February 3, 2008
A couple of my students have told me that the reason the power keeps going out is because of the severe cold this January. Supposedly, in addition to the sauna-like heat provided by the state-run heating system, people across Bishkek have been plugging in electric heaters to help alleviate the cold. They must not be receiving as much of the state heat as I am; I continually have to open my windows to cool my apartment down. (One senses inefficiency here...) This January has been exceedingly cold by Kyrgyzstan standards. I’ve been told that it’s the coldest January since 1984, and, alternately, the coldest in thirty years. (How is it I managed to land my southern self in Russia during the coldest winter in decades and then managed to do the same in K-stan?) Anyhow, if these electric heaters really are to blame for the frequent power outages in Bishkek, then we may very well have seen the last of them. Maybe. I awoke on Wednesday to blue skies, shining sun and melting snow. And unlike the previous and unbearably frigid Wednesday, I did not spend this glorious day out and about having adventures.
The view out my window on Wednesday
I awoke Wednesday morning utterly unable to utter a sound. For me, losing my voice is often the last stage of any illness, and sometimes my voice will remain absent for many days. I spent Wednesday morning and early afternoon in bed, feeling like hell while sipping mint tea with honey, and then got ready for work. No, we don’t teach classes on Wednesdays, but we do hold a weekly Talking Club late Wednesday afternoons. Teachers alternate as the host of Talking Club, and as such only have to work one Wednesday a month. I would be assigned to host Talking Club on the day I couldn’t talk. Oh, irony. Luckily, K (one of the other teachers here) was assigned to be my partner, so my whispery self wasn’t completely responsible for conducting Talking Club.
I wish I’d felt better – and had had a voice – as the three Talking Club groups were quite talkative. (You might assume this to be always the case, as it is a club for *talking* and all, but quite often we get students who come and just sit in silence.) The first group (pre-intermediate) didn’t like the chosen topic, and instead just wanted to chat. Since they actually were willing to chat (instead of needing to be guided by a specific topic), we let them. The most talkative ones in the group were my students, and they knew I was sick. They did me the favor of directing most of their questions and conversation towards K, so that I didn’t have to say much. The second group (intermediate) wanted to talk to me, however. This was fine... except that by the third group (advanced) I was feeling miserable, craving Nyquil and bed. The topic for the advanced group was marriage, including Kyrgyz marriage traditions (bride kidnapping, anyone?) and I would have loved to have taken an active part in that conversation. Instead it was just about all I could do to sit erect and look as though I were paying attention.