Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dinner date

First week in Bishkek: Dinner with the tall son of a short woman. He looks a lot like his mom in the face- he even has the same hairstyle as her. He was about 20 minutes late, and DT was worried he wasn’t going to show. By the time he did, I’d just about finished the White Russian I’d ordered, which added to the surreal feel of it all. He speaks amazing English, is not only better spoken than most native speakers, but incredibly comfortable in the language. And very fond of American cliches. He asked D what he thought of his mother. “Is the message getting out?” D asked what message he meant. “Well, that she’s not corrupt?” D answered dicily. It was a given, he said, that she was not financially corrupt. But he was disappointed by the lack of a “clear, pointed statement” on the need to combat ethnic hatred. “Hasn’t she done that?” the son asked.

He said he couldn’t wait for 2012, when he would be able to breathe easily again. Described the workings of parliament as “absurdity after absurdity after absurdity.” Said that perhaps Kyrgyzstan wasn’t “the worst place in the world,” but that he wasn’t quite sure then what was. Discussed protest-related deaths in Thailand. “In Thailand! The nicest people in the world!” I looked at him and said that when I was here in June 2009, the Kyrgyz were “the nicest people I had ever met.” It was hard to read his reaction- perhaps it was pity at my naiveté, or an attempt to humor what suddenly seemed like a very condescending characterization of a people- or neither.

 Towards the end of the evening he looked at us and said: “What should I do?” What did he mean, we asked. “If you were me, what would you do?” He asked this in an expansive tone, despite having drunk nothing but tomato juice.

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