Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Terrible Thing

Tonight, I was craving red meat, so I walked thirty minutes to the new burrito stand (!) in Bishkek. It's opposite a big overgrown park with a Soviet hero in the middle of it, and I fancied the idea of sitting there for my dinner.

The burrito stand is great. The meat is tender, the beans are good, the sauce is hot. Bizarrely, it's the real thing. Bishkek is full of surprises.

I was listening to songs from The Verses Project as I walked. I love these songs - verses sung simply and in different styles. I anticipated my meal with pleasure.

But here's the terrible thing I did: an elderly woman approached me on the footpath. She was bent over, wearing old socks with old sandals, and walking very slowly. She asked for 20 som (about 40 cents).

And I said I didn't have any.

But I had 200 som in my pocket, to pay for my burrito.

When I looked behind me, she was faltering up the street in the still-hot sun. I felt sick with sorrow. I walked up behind her very quickly, with the words of Romans 10:12 singing in my ears, excused myself, and handed her my yellow 200 som note. She was so, so grateful. I guess maybe she needed to eat.

My soul dissolved into a soft pool of shame.

It turned out I had enough money for a burrito.

I have been crying ever since.

(Do you know what the next song on my playlist was? Ephesians 2:8-10. Praise God.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An Experiment in Pills

I have just taken a sleeping pill of Russian origins, so the next obvious step is to turn to a public writing forum to see the results. They do say not to operate heavy machinery in such a state, but I don't think my Mac Air qualifies as heavy machinery, since it about the size and shape of, I don't know, a fancy lady's purse. And I am in a semi-recumbent posture, thus are health and safety measures accounted for.

I took the pill because my sleeping is poor. It's poor because I read a book recently about spiritual warfare, by a stalwart old-school missionary in India, containing stories about devilish oppression and terrifying spiritual warfare. Whenever I turn off the light, I find it hard to stop thinking about the stories she told. I try to focus on the victory of Christ over evil and death, and on the power that is given to me by his saving blood. But I'd quite like a good long sleep without the light on. This pill was given to me in nonchalant fashion, over the counter, without a prescription - a heavy-duty affair. I did my research and decided it was safe and have guzzled it with some hope.

My hands are heavily mistyping most words, the sentences appear to be at angles, an the screen looks buckled. This is promising for my sleep prospects, but not the lucidity of anything to follow.

I have a housemate again - good old E is back! Just for a short time. She arrived this morning, with a lost luggage, and we went to Sierra cafe to indulge in a big breakfast and coffee. They were doing good coffee today. My flat white was pleasing. She'll be staying for the next ten days, so that means all the introverted patterns I've been establishing are over. Definitely a good thing.

Tomorrow, I must: pay bills at the post office; book a flight to Batken next week; write college recommendation letters. If I can accomplish these things, I'll consider it a success.

I don't spot many mistakes here, and it appears readable, so I will post with the likelihood that I'll delete it in the morning. I have double vision and heavy fingers. Sleep is imminent. Praises for heavy-duty Soviet style medicine, which doesn't require a prescription and has a pleasing efficacy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Food Safari

This blog went to pot. Did you notice?

There are two reasons:
1. apathy
2. fear and loathing of my own sentences.

Apathy, fear, and loathing are strong words, and I want you to know that in my other pursuits (those not related to sentence-making) I have been experiencing quite a lot of joy and growth.

When summer comes to Bishkek, you can predict the arrival of certain fruits on the street, almost to the day. First come the cherries, mountains of them, crimson-black. They last the longest. Then come the raspberries, sold by the banka (a glass jar that holds about a litre). The strawberries are intermittent. I have gotten in the habit of mixing them with a little balsamic vinegar (from the European Shop) and sugar, marinating them for a bit, then smashing them into some little meringues (from the Turkish Shop) and ice-cream. It's quite something. (What the British call a Fool, I think?) Anyway, the stone fruits come - lovely nectarines and peaches - followed by watermelons and long yellow melons. I avoid those, because I was told they're coaxed into early ripeness with chemicals, and I definitely got sick the last time I ate some.

A kilo of strawberries is about $1.30, by the way.

In the middle of summer, I missed about two weeks of fruity pursuit, because I was in Malaysia for conference purposes. Seven days in Kuala Lumpur, then four nights in George Town, Penang. The first at a semi-swanky hotel, the second in a beautiful guesthouse. The first with forty like-minded workers from all over the world, the second by myself. The first with three buffet meals a day, the second with authentic local food about which I could write a thousand words. Both experiences were life-giving, and I have come back to Bishkek revitalised and rested.

I'm looking forward to having my community back. They're mostly out of the country right now, but trickling back in slowly. For an introvert, this is a dangerous situation: unless I make a huge effort, I could easily go three or four days without having a conversation. I know myself well enough, now, to know that this is very bad for me, so I've been making the aforementioned huge effort to spend time with people. And of course, I'm always glad when I do.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I will go to home church, which I love. Then I have a two-hour dentist appointment, which will hopefully be the last in a long line of appointments to fix a tiresome root canal gone wrong (there's a whole story here about local dentistry that I won't bore you with - you can just imagine the horrors that have been). After that, some of my students are playing soccer at a local field, so I thought I might go watch. I haven't seen them for weeks, and a couple of them are leaving for college in America and Korea soon.

I love these kids. Which is just as well, since getting them into colleges is the reason I've lived in a developing country for 3.5 years, and will do so for at least one year more.