Passport."
"No, let me call my embassy." I pulled out my phone and started to push buttons
"Oh! Consul! No problem! I'm sorry, no problem!"
I learned later that "embassy" in Russian is "pahsolstvah." I'll keep that in mind in the future. Fortunately
I should probably also actually figure out what the embassy's phone number is...
5. Leave Bishkek again
Vacation to Issyk-Kul
|sometimes the under-street walkway drain clogs and you don't want to fix it.|
|Siberian traditional dumpling soup. Mine has ketchup in it, Roma's has mayonnaise. It tastes about like it sounds.|
|Paying our hitchhiking dues|
|Roma the fire builder|
|Wild cannabis. Roma was quite proud of this.|
|Relaxing by a village store with locals|
|Sunset over the cemetery|
|Morning on the beach|
Round one: Three middle aged Kyrgyz women in a sedan. The woman in the back was clearly wasted (10am), as evidenced by the bottle of vodka in her hand and her slurred Russian. About the time she started to say "I love you", passed to bottle to the driver and tried to feed me by hand, I asked in my best Russian, "ahstanavitye pazhalstah. Zdyes. Spasibah. Da. Zdyes. Pazhalstah. Zdyes. Yekhat i vodka nyet. Ahstanavitye zdyes. Bolshoy spasibah! Ocheen priyatnah!" (rough translation of rough Russian: "stop please. here. thank you. yes. here. please. here. driving and vodka no. stop here. big thanks! very nice to meet you!")
Rounds two through four: fairly tame. Short, local rides followed by a grumpy bus driver.
Round five: young family heading to Bishkek via Tokmok. They invited me for tea
|Tea with my hitchiking ride...|
|...turned into a full meal|