We shared breakfast with Mircu and Iliana, who were headed off to Tashkent. We wanted to see more of the Fergana Valley in Kyrgyzstan, so we opted for another day in this country.
Kyrgyz morning news on television has a boxed sign language interpretation. There were snippets of Olympic news, and a mysterious public service announcement that seemed to link unplanned pregnancy, the dangers of smoking, and a devastating disease spread between animals and humans. Then again, our Russian is pretty bad.
After a slow start, we walked to the old bus station, and at 10 am were crammed onto a bus for Ozgon (50 som apiece - total $2.90) for a 55 km trip. We traveled through green farm land with fruit trees and cotton cultivation.
The bus ends up at a bazaar, with a nifty entrance between two tiled minaret-like arches. On the edge of the bazaar, we passed a man cooking skewers of shashlik made of seasoned ground meat instead of plain chunks. We had one for 15 som. It was served with marinated onions and was delicious.
On through town to the 12th century minaret and the 11th century mausoleum, in a park, with some architectural ruins. For 10 som apiece, you get to climb the dark minaret with steep steps and get the great view from the top. The minaret and the mausoleum had undergone some fairly sensitive reconstruction; both were beautiful.
A 10 year old kid, who carried the key to unlock the minaret, Ziyoidin, was trying out his English. He attached himself to us and provided a running commentary about everything, soccer, Trafalgar Square, limousines (which he thought that all Americans rode in). He was very impressed that our son, Ben, worked with Mickey Mouse at Disney.
As we left, Carol gave him a one dollar bill and her business card. He was thunderstruck to receive "My first dollar bill."
We just missed the 1:45 pm bus to Jalalabad, the next town out on the road. After waiting 40 minutes unsuccessfully for the next bus, we scratched Jalalabad, and, tired, thirsty, and hungry, we walked back through the bazaar to the original point. On the way, after several false starts, we found our shashlik vendor. We ordered 6 skewers, a bowl of stewed chickpeas (garogh) topped with marinated onions, and a large pot of green tea. We sat there for a long time, and finally, about 3:30 pm, we were ready to go.
Again we just missed the Osh bus, so we agreed with a private car driver to go to Osh for 50 apiece. We waited in his car, while he tried to line up the other two people he needed to make a trip. A policeman wandered by, checked our driver's licenses, and the driver went off to make everything right.
We hadn't paid anything yet, so we quietly disappeared back into the bazaar, and reappeared on the road several minutes later. A bus passing through had some room, so we were on our way (just before 4 pm) back to Osh, for the one hour ride.
On the way in, we noticed that the bus was passing the internet site and the park, so we got off early, discovered that for some reason, the internet was now closed. So we walked through the park, got into the bazaar, and did a little shopping.
Mike found the ak-kalpak section of the bazaar: a series of vendors selling the high white-felt hat of choice for Kyrgyz menfolk. He bought a black rimmed one, although old people like him are supposed to wear all white. The price yesterday, as all the market was closing, was 150 som. Today it was 120 som. Hey, just lost a lot of street cred, among the Kyrgyz.
A general comment about Kyrgyzstan. Even though we might have checked on the price in Kyrgyz, the answer invariably came in Russian. Kyrgyzstan is the most Russified of all the central asian republics, the slowest to convert.
Another general comment. We kept running into the 4 French we had traveled with on the Kashgar-Osh bus. One couple had gone native so successfully that Carol assumed the woman was Kyrgyz, and reintroduced herself. The other couple was much more tentative and had the classic tourist demeanor. A Japanese woman on the bus showed up at the minaret in Ozgon as we were leaving. We still felt a bond with all of our travel companions. Who knows when and where we will see each other again.
Back through the bazaar in a desparate search to find the Right - Link tee-shirt. The vendors were now packing up and the shirt would have to remain a fond memory.
It was past 8 pm, but we needed to get on the internet to, among other things, register with the US State Department, and inform that we were going to Uzbekistan the next day.
Internet completed, we looked for something to eat at one of the street cafes. A plate of goulash, accompanied by rice, mashed potatoes, french fries, salad, and (Carol's delight) some kasha was shared, along with a bottle of beer. Not very good food (165 som), but we ate it, and went to bed.