19 September 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Bishkek

We've only been back in Bishkek for two weeks (besides about 15 bus trips here the previous 8 months), and I knew things would be different, but I really am surprised at how much has changed.  I've talked to a few people, both local and American, who feel the same way.  There were a few things I'd noticed in Tokmok, like dating couples holding hands, but I hadn't spent much time in Tokmok before so I really couldn't know what had changed there.

But Bishkek is different.  There was a lot of new construction in 2005/6 underway and most of that is finished.  The city looks newer and more put together in general.  There are little things too, like seeing armored security doors on more apartment blocks.  You can tell more flats have been remodeled by the huge number of new windows in all the buildings.  There is a general feeling that people have more money, and that doesn't only come from the higher prices for everything.

There's also a lot more products and services available, or they're much easier to find.  We were satisfied to get 28k dialup in 2005 because, as I recall, the only other real option was slightly faster internet for nearly $100/month.  Now we're getting unlimited broadband at home (it's slow for broadband, but still) for $50/month, and it was quick and easy to connect. 

One Kyrgyz friend I talked to about this also mentioned that she feels that people are kinder to each other and more willing to help, and that many of the changes I'm seeing happened since the last revolution.  She's happier with Roza Otunbaeva as president, and she felt that what happened last June made people realize what could happen here, but didn't.  It was an interesting conversation.

Anyway, I do feel that Bishkek has changed for the better.  Not just because I can find red lentils at the bazaar next to my house, but because the city feels different.  It feels, maybe, a little like hope.

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