Central Asia - mission almost complete

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2009

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Flag of Kazakhstan  ,
Saturday, October 25, 2008

This trip to Central Asia is almost over, and I can't quite figure out if I'm happy or sad about it... I'm sad that it's coming to an end, because there are places here that are absolutely beautiful. After I leave here, I won't get to experience fall again until next year, because Thailand is hot, wet, and green all year round. After I leave here, I can forget about walking around all day outside and not sweating a drop. After I leave here, I can forget about having dozens of people drop what they're doing to help me out, and make sure everything is going the way it is supposed to for me. After I leave here, I have to actually start doing something with the pictures and video that I've gathered - I'll have to organize, touch up, label, weed through, and prepare thousands of pictures and hours of video for use in presentations, and then I'll actually have to make the presentations.
The segue here between why I don't want to leave, and why I do want to leave is one critical, dominant, and all important aspect of my life - THE INTERNET. Once I leave, I'll be able to access the (flakey and slow) internet, which means I can email, check my facebook, read some news online, download software updates, and generally enjoy the many great things the internet has to offer. However, once I leave here and get on the internet, I'm going to have way too many emails to read. When I finally get back on the internet, I'm going to have to take a serious stab at college and scholarship stuff. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to handle all of that quite yet!
I'm sick. Sick to the stomach, and sick with a cold. I don't have very much energy. It's definitely put a damper on the trip, but I'm not sure if it falls under a reason to want to leave, or just stay and sleep as much as I can! Too all of you adventurous eaters out there, you may enjoy sitting on a rug on the ground and sharing native food with your friends who you can't speak to... but for me, I learned a very, very valuable lesson. Don't travel without PowerBars, because the grocery isn't always that easy to get to, and the menu isn't always written in english. I've had some good meals, but overall, I've had the most incredibly jacked eating schedule and diet.
Before I go into the reasons I really do want to go home, I think I'll give a little update about what's happened since the last time I blogged, and that really is a whole lot!
I drove out to a rural Kyrgyz village, and spend some time with the kids of the village, who had gathered at the home of an elder to play games with the girl I was shadowing. It was amazingly beautiful and amazingly different from anything I've ever experienced. The cows, donkeys, horses, chickens and whatever other farm animals people raise just roam around, eating anything they can find. I've seen so many cows munching on leaves on the side of the road that its kind of weird to drive down a stretch of road and not honk at a donkey standing dumbly in the middle of the street.
Almost all of the taxis in Jalalabat are imported from Uzbekistan, and they are the most disgustingly small and cheap cars imaginable - Daewoo Ticos. Google for them. I got to take one up a mountain on one side of the city. From the view point we hiked to, I could see all the way across the valley with the city of Jalalabat in it, to the "foothills" each the size of Mad River Mountain, and then the incredible mountain peaks behind them. I took some beautiful pictures, unfortunately, the day was just a little bit hazy, so there's not a whole lot of clarity to the distant mountains.
I drove back from Jalalabat throughout the night, and the driver would randomly stop on the side of the road and snooze for 20 or 30 minutes, and then just start the car up and go again. I couldn't get comfortable enough to fall asleep, but luckily the iPod is the greatest invention ever, and I was thoroughly entertained the entire time, and the long 12 hour journey in the dark seemed to fly right by.
I spent two days in Bishkek, which I really enjoyed. At the point where I was so incredibly tired of trying so hard to decode heavily accented, oddly worded english, I met Mindy. Awesome. Mindy's from upstate New York and has been working with YFC in Bishkek for a year and a half. She knew plenty of russian, and was able to show me all around, but she was a native english speaker, which was exactly what I needed. For the first time in over a week I actually had a stimulating discussion for more than 5 minutes, and it went on for 2 days straight.
I visited an orphanage for mentally handicapped kids two days ago. I don't think I can look at the world through quite the same lens any more. I have to admit, the whole time I was there, it was a bit of a nightmare, but it was still an incredible eye opener. Instead of painting the walls white, they must use some industrial size block of white chalk - and I learned it the hard way. As any photographer would do, I leaned my back up against the wall to steady my shot, and when I pulled away I was completely covered in chalk. I didn't notice for an incredible 5 minutes, and I was thick enough to not understand the giggles and russian coming from all the kids. I finally noticed a little chalk dust on my camera, and started to investigate the source, because chalk dust and cameras don't go well together. Eventually I discovered my white blanketed jacket. I took it outside to brush it off, and ended up inhaling more than a healthy amount of chalk dust. I'm still sneezing from it.
I ate at an "American Food" restaurant called "Fat Boy's"... give you any insight into the way the rest of the world sees us? I ordered a pizza for myself, and they brought out a plate and silver ware with it for each person at the table, even though they had each ordered a plate for themselves! If I didn't still have the stomach virus I picked up in Kazakhstan I would have gladly devoured the entire thing, but, alas, that would have made me quite sick. I didn't feel to good even after eating only 5 pieces... it was really good though. There was corn and onions under the cheese, and barely any tomato sauce... I'd hardly call it pizza.
I got on a taxi really early this morning in order to make it back to Almaty in time to attend the all day "Kidz Games" event, which was purported to be a big time outreach... and then I found out it got cancelled because of the weather... so, I've had some down time today, to blog, and write a few letters and such. I leave tomorrow morning at five AM to catch my flight back to thailand. I only have 1 hour to make an incredible lay-over in Bangkok and I'm going to need all the prayer I can get. Once I land in Bangkok, I've got to go to customs and get an entry visa for Thailand, and then I've got to find my luggage, take it all to the check in counters, check in with Thai airlines, go through passport check zone, get through the security check point, and then make it all the way to my departure gate, which could potentially be over a mile's walk away... all in 1 hour. If I do make my plane, I will surely be hugely out of breath (because we all know I haven't exercised at all this trip...).
Again, the battery is about dead, and I'm just a little to lazy to dig out the charger. I predict the next time you'll hear from me is when I actually get access to the internet in two days, and I post all of this up onto the blog.
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