July 7, 2013
The past few days I have been so unbelievably bored and frustrated at feeling mostly better but yet being confined to my bed. Other than the fact that I couldn’t speak (other than the occasional croak) I felt okay, but I was expected to stay inside and in bed until I was fully recovered. Now, spending the day lying around with a good book is actually one of my favorite activities; however, there’s just something about not having any other alternative that makes me cranky. As such, I was quite relieved today, when my frog-croaky voice and I were finally deemed healthy enough to accompany the family down to the shore to watch them set up their yurt. I was also told to bring my shower supplies, as I could bathe in the hot springs.
Now, I had been told that “Bar Bulak” (the name of the village) meant “hot springs.” Turns out that it both does and it doesn’t. For those of you who are not familiar with Kyrgyz or any other Turkic language, ‘bar’ (бар) is from the Kyrgyz verb be, and it means there is/are. For example, мыщык бар means ‘there is a cat.’ Bulak (булак) means spring (as in water, not the season or the things in your bed). Now in Kyrgyz, the verb comes at the end of the sentence, so the correct rendition of there is/are spring/s would be something along the lines of булак бар (bulak bar). However, there are a lot of small springs around here, keeping the valley lush, feeding its river, and (of course) providing water to Issyk Kul. I’ve been told by some of the locals that the village derives its name from the fact that there are so many springs here. But, another meaning of bar is steam. As the hot springs here are supposedly extremely hot, ‘steam springs’ could be an apt description – and likewise a plausible translation for the name Bar Bulak.
Returning to our story: I grabbed my things and we – along with quite a few of the neighbors – squished into vehicles packed with yurt-assembling goods (I rode in a van with a tunduk – the top piece of a yurt) strapped to the roof) and set off for the shore.
This is what one looks like when it's strapped to the roof of a van.
The hot springs themselves are (as you might expect if you’ve been following this blog) enclosed within a rather ancient looking, squat, concrete building. I have no idea what it’s like inside the building as today it was packed with tourists. Kyrgyz tourists. They apparently come from all over the country to ‘take the waters.’ Weekends are the busiest days for the hot springs, and I was told that it would either be a four hour wait, or I’d have to come back another time. Sigh.
There are a couple of decrepit looking ‘hotels’ near the springs in various stages of construction which may or may not be resumed at some point in the future. There is one completed hotel. I have yet to see inside it, but I will in a few weeks. It is owned by the London School, and they are giving me a week’s free stay there as part of my compensation for spending my summer volunteering. Additionally, there is a yurt camp. In the summer, locals set up yurts as well as temporary shacks to house small shops and cafes. In the yurts they place beds, which they rent out to tourists (most of whom are Kyrgyz) who come to enjoy the lake shore and hot springs during the (allegedly) hot months of July and August.
Yesterday, my host family, along with their friends and relatives had built a temporary structure that will serve as their café. Today they set up two yurts. One was a pre-fabricated deal made in China – metal poles and plastic covering. It was assembled quickly and easily, but the interior had an overpowering stench of plastic and other chemicals. The other yurt was a traditional Kyrgyz yurt of wood and felt. It took several hours to assemble, and the process seemed rather difficult; however, it did not have an interior odor whatsoever.
Unfortunately, I picked the worst possible day for my first foray back into the world after falling ill. During all the days I was stuck in bed, the weather was (for the most part) warm and gorgeous, with little more than a few sprinkles here and there. Today, in contrast, started out overcast and cool, and morphed into very cold and rainy. I remember sweltering during my Kyrgyz summer of 2008, but I have yet to swelter this summer, that’s for sure! I had shelter inside the future café, so I was dry. Plus I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, socks, shoes, and a felt hat… and I was still freezing and miserable. When we finally returned home around 3:30 in the afternoon, I crawled under the covers with all of my clothes on and took forever to warm up. I hope this doesn’t set back my recovery, as I plan on teaching tomorrow!