Eighteen years ago I was hitting my stride as an English teacher and Fulbright Scholar at a university in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I had made foreign friends and also friends with the native Kyrgyz people and those who were Russian but born in Kyrgyzstan. The following is what I wrote on March 27, 1994 to family and friends back in the U.S.
“Yesterday was a good day at the sauna. I usually go every Saturday morning from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. with Olga, Lena, Natasha and other Russian women. We sit and sweat, then jump into a cold pool, then sip on tea and repeat the cycle about five times in two hours. My friend Olga and her husband Andrey have two daughters under the age of four. As I was leaving the sauna I thought of my 50 minute walk back home and was favoring my one foot because I had developed a blister on the way TO the sauna. There was Olga with her husband, in their car and since I live close by, they offered me a ride home…
Yesterday afternoon I went to a meeting with other westerners who gather monthly. There was a Russian guest speaker who talked for an hour and a half about working with the Kyrgyz people and how the Bible was translated into Kyrgyz. He said that the Muslims became aware this was going on so they got someone to translate the Koran for them. Somehow the man who was working on the Koran got interested in doing the Old Testament and eventually became a hunted man.
When educated Kyrgyz would make comparisons with the Bible and the Koran, they valued the words in the Bible. The remarkable stories of the perseverance of the saints and God’s faithfulness to the people who were hunted down as early Christians must have encouraged this translator.” [Later in my stay, I received from a Kyrgyz friend of mine a translated copy of the Koran into Russian. I had always thought that it was sacrilege to have that book in any other language than in Arabic. They must have bent the rules on that for Central Asia. Not that I could read this translation any better than it was in the original text.]
The following is what I wrote on May 5, 1994:
I just celebrated Easter AGAIN in Almaty with my friend Tatyana [Kazanina]. The Russian Orthodox church has a different religious calendar which they follow. The main reason I went to Almaty was to visit with my other friend Ken. I went with him and another friend of his [he drove his Mercedes] to Kazakhstan’s “Grand Canyon.” It WAS beautiful but cold so we turned around and came back. Before this trip to Almaty on the public bus (it took 4 ½ hours) I took another “trip.” Let me explain.
I walk everywhere in Bishkek since it a much smaller city than Almaty. But you really have to look where you are going because the sidewalks and streets are laden with potholes, cracks or other such traps. When I saw the bus for Almaty pulling out of the bus station, I didn’t want to wait for another hour for the next one. As a result, I sped up my pace and took my eyes off the sidewalk. There was an inch pipe running from one little garden plot to the next. That is what grabbed my right foot and propelled me to the pavement with a 30 pound backpack on my back. I was in pain for the whole trip after that and that night while I stayed at my friend Tatyana’s place. It wasn’t until I got to Ken’s place the next morning where he had plenty of ice packs, that the pain eased. My knee is better now, a week later, but it has ALL colors of the color chart throughout my leg…”