Talka Vodka from Russia “from pure ecological materials”
Quinine water from East Berlin
A finger of succo di limone from Italy
A splash of hawthorn juice from Azerbaijan
A slice of lemon
—Today’s mid-day temperature is 100. As I’ve a walking life, I follow the shade. I rise early to go out and do my shopping. Stay inside in my air-conditioned flat during the searing hours, write, nap, stare at Nadezhda, my orchid. I venture out again in the late light of day, around 7.
—The gas is back on. The supply to central Bishkek has been off since July 1, encouraging everyone to buy a chainik, an electric kettle, and to take a holiday from cooking. As it is Ramadan, much of the city is fasting for this month, eating only an hour after sunset. “No food makes me bad mood,” one Kyrgyz friend said to me.
—After my Russian lesson yesterday, my teacher and I walked to the city center. The entire world oozes something wonderful when I make her laugh.
—Bought another melon. This one about the size of a soccer ball with golden insides and a cost of about 75 cents. I’ve never tasted anything as glorious and perfumed. It’s the taste of all the best of childhood and every summer nap and wish come true and clouds and luscious innocent world.
—The wild strawberry season is winding down. About three weeks ago people began squatting behind plastic crates that held mason jars full of ruby sugar bullets that are Kyrgyzstan’s wild strawberries. The sellers were near the subways and outside the markets. Mountains of strawberries sat on blankets and in plastic bins filling the warm air with their sirens. The cashier in the pharmacy looked sheepishly at her stained fingertips and apologized when she handed me change. Then I held up my pink stained fingertips in response and we both grinned. In the States our strawberries are gargantuan and denuded of flavor like dimwitted bodybuilders. Here they are small and luscious. On my hike last week we hiked and then crouched to pick berries. Hiked and then crouched. Hiked and then crouched.
a poem assembled from the words on T-shirts of people I passed on Bishkek sidewalks on 21 June 2014. I stopped about six of these people and asked them to translate the words on their T-shirts to Russian or Kyrgyz. The universal reply: I don’t speak English.
First Name: Greatest
Last Name: Ever.
It all begins with love, and I was born to break dance.
Let me be.
Butterflies make me happy,
so go fuck the nation.
Want some fries with that shake?
The wine has not only objective material.
Miami Beach = Islam.
18 students, most of them high-school age. It’s a 3-month training course at kloop.kg, and I kicked it off as the trainer for the first 5 days. My posse of translators (assistants, co-teachers, jokesters, coaches) were AUCA journalism students: Batyr, Elina and Masha. We talked in English, Kyrgyz and Russian about the who, what, when, where, why. And how. We talked about what it takes to be a journalist, what journalists do, what makes a story.
Today was Day 5: distributing press badges, rewriting Little Red Riding Hood into a news story (Hunter Saves Girl and Grandmother; Kills Wolf), breaking into story teams and going after the story topics they chose–homelessness, Bishkek’s construction boom, a look at how the city maintains its parks, safety issues for roadside food vendors, bicycle vs. car transport, a move afoot to ban cars with steering wheels on the right-hand side.
Why did I come to Kyrgyzstan? For this. For the everything of this.
These two agreed to model for my utterly unscientific summer research project: mystery beverage consumption. There are plenty of candidates; store shelves are lined with drinks that leave me baffled. I was drawn to these for the ghastly green color (Mountain Dew meets anti-freeze) and labels that include a bird, pine cones and flowers. Last night’s taste test with compadre Lillian found the brown one to be passable (cola-esque in flavor). The green one haunts my fridge.
It is a 12-year-old flag with symbols that span ages. The crimson background symbolizes bravery and valor. The sun is said to represent peace and prosperity. The red ring with crisscrossed lines in the center of the sun represents the tunduk and by extension the family home. The tunduk is the crown of the yurta. Though the ribs of the yurta are usually made of willow, heartier juniper or birch are used for the tunduk.
In the Kyrgyz language Chon Keindy means Big Mother-in-Law. And so I set out on a June Saturday for a TUK (Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan) day trip to the Chon-Kaindy gorge about a 2-hour drive from Bishkek. 18 explorers. 2 river crossings. 5 hours of trekking. Sudden rain at lunch, which made for a muddy return trail. Green, green and more green. Water, water and more water. River stones, fields of wildflowers. Vistas and the glorious balm of being in the big, wild out thereness. A profusion of white butterflies that looked like snowflakes in flight. The advice at the end of the day during the minibus ride home: Soak your feet in hot water for 20 minutes and drink 100 grams of vodka.