Apple Pie, Mountain Bikes & an Old Fashioned River Float

We’ve been sharing some posts from some fun events we’ve had but haven’t shared much about what our day-to-day life has been like here lately.  For all of August we were stuck back at our training villages for the last part (Phase 3) of Pre-Service Training.  While it was great seeing everyone it was really hot nearly every day (90+ often and the training center does not have AC) and the days seemed to crawl by.  Plus, we were missing the best month to be back in Issyk Kul where every day the weather is perfect and the beach is just a five minute walk away.  Besides being able to see the whole group back together (minus our one fellow volunteer who went home) we had some fun adventures.  We invited 10 other volunteers to Ala Archa (blog post here,) had an amazing weekend in Bishkek, bought mountain bikes, held the first annual Issyk-Ata Regatta, cooked American food, explored an abandoned apartment and perhaps best of all, took the ‘Balykchy Express’ to get back to Krasnaya Rechka.  We’ll write up some info on the world-famous Balykchy Express slow train that runs from Bishkek to Balykchy later but read on for more photos and stories from our other adventures the past month…

The first pizza we made in KG
The first pizza we made in KG

Being back in Krasnaya Rechka was fun even though training wasn’t because the kids are so much fun to play with.  We spent many nights playing Frisbee and surprised them with a Frisbee of their own that Taylor’s mom sent from America (thanks Cindy!)  There’s a big difference between the village kids in Krasnaya Rechka and the city kids in Balykchy.  The village kids all know who we are and scream our names when they see us even if they are on the other side of the school yard.  Much like cities at home, you lose a bit of the ‘neighborhood feel’ in cities here which has its pros and cons. Our language still seems terrible to us but we were able to talk a lot more with our PST family and learn things like how they met, when they moved to their house, where they originated from, etc.  We also tried to cook more American food for them, not only to share American culture but frankly, we’re craving a lot of food from home.  We made pizza and had to resort to using pre-made frozen crusts we found. They tasted as good as a frozen pizza from the grocery store but we had fresh ingredients and the kids loved it.  Taylor also went with some of the other PCV girls and made apple pies.  She said they were delicious but forgot to bring a slice home for Eric so things are a bit rocky between us, тамаша (that means kidding!)

 

We missed the cows coming home everyday
We missed the cows coming home everyday

Since the beginning of training, Shaun and Skip had the idea to float down the canal on tubes.  This was a tremendous idea.  Not only are the days hot but between a convenient canal linking many of the training villages we lived in and the lack of a lot of entertainment options meant the idea had to become a reality.  So, a date was picked, inner tubes were procured and the location selected.  The first annual Issyk-Ata Regatta was to start in Ivanovka and end in Krasnaya Rechka, our home.  According to Google maps this was a distance of 8km.  Time estimates ranged from 1-2 hours but based on our observations of the canal current, Eric thought it might take just a bit over two hours.  On a hot Saturday we quickly left class, changed into swimsuits, took the marshrutka to Ivanovka and walked to the canal.  We inflated our floats (some made better float choices than others) and jumped in.  The water was cold.  But this was perfect, a really cold beer is not a common thing in KG so we were now floating in a perfect beer cooler.  We floated (very) slowly, enjoying a drink or two and conversations with friendly but bewildered locals we passed on the banks.  Eric had taken note of the halfway point from Google Maps and we checked the time when we passed it, 2 hours.  This was going to take longer than we thought.  Four hours and twenty minutes later we reached the bridge that meant we were home and we forced our frozen joints to move enough to climb the canal bank.  Immediately we agreed this would have to happen again.  We made a little video from the day:

We also took advantage of visiting some other villages during this phase.  We both went to Ivanovka Station and Eric stayed the night with a friend there so they could explore an abandoned building.  Here are a couple photos from it:

 

Watching the sunset
Watching the sunset
Another abandoned room
Another abandoned room
Abandoned room in an abandoned building
Abandoned room in an abandoned building

Many volunteers like being back in PST because Bishkek is only 45 minutes away.  Bishkek is the only real city in Kyrgyzstan and actually has good food that reminds you of home.  Many PCVs went there every weekend but we decided to have a big blowout final weekend instead.  We stayed with another volunteer (thanks Sara!) in a part of the city we hadn’t been to before.  Either our standards are dropping or we’re just discovering the nice parts but Bishkek is really growing on us and is actually a very pretty city in many parts.  We drank a lot of (mediocre) wine, had honest-to-goodness BBQ (Eric missed pig a lot) and had the delicious pasta and burgers at an Italian Restaurant.  We went to a bike store we had heard about and bought real mountain bikes which we’re super excited about.  Since we can’t drive they give us a little more freedom to get around without taking taxis everywhere.  Our plan to get back to Balykchy was to take a really early taxi from Sara’s to the nearby train station.  Not only is the train super cheap but it’s comfortable and can easily hold luggage.  Getting our new bikes and 4 large bags into a marshrutka sounded agonizing.  Arriving at the train station at 6:20 we tried to figure out where to go for the 6:40 train home.  But it never came.  The last train of the season ran the previous day.  This resulted in another cramped taxi ride to the bus station where we had to hire a really expensive taxi to get back home.  We’re getting used to plans changing…

 

So now we’re back at home in Balykchy.  The last week has been fun, the whole family is back together and everyone seems happier when they are all here.  We’ve had some really good food our host mom has made and made some more American food.  First we made chocolate chip cookies since we finally have brown sugar (they were incredible!)  We also made real pizza with dough we made from scratch and it was so good we may just host a pizza party.  Yesterday we went for our first bike ride to test the bikes.  It was great to get out see Balykchy from the top of the hill behind the city.  We also scouted out the mountains to find places we may be able to hike in the future.

 

For us, all is good. That’s it for now!

Tay enjoying our first real bike ride
Tay enjoying our first real bike ride
Eric enjoying being close to the mountains we see everyday from home
Eric enjoying being close to the mountains we see everyday from home

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