After the trials and tribulations of the last week, I thought I would post a few random musings/observations on Kyrgyzstan for today’s discourse.
Language: Someone asked me the other day what language you use here. My answer was “Whatever I feel like”. That’s a bit flippant, but there is some truth to it. Many people here speak Russian, Kyrgyz, and in service industries, English. I know a little Russian, and a little Turkish, which happens to be related to Kyrgyz. So sometimes I use some Russian, sometimes some Kyrgyz, and sometimes English. If all else fails sign language usually works well. Most shops have calculators for telling you the price of things, that helps a fair bit. English is growing here, but it’s still from low numbers. Russian is the true lingua franca, and I wish I had spent more time trying to learn it.
Women: I have to say, this one really surprised me. Central Asian women are hot. I really didn’t expect that. It’s not just the Russian-descent women either. There are many good looking Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz women around. The main difference is that the Russian women tend to wear almost nothing at all. Especially practical in the heat here, and I for one welcome it. The Uzbek women tend to dress more conservatively, but very nicely, with great traditional dresses, with a touch of style to them. The only bit I can’t work out is that the late teens/early twenties Russian girls will be walking about in a boob tube, hot pants smaller than my underpants, and heels – but they might be out with their mother, who will look like a traditional Russian babushka. Long print dress, headscarf, the works. It’s a bit odd, seeing the juxtaposition – traditional Russian values next to something presumably American-inspired . Furthermore, I haven’t decided if it’s related to economics, the lack of McDonalds, genetics, or just general lifestyle, but most young women here are slim. Not so much of the Muffin top in evidence here.
Russian couples dressing up for an evening out: This is a bit of a funny one. Around early evening, as I wander around the town, I see various couples obviously on their way out to some dinner/party/club/movie/whatever. The women obviously put in some time and effort, finding a nice, suitably short dress to wear, with heels, and makeup – beyond the usual amounts anyway. They are not looking overly different to young women in say England – although probably slimmer and better looking (see above). So what does Russian man do? Well, he finds a clean pair of jeans, the tighter the better, pulls them up as high as they can go – it’s important that your shoes and socks are fully showing – and then puts on a T-shirt, tucked in. I figure that if I lived here, and wore decent clothes when out on the town, I would either have women falling all over me, or I would get beaten up by the Russian Mafia, for moving in on their girls. Probably both.
Kyrgyz man, and underpants: It would seem that Kyrgyz man does not wear simple cotton boxer shorts. I spent ages wandering around Dordoi market yesterday, looking for simple cotton boxers. Dordoi is actually a pretty good market, but what tends to happen in these large markets is that everyone sells the same crap. I could find tight-fitting boxers, fat man boxers (honestly, I am not making this up), synthetic material boxers, but no plain cotton ones. Later I did find some cotton ones, but they came in sizes 1, 2 or 3 – what on earth do those sizes mean over here in the real world? And they were all sealed up in indestructible plastic, so I couldn’t get them out. At $5 a pair, they were too expensive also. I shall keep searching.
Drunkenness in public: You do see a fair bit of this in Central Asia. Many Russians have left, but vodka has very much stayed, and is very cheap. I walked past a pub at 8:55 this morning, and there were already people having a beer. Seeing very drunk people is not uncommon. Yesterday there was a man lying on the ground near my guesthouse, on his back, with his pants around his ankles. Thankfully he was still wearing his underpants. Riding around, you get many offers of vodka – people don’t always quite understand why you might refuse, just because you want to cover another 50km in 35 degree heat.
And now I am off to the rugby – for all those who may follow in my footsteps to Bishkek, and wish to watch international rugby, or any other international sport, try the Metro, on Chui, a couple of blocks west of Beta Stores. It’s the main ex-pat hangout. I had some trouble searching online for a place to watch the rugby in Bishkek – one of the top 10 results was an earlier post on my website. Sigh. But the Metro showed the game last week. Beer was a little expensive at ~$2/70som per pint, but that’s not as much of a ripoff as some other ex-pat bars (The Great Game in Tashkent, I’m looking at you here).
Tomorrow I will finally get back on the bike, and head to Issyk-Kul, to do a big lap of the lake. I will come back here in maybe 10-14 days, hopefully to get my passport, etc. Probably have at least another week here sorting out visas. Previously I’d never had a rest day in my tent – but here I’ve just had over a week in my tent. Nice place I’m at though, Nomad’s Home – highly recommended if you’re passing through here.