I spent much of 2018 without a permanent address, traveling often for work and otherwise spending the rest of my time up and down the West Coast in Canada, the US and Mexico. 2018 was a very chaotic period of my life, and it seemed like a perfectly sensible choice at the time to spontaneously travel to Kyrgyzstan during Thanksgiving, and celebrate the American holiday alone in Almaty’s sister city, Bishkek. I had always been very curious about it. So I packed up my entire home, which was a suitcase and a backpack full of electronics and began my journey.
This trip started in Mexico, where I had landed for a month or two. I had an interview in Washington DC for an exciting new professional opportunity the next day. My plan was to taxi to the border, walk across to the US, board a flight in San Diego, interview for a job in Washington DC and go on to Kyrgyzstan. You know, a perfectly normal two days for me in 2018.
Of course, as luck would have it, I sustained a concussion from an inopportune fall down a flight of stairs in Tijuana (as luck would have it, that was the second time that year I fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a concussion). I don’t really remember re-entering the US that night and cannot account for a few hours of my life, including the basic first aid somebody had apparently administered to me. Looking through my phone, however, I had apparently been texting people as I waited at the border and was able to reconstruct the story. I can only wonder what my interaction with US customs was.
Nonetheless, I did manage to get to DC, and though I was still recovering from a minor concussion I was able to successfully fumble through the interview. While I waited around for a phone call with the outcome, I shipped off to Kyrgyzstan to eat horse meat and drink fermented mare’s milk and cheap vodka and walk around a lot. Mercifully, my concussion had recovered well enough by the time the plane landed in Kyrgyzstan, and customs was a cinch. Looking back, I should have probably seen a doctor instead of shipping off to a country where I have no access to medical care, but like I said, it was a very chaotic time in my life.
Here are some photos I took.
The Capital of Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is a fairly typical small central Asian city. It is undergoing a massive boom in construction, so gleaming glass structures sit alongside aging, Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks. It is an increasingly international city much like others in the region, and though it wears its nomadic cultural roots and Soviet history on its sleeve, you can see a lot of foreign investment and a promising future for the capital.
What I Ate
Being a modern international city, Bishkek has available more or less all of the foods that you would expect to find in any modern world capital. This is with one exception: horse, the region’s specialty, which as always I was very much looking forward to eating.
I spent a bit of time on the road, hiring a local driver to show me around the countryside. He was a middle-aged Russian man with strong feelings about Vladimir Putin and a stereotypically Russian fatalistic outlook on life, but he was a good dude and I’d recommend his services (I can refer him if anyone contacts me to ask). He taught me a few new Russian phrases as we drove.
Visitors are free to climb to the top of Burana Tower, which I appreciated as a tourist but I have mixed feelings about. For one, it is a quite treacherous climb through the dark with more or less no safety mechanisms whatsoever (and it is much worse going down than up). One false step means a long, probably fatal tumble into the darkness below, with hardly even a handrail to protect you. Also, with all of the heavy foot traffic, the structure is badly in decline, long grooves driven into its steps from thousands of tourists over the years. And at the top, this ancient structure is littered with graffiti. The view from the top is spectacular however.
I really enjoyed my time; it was relaxing, interesting and dynamic. Other than the moment I got assaulted by drunk nationalists as I exited a karaoke club at 2:00 AM, I found Bishkek to be an interesting city full of kind people, fun things to do, and the Kyrgyzstan countryside very beautiful.
I really enjoyed my time; it was relaxing, interesting and dynamic.
After my trip to Kyrgyzstan I returned to Washington DC, summoned for a second interview. A few days later I was thrilled to learn that I landed the job and that is where I am employed now, and couldn’t be happier in that regard. I recall during the interview being asked if I was local; I thought about the question for a moment, and then said “yes”. That’s the moment I decided to rent an apartment.
And that was it–an end to the chaos I had lived through for most of 2018. I view this trip as that period’s send-off. I even have still have an apartment, which is a good thing to have as I write this in November 2020, the 8th month of a seemingly never-ending pandemic in the United States that is not likely conducive to nomadic life.
It has also been over two years since I’ve sustained a serious head injury, but I will remain for the rest of my days ever-vigilant of my arch-nemesis: stairs.