The sun shines through the window of our wide and
yet derelict apartment in Central Bishkek. Yes, we were warned in our
contract that our living conditions in Central Asia would be quite
different from those in York and Philadelphia. Vive l'Union Sovietique!
And yet we cannot but regret the filthiness of our landlord. Since we
arrived at five in the morning we went directly to sleep, unaware how
dusty our eiderdowns were. As I woke up I realized that our soles were
full of dust. We picked up a dozen of dust-loaded carpets and shoved
them into a cupboard. Just as we were wondering about the reason why
our landlord had covered the floor of our apartment with useless rugs,
Anais stepped over a loosen nail, hurting one of her toes. She is also
getting a flu, surely as a result of the unwholesome air we had to
swallow during our first night in Bishkek.
We spent most of our first two days in this
Silk-Road post, dusting, washing and fumigating our 5-bedroom
apartment. Though we did our best, it still looks as empty, eroded and
unwholesome as when we saw it first. Built on a second floor, the front
windows of our new home face a polluted main street where old Lada cars
cross back and forth. Our backyard is a but common ground where,
conveniently preserving their Soviet habits, our neighbours hang and
dust off their carpets next to a pile of common rubbish. About five
families survive in that mountain of rotten fruits and meat. This
morning three women attacked and cut the face of a beggar who dared to
sneak out a can of processed kidney pork from their territory. I
denounced the misdeed to Melissa, the Local Director of DWO (Democratic
World Organization), the NGO I'm working for, but she just advised me
to forget it altogether, retorting that beggars get frequently killed
in this city. The poverty of this beautiful land is striking indeed.
The slopes of the Andes and the savannas of Africa must be more
generous than the tundra and eroded mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Colombia,
after all, is a summer land mitigated by fertile valleys and
unconquerable mountains. Medellín or Bucaramanga are quite
prosperous in comparison, believe me. Even in Bogotá the most
miserable or despicable man can get a bowl of chocolate at Holy Baby
Jesus Church. Would it be hasty of mine to conclude that the Catholic
Church is a charitable institution whose function can only be
appreciated after experiencing the impervious indifference of a NGO
bureaucrat in an ex-Soviet society?
Our flight from France went smooth. Only when we
crossed the Caspian Sea we were able to grasp the true nature of our
enterprise. 'You are bold', were the nervous words of Professor
Sulkfold, my previous employer, who was unable to understand why did we
want to move out from York. England, after all, is one of the most
prosperous countries of the world, and since we have shipped all our
books and appliances, there is no reason why people should not think
that we are moving out from the civilized world to the middle of
nowhere, never to return. Only a careful reading of Kierkegaard's works
would be able to throw some light on our motives and inspiration. We
are people who believe. I have abstain myself from writing that we are
religious people, or people of faith, though that happens to be true as
well. But our belief is anterior to our faith, and this anterior to our
approach to religion.
We were received at the airport by Taka, a five feet
Kyrgyz boy with slanting eyes and hesitating disposition. He wore
jeans, a pair of snickers and a rugby t-shirt.
‘How are you doing guys?’, was his unorthodox
greeting as we stepped down from the airplane.
‘Fine’, I replied, ‘You are...’
‘Taka. But you can call me Rob. That’s my American
‘I’d rather call you Taka’, replied Anais.
‘Likewise, I hope you’ll be able to call us Cándido and Anais.’
‘Nice to meet you both’, Taka smiled as he absorbed
‘How long have you been working for DWI?’, I asked
as I shook his hand.
‘I was just hired’, he tattered, ‘Come this way,
Taka took our passports and guided us through a
narrow corridor with walls decorated with portraits of whom we rightly
assumed to be the members of the presidential family. On our way out we
crossed the immigration bureau, in which most of our fellow passengers,
bearing a grim countenance, were standing, waiting almost inmovile in a
‘Foreigners’, Taka muttered. 'They don’t have idea
whatsoever of how do we run this country’.
We entered to a small air-conditioned lobby where a
slim girl offered us some water. Soon after a middle-aged blonde woman
approached us and asked us some questions in Russian, which Taka, to
our great relief, answered punctiliously. The woman invited us to sit
down in one of the many leather sofas spread around the lobby. No
sooner had we obeyed her that we saw Taka taking out his wallet and
handing out two fifty dollar bills to the woman. The public servant
smiled to Taka and gave him an invoice in return.
‘Welcome to Kyrgyzstan’, she said in plain English.
Taka helped us with our luggage and introduced us to
Abel, the DWI chauffer, a short round-face robust man in his late
forties, too prompt to smiling, who also happened to work for the
police national force.
‘But don’t let anybody else know’, added Taka with
an air of mystery. ’Otherwise he may lose his job’.
Although it was about four in the morning, we were
more than awaken, victims of the excitement that only the first
impressions of an unknown city, language and culture can arise.
The air was cold cutting when we entered into Abel’s
four-door German car. Taka talked about his recent experience in
New Mexico, where he had just finished an internship. His English was
good, though as it was the case with many Russian native speakers, he
displayed a tendency to suppress definitive articles.
Abel started his car and our eyes were caught by a
succession of empty loots, derelict houses and dirty buildings.
Strangely enough, we discover glimpses of prosperity: a modern gas
station and several road adds from banks and multinational
corporations, glamorous tokens as evanescent as the wealth of the
foreigners who had to make their way from the airport to their
About twenty miles ahead we turned into Bishkek’s
main street: Chuy Prospect, a long broad avenue surrounded by small
bushes, built according to the spirit of he Second French Republic,
that’s to say, without walls, ditches or facades that may allow
would-be revolutionaries to set up barricades near the Presidential
We heard to our amazement that Chuy prospect was
Bishkek’s most illuminated street.
‘Darker than this would be pitch dark’, I snarled
against my will.
‘In this country we don’t waste our resources,’ was
Taka’s instinctive dry reply.
Then, out of darkness, and covered by a thin mist,
we moved alont the impotent figure of a giant.
‘A statue of Lenin’, exclaimed Anais. ‘I thought
them all to have been destroyed after the fall of the Soviet
‘It’s our history’, affirmed Take with a defiant
look in his eyes. ‘We cannot deny what we are’.
I had the impression then, dear Clemencia, that
Communism had not been quite forgotten by the people of this country.
Would it be possible that the dream of equality and justice to us all
might blossom in this forlorn land? Don’t forget that Kyrgyzstan has
never experienced a civil war. In 1992, after several neighbouring
countries claimed their independence from the Russian Federation, the
Kyrgyz nation discovered itself to be severed from their tyrannical
I hope your play you will succeed in the incoming
theatre season of Bogotá. Please let me know of the state of
your fight against nepotism and corruption. As Hamlet remind us, to be
honest is a virtue or a state of madness.