I spent a wonderful 10 days in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. My daughter had an apartment on a road called Jibek Jalu, which translates into Silk Road. This would have been one of many silk roads going between east & west and every morning my daughter would ask if I heard the camels going by in the night. I missed the camels but I did have the joy of seeing the above view every morning and evening outside her southern windows.
Because my daughter was living in Biskek and has always wanted to immerse herself in the culture of the countries she has lived in, she doesn’t live in expat communities. This allowed me to meet her Kyrgyz friends, be invited to their homes, and experience her neighborhood. I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of my experiences in future posts – today is about shopping.
This is the market that was a block from her apartment where we bought our fresh fruits and vegetables brought in from the farms. This is an area that doesn’t see tourists and one day I ventured there alone to get some tomatoes for our supper. I smiled and raised up three fingers as I pointed to the beautiful red spheres. The woman looked at me really funny and started to put one in a bag. She raised up three fingers with a questioning look on her face. I nodded – and she started loading tomatoes into the bag. I registered a look of shock and quickly pointed to three tomatoes with three fingers in the air. She thought I wanted 3 kilos. We both broke into laughter and I could feel her wall of uncertainty about this “stranger” go down.
By far the best purchase was the fresh strawberries. They are small, about the size of a large thumb nail, bright red, and with such sweet, intense flavor that I am letting out a moan of pleasure as I write. They are so delicate that I have to very carefully carry my plastic bag home, not letting it bump against any other purchases. They need to be eaten immediately 🙂 saving just enough for supper, because they disintegrate into juice within 24 hours.
At a kiosk next to the market we buy our fresh yogurt that comes in a recycled Coke bottle and at the kiosk next to that I pick out a loaf of bread. That afternoon we cook a vegetable soup to go with my purchases of the day.
The appliance next to the stove is her washing machine. We hung our clothes out on the line outside her 4th story window in early morning or late afternoon to avoid the high altitude sun. They dried fast because of the arid climate – and I only lost one clothes pin to the bushes below.
A couple of times we walked several blocks to the large supermarket that serves the foreigners who work at the many NGOs that operate out of Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan has a relatively stable government so there are large numbers of humanitarian agencies centered there that serve the less stable countries of Central Asia. Just like shopping in the US except I can’t read labels – made even more difficult by the different alphabet. Makes me appreciate the hardship of being illiterate.
On Saturday we took public transportation to the Osh Bazaar. Wow what a feast for the senses.
Rows of bins of spices, nuts, multiple types of raisins, different types of flours & grains, spices, beans, dried fruit – all measured and bagged for us. Stoves, irons, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines (all black reconditioned Singers), stalls with toiletries, household items, fabric, baby clothes, hats, clothes of all descriptions.
Several times we walked to the shopping mall where electronics of all types are sold and I was able to buy felt souvenirs. My daughter also showed me a couple of shops that sold hand-crafted textiles, paintings, and pottery by Kyrgyz artists. Items I purchased are displayed in my home and bring back memories of my introduction to their culture. I smile when I look at them.