Did you hear the economy of Kyrgyzstan let out a giggle of excitement today? Umm hmm. I had myself some fun! Sharla, Phil, and I did the town. We started by walking to The White House. It’s a huge white marble building behind an iron gate that houses the presidential residence and the site of the legislature. Kind of funny that they have a White House as well, no? One major difference with this White House, though, is the brass placards on the gate listing 86 names. Those names are the people killed on site in the 2010 revolution. It all started peacefully enough with a demonstration. Then things got a little out of hand as the protest moved to the White House and two trucks rammed the gate. Security started out firing tear gas and rubber bullets. When the protesters continued to get rowdy, they switched from rubber bullets to live ammunition and started firing. By the end of the day, 86 people were dead. We then walked from the White House to the black and white marble statue commemorating that day as a time of darkness that needed pushed away to begin a time of light. Then it was back up the block to watch the changing of the guards. Having seen the historical sites (yeah um, there aren’t a ton), it was time for a little shopping! We started at Tsum. In the time of the Soviet Union, Tsum was the main market, with small shops with everything they might need…stock permitting. They would gather receipts for their goods from each little “shop”, go to a main cashier to pay, then return to the shops with their proof of payment to pick up their goods. It’s now independent shops, ranging from electronics to clothing to souvenirs. We walked around the souvenir floor, where I picked up one last thing I’d been looking for. Then it was lunch time! Today I ate at an Uzbek restaurant. I have to say, from a food standpoint, this trip has been outstanding! I have eaten Dungan, Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish, and Uzbek. ALL of it was fantastic (aside from the fermented mare’s milk, that is). After lunch we were off to one last visit to meet Nina at her shop.
Changing of the Guard
Nina has her own little shop in which she carries handcrafted items made by local women, but is a wool and upcycled Tush Kyiz artist as well herself. Tush Kyiz is one of those arts from years ago. A young girl would embroider a Tush Kyiz to hang on the wall above her bed. They were huge, and took forever to complete. These old pieces of art are now cut up to make purses, jewelry, pillows, scarves, and whatever else they can imagine. I bought a nativity with a Tush Kyiz yurt for the shop that was made by a woman named Aidjan, because it was just TOO amazing to leave behind. AND I asked Nina to make me one of the coolest wool nativities I’ve ever seen. There’s a chance I’ll have it by the middle of June. You just won’t believe this set. It’s simply fabulous. On the way back up the street, Phil discovered a small local chocolatier. It was almost too good to be true! We each had a piece as a snack and I, um, bought a small box to take home. I’m a sucker for a good chocolate, and these were delicious. The fillings were written in Russian, so I have no clue what’s in my box. I know there is one with mocha, one with hot pepper, but the rest will be a surprise. Hee hee! I’m already looking forward to grazing my way through. Our last stop was an outdoor market in the park called The Gallery. It’s filled with paintings by a number of local artists. Guess who bought herself a new little painting! Yup, it was me! I saw this artist’s work on the wall of our guest house in Naryn and immediately fell in love with his style, so I’m super excited to have a piece of my own.
Phil and Sharla had an appointment this evening, so they dropped me at my hotel to get packed and get rested for my early departure tomorrow. Once I got everything situated, I went out to find a restaurant for dinner. People always ask if I’m nervous about roaming around a strange city on my own. 99% of the time, that answer is no. I love trundling around, seeing what’s what. Tonight, though, I felt a very brief moment of anxiety as I was walking down the sidewalk. You see, my hotel is tucked back on a side street. I walked out the hotel, down the street, and halfway down the next block before I suddenly realized I had no idea where I had come from. I was walking along with my mind on something else, and wasn’t paying attention. The buildings all looked the same. The street signs are in Russian, so I can’t read them. I can’t ask anyone because I don’t speak the language. It was a split second of panic. I turned around quick, got my bearing, found a building name that would serve as a landmark, and continued on feeling confident yet again. (And obviously, since I’m sitting in my hotel room, writing my blog, I made it back just fine.)
There’s a lot running through my mind at this point. People I’ve met, products we’ve discussed, things to do, thoughts to process, experiences that have been like a dream. I’ll have a nice long trip home to process. See you all on Friday!