It's interesting to visit an internet cafe. Except that here in Bishkek, most internet places aren't cafes, just places with internet access and they're cropping up all over the city. Since the revolution and the election of Bakiev, the establishment of small businesses has become far less regulated (that means far fewer bribes to pay). There is also a lot of new building going on. The city feels hopeful. Of course, I don't have much to compare to.
But these little internet places are fun. The first one I tried didn't have very reliable serive and the connection went out after 30 or 40 minutes. It costs 25-30 som an hour (there are 40 som to a dollar) for a reasonably fast connection at the place I'm at now. It's fun to see the Kyrgyz flag pop up on the stats.
But it's interesting to see the variety of people at a cafe. I was just sitting next to an old Russian grandma who was emailing her daughter. She spoke about as much Enligh as I speak Russian (polite words and numbers), but I was able to help her a bit. There are a lot of teenagers here, of course. And little boys playing games. But internet cafes, at nearly a dollar an hour, are out of range for a lot of people in Bishkek, since a good monthly salary would be 50 dollars.
Bishkek really is a diverse city. I've seen a wider range of clothing in the last few days than I have just about anywhere else I've been. Big US cities would be the only thing that would compare. There are older people in traditional Kyrgyz clothing and younger Russians who would fit in nicely at any American high school and everything in between. I've seen robes and slippers at the park and very formal clothing at Ala-Too Sqaure.
We're getting the hang of finding things to eat. The cheese samsas are a hit, along with several restaurants. Food is ridiculously cheap here. We were lucky to run into an Australian couple a few hours after we got here and they had plenty of tips on what was safe to eat and places to go in the neighborhood.
Still not a lot of time- hoping for internet access at home soon.