My first week in Bishkek

16 09 2010

I arrived in Bishkek on Saturday, 4 September at about 5am.  Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world that hosts both Russian and American military bases.  And the American base uses Manas, Bishkek’s airport, as its runway.  Given that there’s not a ton of commercial traffic, the vast majority of the planes at the airport are American military planes.  Which is definitely a bit surreal.

I was met at the airport by Alyona, a representative from the London School, where I’m currently taking intensive Russian classes.  She escorted me to the school and showed me the room where I’d be living for the next month.  It’s a basic room, with a bed (that’s broken), a couch, a closet and a desk.  But it suffices.  I share a small kitchenette and a bathroom with Laura, who’s here from the UK, and there are about a little more than a half dozen other students and English teachers in the building.

I hadn’t really slept on the plane at all, so I crashed pretty hard and then woke up midday on Saturday and met a few of the other residents.  We went out to dinner and had a few beers at Anton’s, a local watering hole.  On Sunday, Baylen, an American who was getting ready to head back to the States, gave me a bit of a tour of the city, helped me pick up a mobile phone, and took me to Osh Bazaar, one of the two major bazaars in town.  I hadn’t quite figured out what, if anything, I needed to buy for myself, but I knew that I had accidentally left my towel at the hostel in Istanbul, so I acquired an awesome towel with a giant tiger design on it.  Baller, I know.

On Monday I had my first Russian classes, and man, have those been tough.  Based on the description of the levels of classes on the London School’s website, I had signed up for pre-intermediate, which was probably a bit more ambitious than I should have been.  But it’s really forcing me to learn as quickly as possible.  I have class four days a week for five hours a day.  My current schedule looks like this:

8:30-9:50 Grammar

10:00-11:20 More Grammar

11:30-12:50 Reading

12:50-1:20 Lunch

1:20-2:20 Conversation

So far, usually about halfway through the second grammar lesson, my brain freezes up, and I stare blankly at my teacher.  But she’s super patient, and we get through the lessons well and good.  I don’t have major problems with the grammatical concepts (for the most part), but my vocabulary is majorly deficient, and that’s where I’m having to put in the most effort.  And, happily, it’s coming along slowly but surely.  All three of my teachers have commented in the last couple of days that they’ve seen quick improvement, and I can understand conversations more readily than I could even a few days ago.  I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s seeming less and less like an insurmountable task.

And on that note, I need to go do my Russian homework and stare at some flashcards a bit before we head off to dinner.





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