Anyway let's start at the beginning:
Day 0: flight out of Melbourne Saturday evening at 10:15. Etihad Airways. They annoying car commercials that play on the screen in front of you before the safety briefing that can't be turned off or silenced, and more ads before you watch a movie. And their movie selection was dismal. And for that matter their safety video was a pitiful badly rendering computer generated person. With so many other airlines having funny or creative safety videos they're really behind the times. In sum I was rather unimpressed with Etihad, and I thought they were supposed to be a classy airline
I did watch this movie Free Firing which I'd never heard of previously but actually quite liked it. It's kind of one giant "Mexican stand off" but tho characters are all really well done and it's entertaining and well done
In the Abu Dhabi airport the TVs were showing riots in Charlottesville. Coincidentally LAST time I passed through here the TVs were all showing cars burning in Ferguson.
Five hour flight from there to Istanbul, eight hour layover in Istanbul and The Organization was good enough to put me in a hotel. I'd already been traveling about 24 hours by the time I got there anyway (15 to abu Dhabi, 3 on the ground there, five to Istanbul)
Back at the airport I found 45 Peace Corps volunteers milling anxiously around the gate, all on their way to be deployed in Kyrgyzstan! I was kind of absorbed into their group - I love Peace Corries!
Another five hour flight, Turkish Airlines this time. Funny safety video (hosted by a magician with lots of slights of hand), very large selection of movies.
Arrived in Bishkek around 5am. Already sad to part ways with the Peace Corries. And the one I'd been talking to most doesn't even have Facebook, weirdo! Armed soldiers in uniform can be found in almost all airports in the world now but in Bishkek they were wearing balaclavas, which seemed a bit full on.
Last year I was unimpressed to find The Organization's driver nonchalantly leaning against a back wall instead of standing with a sign near where we emerge. This year at least I knew where to find him
Interesting cultural note we were talking about unusual foods during the half hour drive into the city and I asked if they ate horse meat at all (being as there's horses everywhere), and he said only for like weddings and funerals and maybe big birthday dinners or things like that, and in that case the horse meat is placed in the middle of the table and not eaten there but everyone takes some home. Interesting. Well there's a thing you now know
Slept a few hours in the hotel (same hotel as last year), went to lunch to a nearby place I remembered from last year (had lagman which I guess is like a really glorified chow mein. Noodles deliciously loaded with lots of stuff). At one the Organization's country director came by to brief me, and as well I met my interpreter -- a young lady named Hamida, who is skinny, with bangs, and large round Harry Potter glasses. I only found out much later she's not actually Kyrgyz, but Durgan, an ethnic group that emigrated to the area from China in the late 19th century. I'd link to the Wikipedia page but that's tedious on my phone, so no links for you.
And then we were off driving to the project site about six hours east. The road skirts Kyrgyzstan's northern border with Kazakhstan for the first bit, with the surprisingly jagged mountains to the south and flat steppes to the north. Then I fell asleep for a bit and when I awoke we were traveling along a mountain valley, which we continued for most of the trip. About an hour from our destination we entered the expansive valley of Lake Issyk-Kul. Skirted the lake for a bit, with waterfront yurts and beachgoers visible frolicking in the water (there were mountain valley yurts earlier. Kyrgs LOVE their yurts). Finally in the last half hour turned down the small southern valley to our destination
All of a sudden around a corner giant red rock (like hill sized) with a split down the middle emerges, and I'm told this is "broken heart rock" because it looks like such. Around and pastit there's a particularly large number of yurts. But just about half a kilometer further on the road ends at a gate, which we proceeded through and across a bridge over a rushing stream. Looking back at the rock from here it looks like a long string of red sandstone rocks. Weird though because it doesn't resemble the rest of the countryside, just this one giant vein of sandstone. But across the bridge are several massive decaying once-grand buildings of a soviet era resort. It's actually not bad, between them is practically a forest of trees through which quiet sidewalks run. It is here that I am staying
That evening we had dinner in one of the yurts. Manti, which in Turkey is ravioli floating in yogurt, but the Kyrgyz take on it is more like giant perogis (think pot stickers if you're still drawing a blank).
And that's Day 0/1! Wow in my head I had like five lines to write about that. I'll post days two and three in a separate entry.
Check out my instagram for pictures -- I hoped that worked, this is tedious by phone. I'm such_sauce on instagram anyway, and posting pictures there fairly regularly