The flight to Osh was magic! I did get a window seat, and the overcast clouds lifted long enough for me to see the majestically mountains! I now also want to go to Switzerland! Osh was sunny, friendly and outgoing. My hostel is clean, simple with incredibly friendly staff. I had a free pick up from the airport. Fabulous service.
The first place I visited was the centuries old Silk Road markets. Trading still goes on along the river banks, like it has done right through out the ages. People were keen to communicate, with their English and my Russian and a lot of charades, we all managed quite well. The questions, of course are always the same, where are you from? How come you travel alone? Do you have children and grandchildren? What about your husband?
My apologies to my ex husband, nothing personal, but he is always dead! ( simplifies matters, due to language barriers) My new found friend stuck her tongue out, crossed her eyes and dropped her head! This was to show she understood! Also cracked all the market sellers up big time!! So she kept repeating it over and over! Why haven’t I found an other man? Ah, well, shoulder shrug, patting my heart, sad face, oh, so the love was too big. Understood. Move on. In a country were divorce doesn’t seem to exist, a woman’s sheer existence depends on having a husband and children. In a country were having grand children is a must, one can not explain the delights of solitude and liking ones independence.
The young women often gaze into the distance, dreaming of travelling, but always mentioning straight after that they will do so on their honeymoon. The young guide I had in the museum had it all planned out. She would marry the man her parents choose for her, have the two grandchildren her parents wanted, then leave them all behind to go and travel the world. Dreaming lay she told me all of this. I smiled and wished her well. I didn’t point out that she wouldn’t want to leave her children behind. She would find out soon enough. People volunteered their children to me, to be my grandchild! A twelve year old boy told me in his best English, he was studying English to go to Australia. My new found friend suggested I take him with me as my grandson.
One of the market sellers offered me his friend’s hand in marriage. The man in question had a mouth full of golden teeth. Golden teeth are very popular here and I must admit, that I have difficulties looking away.
Teeth are in very bad condition, could be all the wonderful cakes and sweet breads, and copious amounts of sugary tea, that disintegrates their teeth. Where the people get the money from to buy the golden teeth, remains an utter mystery to me. My own teeth are crumbling on a daily basis. I have cut out all sweet drinks, and to my deepest regret, their wonderful cakes.
The sweet bread, however, I the main staple of my diet here. Almost all the food has meat in it. I have tried, but my body violently rejected that idea. So meat free it is. This cuts down nearly 90% of my choices. I do like the noodles with chicken and vegetables. However, most of the time I have terrible stomach troubles after! So no blogs about the food. Boiled eggs, sweet bread and bananas is my staple. Very boring, but necessary.
Taking the local bus has been a delight. In Bishkek, a much bigger town, people wouldn’t even look at me. Here I am the entertainment centre. Often, one teenager, who speaks English, gets the task to interview me. The whole bus throws questions to her, and after I answer them, she repeats the answers. Often I get so involved that I miss my stop, or even forget to pay. It doesn’t matter where you need to go, the entire trip is ten cents. You get on through the backdoor and pay when you leave through the front! Unlike Italy, where I was taught to escape payment on buses, here everybody just pays.
The other, very noticeable thing, all the young people offer a seat, to anybody older then them. Every man offers a seat to a woman, and everybody, old women included, offer a seat to pregnant women! There might be a small prompt if young people are too engrossed in their gadgets, to notice, but it all happens, easily and fluently. Standing up for mothers with small children I do automatically.
Nearly most people are attached to their gadgets and run on batteries. ( i pods plugged in!!) even small children walk around with gadgets! People are shocked and stunned to see me draw, watch or just sitting. Not possible! I have NO smart phone?? Unbelievable! My phone doesn’t work here for one reason or other. It doesn’t matter as I used to travel without a phone for years. Having said all of the above, I am now going to contradict myself! Parks and playgrounds are everywhere, and kids play! Elastics, skipping, snap, tag and just games they have invented themselves. The high apartment buildings are set in a U shape. Inside is the playground with lots and lots of benches. Cars park at the front, the rest is traffic free.
Motorbikes are a novelty here. You don’t see too many. Kids have space and equipment to play on. No safety mats, no helmets, no helicopter parents here. Often it is grandmothers sitting together, either on their gadgets or gossiping with the other babushkas. Babies are adored, hugged, kissed and looked after by a whole community. It reminds me of Latin America twenty years ago. The children are shy, not open to outsiders, secure in the knowledge of their family and community’s love. They are not too impressed by my Nemo impression, may be they haven’t seen the movie, or it is Nemo with another name. The babies stare at me, solemn, unsmiling, with a look of slight distrust on their gorgeous Buddha faces. I will not give up! I will smile, talk and coo to every child I see, with or without a reaction from the child itself!