Friday, July 18, 2008

My Summer Home

Some people like to say they summer in the Hamptons or the Catskills, in my case I proudly say I summer in Bishkek. Now that isn’t something you say with the affectation and snobby inflection you when when you say “The Hamptons” or “Newport” but I don’t care. My mother didn’t raise me to be a snob. For a brief moment in time however, I didn’t think I would be able to make it here but for the price of a stapler, I did.
After my 1.5 hr flight from Dushanbe, I was whisked to my apartment for the week spitting distance from the American embassy. Batma (one of my camp counselors) is on cat care duty for one of the American teachers who works at her school. The teacher went home for the summer and left her in charge of 2 cats in a huge new apartment in one of the glamorous high rises that are going up all over town. This is one of those “elite” residences that everyone is clamoring to live in (if they can afford it). Design-wise it’s alright but decoration wise it leaves much to be desired. The living room is enormous, the TV is so far away from the couches that you need a giant magnifying glass in front of the screen to see what’s going on. I like the green and white cabinets in the kitchen but it’s so big and there’s no table or chairs to make a little nook or to a cabinet to store things in. My favorite thing is the big disco shower. A giant glass box with all sorts of dials that spray water out from everywhere. I call it the disco shower because there’s a radio in it to add to the bathing experience.
My two charges for the week—Tulip and Casanova are just the pet therapy I need. Tulip is a cute gray and white striped thing ala Mittens my first cat. She’s a little shy and spends most of the time in the bedroom area. Casanova is one of those pedigree hairless felines. One of the ugliest cats I’ve seen but he’s grown on me. He’s affection starved so I gave him a ton yesterday and we’ve bonded. He snuggles on my chest when I watch TV.
I don’t think I was here but 2 or 3 hours before I was in a car going up to Kashka Suu, my former summer camp site, where I’m welcomed like family, the place in Kyrgyzstan I love the most. The mountains are so close from the apartment that they were calling to me, just like they did Maria von Trapp. Tamara, the cook at Kashka Suu was waiting for us and I knew she was making one my favorite things—manty. Manty are a staple of Central Asia—a meat dumpling with chopped lamb, onions and spices steamed to perfection. Tamara’s are special because she uses yeast dough which makes the puffy and so much more delicious. With some homemade laza, a hot pepper sauce, I can eat them til I look like a pregnant lady. Chynara, Cale, Batma, Daniel and I drove up the windy dirt road for an evening of laughs, cognac, and good food with friends. It was Katya’s 20th birthday so the long table was groaning with all sorts of delicious things. We sat, ate, drank, toasted to the young birthday girl, reminisced, laughed til the wee hours. My usual room, 3rd house 4th room, was occupied so we spent the night in the first house, our usual cabin for the girls. Although it was a different cabin, I was still happy to be snuggled in that small single bed, feet hanging off the end, the crisp, clean smell of the sheets and that big square pillow.
In the morning we were awakened by a loud wind storm outside. The roof rattled, doors banged, trees and shrubs bent in the powerful wind blowing down the mountainside. Never in the 4 years being here did I ever experience this. I thought for sure the building would be blown down the mountain or off to the land of Oz. As the sun rose, the wind blew and the clouds turned a beautiful pink before going dark into rain clouds. Still the sun shone and a full rainbow arched outside my window from one ridge down into the valley. Was it a freak act of nature or a welcome back sign from the mountain? Who knows.
After a lingering breakfast with a few shots of cognac, Chynara and I hiked up the hill to pick some dushitsa and chiburets, two wild flowers that I usually pick, dry out and use in tea (just like the locals). One of my summer musts here in Kashka Suu. No sooner had we digested breakfast that it was lunch time. So down we went for lunch with Lyubov Ivanovna, the camp administrator. She treated us to her homemade Burberry wine (not the coat, the berry kiddos), a light yet bitter drink that one nurses slowly rather than downs like the sweet Calvados cognac. By this point I was ready for a nap, drained from the eating, drinking and visiting so I went up to my room the last thing on my list of things to do at Kashka Suu—a post lunch nap. I always loved to go up to my room for a little nap while everyone was busy studying in the afternoon. The car was on its way up to get us, so I quickly snuck up to my room for a little sleep. Tucked under the heavy comforter, I dozed off to the sound of wind and rain, the fresh mountain air blowing through my open door from the balcony. Waking 20 minutes later, I laid in bed looking at the view that has been my summer view for the last 4 years. I said goodbye to the view, to the room and with a lock of the door on room 6 cabin 1, I was ready for a new camp in Tajikistan.

1 comment:

ChrisM said...

That description of a shower doesn't sound a million miles from the one you never got to experience here in Astana :)