Charles returned from in-service training at Lake Issyk-Kul with the wish that he had had those ESL (English as a Second Language) instructors from the very beginning of his tenure in Kyrgyzstan; he definitely passed on that recommendation to his supervisors. One of them is a Fulbright fellow. He found training to be interesting, tiring and different.
The training was held at a Soviet-era resort on the northern edge of Lake Issyk-Kul; a hard four hour drive from Bishkek. While there was no snow (a surprise to Charles as Bishkek had been experiencing snow showers and this was now the mountains) it was still quite chilly. A few brave souls took a dip in the lake. Charles was not among them! On the north side of the lake the mountains are three to four kilometers from the lake shore; on the south side of the lake the mountains are much more spectacular and come down almost to the edge. All of the commercial resort activity takes place on the north shore. This particular resort was built in 1985 and has been decently kept up and the food (always important!) is described as upscale Kyrgyz.
On his return to Bishkek, Charles was invited to participate in a Peace Corps documentary on Central Asia. He hopes to be able to view his interview at some point.
The terrorist activity in neighboring Uzbekistan late in March did not affect Charles at all. They were made aware of it and are being watched; a volunteer in a Kyrgyz village near the border was evacuated after his village experienced some unrest. Uzbek volunteers were told to not leave their villages and remain in contact with the PC country office (a standard procedure in these events). For the most part it has been a case of the Kyrgyz volunteers thinking “Tashkent, where is that?”
Spring in Bishkek is slightly more changeable than that in the upper Midwest but not by much; Charles has experienced some days with temperatures in the 80s and then a return to gloom and drizzle. Charles’ weather is definitely ahead of Woodbury’s as, by Palm Sunday, he had daffodils and tulips and flowering trees; there was nothing of the sort in Woodbury. He did discover that instead of palms on Palm Sunday, the Russian Orthodoxy uses pussy willows; much more readily available in that climate and the Russians have never had a good source of palm fronds as part of their empire.
A birthday box containing highly desired Mexican food items and pictures of the left behind resident felines made its way to Bishkek at the end of March. Charles took the cat pictures into his classes to share and discovered that people don’t have pets as we know them. In his apartment building there are a few large dogs that get leashed and walked a couple of times a day but all others appear to be half-feral and, having easy access to garbage, would not owe loyalty to any person for food.
The Mexican food items will be saved until Charles is living in his own place. As mentioned in previous postings his family does not enjoy highly spiced food. A favorite meal that he prepares is beef stroganoff.
Through his host family, Charles has had experience with the health care system in place in Kyrgyzstan. The youngest member of the family, 8-year-old Akbar developed pneumonia and required hospitalization. He finds it similar to what he experienced while stationed in Japan in the 1950s; the hospital provides only the medical services needed, the family must provide the rest. Charles wonders what happens when a special diet is needed.
Easter Sunday found Charles and a group of fellow volunteers eating brunch at the Hyatt. One of the group is now an expatriate that originally came over with the K-9 group that was evacuated after 11 September 11 2001. No one who ate ham for Easter lunch needs to feel guilty as Charles was also able to indulge in whole roasted pig, a rarity in this Muslim country.
Charles does not always enjoy his primary assignment as he feels that one hour a week is not enough time to teach English composition in. However, he finds his other work very rewarding. He enjoys spending time with the group of hemophiliac children and with his outside tutoring; one of his students, who is quite fluent in English, is looking for a job with Save the Children. With his hemophiliac group Charles is working on their computer skills and using a Russian version of MS Word to setup and publish a newsletter. One member of his group is a very rare person indeed, while 1 in every 8,000 men will be born with hemophilia, a much, much smaller number of women will be born with this recessive X-chromosome linked disease; Charles has one such girl in his computer skills group.
Thanks to his work with this group, Charles has acquired a tablecloth with the symbol of the Red Crescent (sister organization to the International Red Cross) on it. He attended a meeting put on by the International Red Cross where a dance troupe that was mostly deaf performed.
Summer is fast approaching and with it, Charles’ first chance to travel. He plans to spend some time with fellow PCVs going around the country, most notably to Osh. He is also going to find out how the air transportation of Central Asia works by attempting to get to Bangkok to visit family friends (one of whom did his PC service in Thailand in the ‘60s). The cheapest ticket will take him to Tashkent but he can’t leave the airport; see above for why Charles probably wouldn’t want to leave the airport! For those looking to visit Charles and/or Kyrgyzstan please be aware that his classes will start up again in September.
posted by Megan Harkness-Madole at 11:20 PM  |