Day 3: Hamida and I have been sharing our table with two old men. One has a brilliantly white goatee and his eyes twinkle with mischief. The other is broad and quiet and because he sits just beside me I don't even get a good look at him. They are both always wearing the tall white felt traditional hat, the kalpak.
The man with mischievous eyes appears to make a short speech to people across the room before sitting down with us. I asked Hamida what he said and she said he was telling them he'd host a party this evening and everyone who didn't sing would have to pay 100 soms (just over a dollar, a dollar is some 72 som) and with the proceeds he would buy a lamb to roast. Somehow gathering we were talking about it he conveyed through her that I was invited. I'm always down to party with the locals but Hamida seemed very skeptical.
"You know they will make you drink so much." She warned. Ah well some times you have to live dangerously.
He also overheard me use the word Bishkek several times as I was telling Hamida about a friend in Bishkek I hoped to see and asked her if I was composing poems about Bishkek.
Okay now here's a funny story I totally forgot from day 1. Everyone's worst dear happened to me: I used the toilet here in my room at ye crumbling soviet report and only afterwards did I realize there was no TP. not in a closet around the corner, none. Nowhere at hand. Nor were there napkins or tissues. There was nothing for it but to immediately take a shower. And THEN I discovered there was no soap and no towel!!!
Anyway after breakfast this day we met with Sergei in his comically small soviet car (I was actually impressed the tiny thing was four wheel drive and didn't feel cramped) and proceeded down into the valley to visit their bees. It seems the practice around here is invariably to keep hives on a trailer, or possibly unload just a few of them off the trailer and leave most of them. And the trailer must be manned 24/7 to prevent theft. There's a little sleeping cabin on the trailer. I tell you what if _I_ had to pay someone to watch every hundred or so of my hives 24/7 I would be soo deeply unprofitable! Though it seems they keep it all in the family with Andrei and Anatoly trading off days there, but still.
I'll skip over all the technical observations about their beekeeping operation except to note that they dribbled vodka mixed with honey I'm the hives to encourage acceptance of the new queens they were introducing. OF COURSE the Russians give vodka to their bees!!! This just fit the Russian stereotype far too well!!!
After Sergei prepared us all a nice lunch of soup and pilaf (which I think he was laboring at for an hour making it all from scratch right there) Sergei, his nine year old daughter Vika, Hamida and I proceeded to the lake shore
Lake Issyk Kul is so big you can barely barely make out the massive mountains on the far side. It has sandy beaches and little waves even. I assumed it was fresh water, Hamida said it was salt. I don't know, I don't have data to go googling everything nor did I fancy having a taste. I did go swimming though and found the water quite nice. It was impressive to swim out and see snow capped mountains just beyond the beach. Also there were some yurts at hand because Kyrgyzstan. With nothing modern in view just the yurts and mountains it was easy to think what a lovely place this would be in ancient times, to set up your yurt right by the beach here. The surrounding countryside is green and fertile.
That evening the old man didn't mention his party so I suppose it was cancelled, much to Hamida's relief!