I step into the plane to Bishkek and I step into a slice of Kyrgyzstan – a not so pleasant side of Kyrgyzstan aggravated by the stress and pressure of timed travel in a tiny capsule. Another introduction to the city.
The plane is full. A girl flings her carry-on into an overhead bin in the very front and then proceeds to her seat in the back. In five minutes *all* the overhead bins are full, of suitcases, coats, and bulbulous bags from Duty Free. Somehow “one carry on plus one personal item” just hasn’t translated. Including myself there are two people in my row. Neither of us have put anything in the overhead bin, and yet it is full – as are all the bins around us – so we resort to stuffing our carry-ones under the seats in front. A few older women haven’t reconciled themselves to the fact that their seat numbers could actually dictate where they have to sit and are busy squabbling with the equally indignant ticket holders who just want to take their own seats. The man in front of me has leaned his seat all the way back. When the flight attendant tells him to return his seat to the upright position he clicks it forward one inch. And another. And another. In total the flight attendant repeats her order three times before he’s (more or less) compliant.
And with all this…sigh… Ankara was so *normal*. A city with problems of its own, to be certain, but comparatively such a normal, predictable, and stress-free place where civilians help each other more often than jostle over resources or few inches of spare space. Amazing, considering that Bishkek’s population is less than 15% of Ankara’s – and yet I feel the stress of its streets even before the wheels leave the ground.
Waking in Bishkek too is a bit of a disappointment. Ankara itself isn’t exotic or even what most might think of as a tourist attraction. But there is a certain joy in stepping out onto freshly rainswept streets with the crisp cool autumn air jostling the remaining leaves, looking out over the rolling city while jogging down the hill, and being able to pick up fresh börek from the cake shop on the corner, hot baked bread from the bakery, farm-brought pasteurized milk from the grocers, ripe oranges and pomegranates and deep green spinach and arugula from the weekly Saturday market, and nod to the neighbor’s you pass that on the way. Here, we trade that for a lot of dust, unforgiving traffic, and expired chicken from the Harodnie deli. I miss my neighborhood, even if it’s not my own.
So back I am for a bit, trying to figure out a suitable routine for the next two months before I’m on another plane heading back.