Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm sitting in a high room with a misty mountain view, drinking homegrown herbal tea from a clay teapot and listening to the crackle of a wood fire and the sound of conversation in German. There are a group of formidably Teutonic women at the next table, clad in hardy hiking gear and sensible haircuts. They are the only kind of tourists that make it this far; they, and the rowdy Peace Corps folk. I might try and talk to them later. But whether it's out of pride or otherwise, I don't think of myself as a tourist. I'm a resident, a worker: I belong here, even if it's for a finite time.

I've brought M and D here as a treat. I even took a couple of days off work, which is troubling me - I'm trying to reconcile myself to being here and not there, even though here is so extremely beautiful and peaceful - a simple, good life - and there is a place where tasks are piled on tasks and there's always another thing that needs doing. Anyway, it was an interesting marshrutka ride out here. Marshrutkas bound for this village leave every hour, on the hour, from the eastern bus station. We were aiming for the 10 o'clock, but I was so tired that we caught the 11 o'clock instead. And that was a providential business: a couple of blocks from the station, we passed a road accident where a marshrutka had rolled over. It turned out to be the 10 o'clock one, which we'd so nearly caught. We rode in thoughtful silence for a time. And then, at Tokmok, the marshrutka was crammed jowl to jowl with people who coughed in a suspiciously tubercular fashion. Still, the trees around here are succumbing to autumn, all piecemeal, with yellow and red foliage breaking through the greenery, and it was a rather lovely journey in all.

This is a guesthouse in the village of Kalmak-Ashu, which is located in a spectacular valley about two hours out of Bishkek. My parents have been walking around in wonder and taking pictures of the village children, donkeys and mountainous landscapes. As I said, I've been trying my best to relax by reading and ingesting the aforementioned tea, with only moderate success thus far. I have high hopes for tomorrow, however. I've arranged for a local guide to take us all horseriding through the mountains, and the kind Kyrgyz woman in the kitchen will pack us lunch. The weather promises to be fine.

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