Monday, September 29, 2014

Malik in Bishkek: Apartment Hunting

Apartment hunting in Bishkek was an experience that I will not forget. Never have I felt more like a human pylon. Every apartment, the language barrier was such that the owner would explain something about the apartment in Russian, and one of my colleagues who was helping me would translate what was said. Most of the time I just stood there and tried to look like I knew what was happening. Throughout the week, we viewed seven apartments and I'm really happy with the last apartment, which is where I am now living. It is spacious, clean, and in a great location. The walk to the UCA office is less than 10 minutes, which will be fantastic once winter arrives.

Living room

On the first day in my new home, I heard a knock and opened the fortified door to see an elderly lady holding some groceries. I said "Hello" in Russian, and she responded in kind. Although we spoke for roughly five more minutes, that introduction was basically all I understood from our conversation. At one point, she put down her groceries and walked past me into my apartment. Dumbfounded and utterly confused, I followed her as she went into my bathroom and took off an air vent and reached behind it to fiddle with some of the pipes. After a few seconds she threw up her hands in frustration, put the air vent back in its place, picked up her groceries, said my landlord's name and gestured for him to call her. I said "Okay, thank you, very much, good morning" and closed the door. It was only after a few minutes did I remember that my landlord also only spoke Russian and I would have no idea how to explain to him what just happened! Learning Russian will make life so much easier, and I'm doing as much as I can to get better. I meet with a Russian tutor twice a week, listen to a daily audio Russian language course, and read as much as possible.

Fareen and I trying a local dish
Construction galore

This week at work was even better than the first. I had the opportunity to sit in on lots of meetings and legitimately work and think through strategy and planning for Academic Affairs. This is in addition to the already interesting research and writing I have been assigned. The University of Central Asia releases a quarterly magazine called Q-News that provides updates on the University, and the most recent issue had a great section on the Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA), available here. The first initiative of UCA's Graduate School of Development, IPPA was founded in 2011 and "aims to foster a stimulating, innovative and rigorous inquiry into issues relating to the socio-economic development of Central Asia, particularly its vast mountain regions."

View from the office balcony!
In front of UCA office
On the weekend, I went to a nearby grocery store to get some supplies for my new place. The second floor of the grocery store had small kiosks selling phone cases, electronics, and other miscellaneous goods. I walked past a barber shop and realized it was the same one Nadim, a colleague at UCA and good friend went to, so I decided to give it a shot. I asked for a light trim, and 300kgs ($6) later I walked out completely bald... Sorry Mom!

Nadim, Fareen and I in Issyk-Kul

Random thoughts of the week:

  • I asked my landlord for Wifi in the apartment, and he said "Okay." He then brought a massive ethernet cable that reaches every nook and corner of my apartment, and called it Wifi.
  • We tried a spinach pizza one day for lunch, and hidden underneath the cheese we found hard boiled eggs. Surprise!
  • Some cars have the driver's seat on the left side of the car, and others on the right. Never seen that before!
  • Confession: I walked head first into a money exchange sign while trying to Skype with my sisters on the way to work. Definitely not going to try that one again lol

-Malik Ladhani

PS. I'm totally kidding about being bald. The haircut was actually fantastic, and I'm definitely going there again next month.

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