An Update from the Other Side of the World:

Charlie’s B&B, or rather Food and Floor, is remaining a popular stop off in Bishkek. During a normal week, Charles might see at least a couple of PCVs, most transiting for out of country vacations. And speaking of vacations, Charles just returned from a week-long vacation in Bangkok and other points in Thailand.

Prior to going on his altogether too short adventure, Charles spent much of July throwing himself headlong into his new job with Arabaev University. This has included getting in touch with different universities that all ready had a relationship with Arabaev such as Hamline University and the University of Minnesota and forming new relationships with other universities that have previously shown some sort of interest in faculty/student exchanges. Also on tap is contacting universities in neighboring countries that might like to do exchanges; Charles is working his way through a very large list of places in China. Unfortunately many of the faculty know no language other than Russian or Kyrgyz which will make exchanges much more difficult; hopefully this and other obstacles can be overcome.

Charles is also pursuing many routes of obtaining grant money to move Arabaev from the Soviet model to the Western model. Part of this money will go toward improving the computer system; currently Charles has to work from his apartment as there simply is no computer for him at Arabaev. As he was working to update the university website, he discovered that it is only up online from 9:30 until 5 six days a week; this means that most of the developed world as we know it would never see this website because it simply doesn’t exist while we are awake. Unfortunately, many of the faculty think that Charles can just write a note requesting $100,000 and it will magically appear with no strings attached. This, of course, is not going to happen so as the requests for money pile up, Charles’ stack of things to do increases.

Charles’ hemophilia kids group is back in session as all of the summer vacations are over with in that little group. He is hoping to continue the computer work that he started with them last spring and, maybe, even use grant money to purchase a couple of computers for them to use instead of lugging his laptop to them every week.

The previously mentioned Sixth of July celebration was a good one and well attended by local PCVs along with other Central Asian PCVs that happened to be in the area. No fireworks but plenty of noise from popping balloons.

Weather remains hot and dry with transient rain showers that dampen down the dust and relieve the heat for just a while. Charles has no idea how the plants that are away from the irrigation system stay alive but they do; they drop yellow leaves and replace them with new green ones on a regular basis. There are slight variations towards cool and rainy but that never lasts long.

53 som or about $1.25 will buy 2 kilos each of tomatoes, potatoes and onions, a half kilo of vermicelli, a handful of hot peppers and a pack of cigarettes. As the season advances, fresh fruit and vegetables are on the verge of disappearing. Unfortunately, Charles’ facilities do not include anything with which to can so he is stocking up on fresh vitamins now in expectation of a long winter.

Come autumn, there will be 73 new volunteers. And next spring there will be another set of volunteers. Of the new volunteers one is aged 57, two are in their 30s and the rest are the young bunch of 23-25 year olds. Charles remains the patriarch of the PCVs in Kyrgyzstan. Even with the ramping up of operations in Kyrgyzstan, there are still safety concerns as the unrest continues in Uzbekistan with periodic bombings of American and affiliated targets. There is no lack of American targets in Bishkek with Ganci Air Base and the Embassy and the PC Headquarters. Kyrgyzstan does have a reputation of being one of the more stable of the former republics so, hopefully, the unrest will be unable to spill over the border.

Charles’ trip to Thailand was good chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones of the ambassador and the PC country director, both friends of the old friends. It was also an opportunity to see the ocean and to eat seafood of all kinds including ones that had not previously been sampled. After 11 months of nothing but local food this made a nice change. A beach weekend at Hua Hin also occurred. The only way out of Bishkek is to go west or north. Thus Charles ended up on Uzbekistan Airways. Charles thought that the service was better than any he had received on any US airline and the equipment was new, 767s and A310s. Thankfully PC had lifted the travel restriction to Uzbekistan in time for Charles to make his transfers at the Tashkent airport.

Mentions of Kyrgyzstan in the Western media:

A group of 500 Afghan refugees many of whom have been in Kyrgyzstan for decades will finally find a permanent home on this side of the world in Canada. CBC As It Happens

Central Asia is the home to a common genetic ancestor to everyone but Australian aborigines and Africans. PBS documentary “Journey of Man”

Article on what happens to Kyrgyzstan Olympic tickets. Slate.com

     posted by Megan Harkness-Madole at 6:38 PM  |  


Charles In