We don't ride marshrutkas much this time around in Kyrgyzstan because we can walk everywhere we need in Tokmok, but it's always fun to ride them when we go to Bishkek. Riding public transportation in the US, especially long distance, can be a little dicey, but everyone rides a marshrutka sometime in Kyrgyzstan.
We nearly always find someone to talk to on the bus between Bishkek and Tokmok. A few times we've sat with someone we know who happened to be on the same bus (that happens a lot in Kyrgyzstan) and even if we don't know anyone when we start, we usually do by the end. An American family isn't the most common sight on the bus here and when people discover that my husband speak Kyrgyz and/or Uzbek, things move along nicely. I'll never forget the expression on one man's face when he realized that he was speaking Kyrgyz. Priceless.
Today's ride was with a very outgoing woman who gave me a history of Kyrgyzstan's revolutions, all the places we need to visit, and all the people she knows in Tokmok, all in Russian. She also figured out that another man on the van works at the dentist's office next door to our house (our living in a house instead of a flat is also cause for surprise). She's ready to take us all sorts of places.
We also met a refugee from Afghanistan a couple of months ago. He lives in Kant, a town outside Bishkek. His parents live in New York now as refugees. I can't even quite imagine how it would be to leave Afghanistan as a refugee and end up in Kyrgyzstan during a revolution and the ethnic violence of last year.
And some trips we get to sit quietly and enjoy the ride. I appreciate that because marshrutkas are a recipe for motion sickness for me, with their bumpy rides and stifling interiors.