I realize the first few posts on this blog have been a little bare. This past week I’ve just spent time adjusting – settling in, resting. I left Chicago right after the quarter finished, and spent a hectic two-three days re-packing, finding new homes for all my furniture, and cleaning before embarking on a twenty hour series of flights and landing thirteen time zones away. Needless to say. Jetlag hit pretty hard. Both Friday and Saturday – I fell asleep a little after nine.
Apart from the time difference, I’m also adjusting to just living in Kyrgyzstan. The last two times I was here, I had a definite point in time that I would be leaving, definite goals to accomplish within that framed time. This time, I’m here indefinitely, and I’m still setting up my goals, sorting out which projects I want to work on, figuring out how to use my unbounded time here. It’s actually quite disconcerting – having unbound time and no clear project that I’m working on, accountable to someone else for, every day. Since graduating college (and also in college) I’ve lived in every place for a specific bound time, and had a specific occupation, usually alongside a number of other projects I was working on, and knew I had to complete within a certain set time. Here I’m still kind of floating. E’s note: it’s better to completely relax and clear my mind for a few days, figure out what it is I really want to do and develop a clear vision before embarking on anything. Still, it’s odd for me to be so quiet; I feel like I should be plunging into a project immediately, even if that isn’t the wisest course.
And Bishkek – is dusty. That’s the main thing I’ve noticed this time around. The rest of the city doesn’t surprise me. The first time I visited/lived here, for two months last summer, I was everyday exploring, trying to map out the city socially, geographically, economically. Discovering. The second time, over December, I was evaluating it, weighing if it would be a decent place to live. And now I just have unbounded time here. I know, of course, we won’t live here forever, but there’s not yet a definitive endpoint, so for now I’m just living here.
It’s hard to compare Bishkek with other cities (actually true for most places abroad). As I discovered while living in China, there’s always a draw among expats (especially Americans and Brits) to judge every place by the standards of their home country (which, at a distance, are always inscrutable). And the first time I arrived in Bishkek, from the centrally-planned and uber-organized cities of China, it appeared absolutely dis-functional, chaotic, especially in the contrast between urban decay and wide swathes of undeveloped land in the center of the city and thousands of people commuting an hour from the suburbs everyday. Then arriving from Chicago the first time it seemed much more organic, and certainly a lot safer.
Compared to Chicago – Bishkek is inconvenient in some senses (it’s always a struggle to find anything other than the most simple of products – like I have yet to locate a store selling hangers). But it’s also very walkable, and small restaurants and stores are extremely accessible: there aren’t these long barren residential blocks so common in many American cities. Public transportation is cheap, easy, and comes often. Coffee shops abound, but coffee is expensive. The police are notorious for taking bribes, but I can also walk outside without fear of armed robbery or being accosted by crazy people (the later quite common in Chicago; the former a legitimate fear). So I don’t really know how to evaluate Bishkek but on its own terms. It’s underdeveloped and chaotic, yes. But it’s not necessarily substandard as a place to live – depending on how you approach the city.
So – Bishkek. Here I find myself.


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