Monday, October 6, 2014

Malik in Bishkek: Hiking and JK Rowling

A friend of a friend, who was the agent of a local Kyrgyz singer, told us that there was an international writers conference in Bishkek this week. Apparently, JK Rowling was a member of the conference. We heard through this friend that the group may have bought tickets to a Kyrgyz folk concert. As one can imagine, we concluded that this meant we should go to the concert and become great friends with JK Rowling. I even semi-joked about bringing a copy of my manuscript to discuss with her.

Enjoying the music!
Ordo Sakhna
Unfortunately, we didn't meet or see JK Rowling. To be honest, I'm not even sure she was in Central Asia, it might have been a marketing ploy by the agent. Either way, I'm extremely glad we went to the concert. As Kyrgyzstan is a nomadic culture, the music was a blend of Chinese, Mongol, and Russian styles, and combined to make a unique Central Asian sound. I was blown away by its beauty. The performance group was called "Ordo Sakhna" and the eight artists each played multiple instruments for over three hours, both traditional and modern. The Komuz, which is a stringed instrument plucked like a guitar and made from a single piece of wood sounded very unique. At the end of the concert, when the performers were bowing and the MC was thanking the audience, I was surprised to see about 7 or 8 crowd members leave their seats and walk down to the stage, each with a bouquet of flowers. They jumped onto the stage and went to different performers, giving them the flowers. It was a nice show of appreciation, and is apparently common in Kyrgyz culture.

Adam, Shazia, Kim, Fareen and I
At the peak
On the weekend, I went on a day trek in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range. The majority of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous, with the Tien-Shan and Pamir mountain systems covering most of the land. We visited a waterfall in the morning, and for the rest of the day hiked in the Kegety Gorge alongside the Kegety river.

Kegety Gorge
Enjoying the clean air
The view was breathtaking. Snowcapped mountains surrounded us as we walked along a beaten path, listening to the rush of white water flow by. The mountains were untouched by humans and walking amongst the nature was so peaceful. It may sound odd, but I really enjoyed how clean the air felt. Bishkek smells like a combination of oil and dirt mixed with sewage, so the pure air of the mountains was very refreshing. At one point I sat on a rock and let my feet dangle over the water, soaking in the atmosphere. Two words to describe it: pure tranquility.

Our path
White water

Random thoughts of the week:

  • The traffic light at the intersection nearest my apartment stopped working, so I woke up on the weekend to the loud and continuous whistling of the traffic cop. NOT pure tranquility.
  • My Russian tutor's parents live in the same apartment complex as I do. For what it's worth, they really enjoy the neighbourhood.
  • "Menus at these tiny restaurants have at least ten pages and over hundreds of items. Where do they keep all this inventory?!" -Fareen Ahmed
  • We went to an expat bar called "Metro" on the weekend, because they advertised live music. Live music translated to old stereo. We were with good company though, so overall the night was fun.

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