12 September 2011

Adjusting to Bishkek

We're settling in here nicely, after just a week, with the boys already taking soccer and art and guitar lessons.  I've found all the food I wanted to find and can walk to all of it, even the pressed tofu and the bulgur.

Acutally, and of course, after 5 years of being away, there is unquestionably a wider variety of food available everywhere in Bishkek.  In 2005 I had to go to Beta Stores to get red lentils and bulgur and garbanzos beans reliably, but now I see them all over the place.  Even feta cheese is around (and is one of the cheapest types of cheese available here).  All the local food is everywhere too, even though it's not quite as much fun to shop here as in Tokmok. 

Bishkek feels so big after Tokmok.  If we'd come here from Seattle, it would have seemed small, but it's almost overwhelming sometimes.  There are so many Russians and Kyrgyz.  When we lived here before it didn't seem very Russian, but after Tokmok, it does.  And after living in a neighborhood of Uzbeks, Uyghurs, and Dungans in Tokmok, it also seems very Kyrgyz here.

People also react differently to me as an expat here.  There aren't many expats in Tokmok and even those that are don't hang around the bazaar or our old neighborhood. I went the entire summer without hearing English spoken by a native speaker, except for my husband and children.  If you don't speak Russian or Kyrgyz or Dungan or Uzbek, you're out of luck there.  But it's a lot easier to get away with it here.  Even after being here just a week it seems that we meet more English speakers and more English-speaking expats than we did five years ago.  People in the stores aren't bemused by my inability to speak Russian decently. 

In a lot of ways it feels like our trip to China in 2006.  China is hardly known as the land of plenty and convenience in the US, but it (at least Urumqi and Xi'an did) felt like that in comparison to Bishkek.  And now Bishkek feels like that compared to Tokmok.  My oldest son, who has sworn for years that he never wanted to live in Bishkek again, was excited to move here. 

But I still miss Tokmok.

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