Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not-So-Very-Hot Lake

I dreamed last night that while I was babysitting for Cat and Finn, I lost Finn. The worst part was that the Alex in my dream had all of the panic of the real Alex, but none of the competence, and so there was a lot of aimless running around and moments when I would reach for my cell phone and find that instead of packing my phone I had accidentally stolen the TV remote from my apartment in Bishkek. Anyway, I wouldn't allow myself to wake up until Finn was relocated, which happened not due to the incompetent-Al, but due to a call from an anonymous person who wanted to deliver him safely home under cover of darkness without being identified. Dum dum dum.

My first R and R event of the day was a solitary walk to the beach of Issyk-Kyl at 6:00 AM. I planned to go earlier, but I awoke to find that I was locked inside the guest house compound until the cooks woke up to make breakfast. Issyk-Kyl means "hot lake". It got its name not because it's actually hot, but because it never freezes. There is a big difference between hot water and not-frozen water as you know, but I guess "Pretty Damn Cold Lake that Somehow Still Never Freezes" doesn't sound inviting to Russian tourists, so "Hot Lake" it is. At 6 AM, the Russian tourists are sparse but friendly. The greet each other loudly, laugh at the people psyching themselves up for a morning swim, flirt with the little kids toddling on the shore, and stand chatting on the beach while they take in the beauty of the lake surrounded by ice-capped mountains.

I talked a while with a paunchy Russian and a middle-aged Kyrgyz man. We quickly used up all of their English words - and my Russian was exhausted at "good morning" - and so the conversation ended with "American women, beautiful. I love you." Then I jumped in the lake.

I swam again after breakfast, but at that time of day the beach has too many Russians with too much junk in their trunks (and a spare tire up front). Still there is something appealing about a culture in which it's OK to wear a skimpy swimsuit no matter your body type - not visually appealing, mind you, but appealing nonetheless. The Russians all had terrible sunburns. During the hour I sat on the beach, I saw no one apply a drop of sunscreen. I guess their skin cancer can heal during the nine months of winter.

A little before lunchtime, we piled into the van again for a trip to the Kyrgyz version of the Katy Daly - only with a more powerful diesel engine and a deck large enough fpr a table that seats twelve. It was the first relaxing part of the R and R, and we took advantage of it by lounging on the deck and stuffing piles of grilled meat, bread, and salads into our guts. At one point, the capatain stopped the boat, and some of us jumped in the lake again. The water at this depth was startlingly blue and crystal clear. It was a lovely - if cold - third swim of the day.

Now we are all back in Bishkek and I have moved into my new apartment. Dean and Suze left this morning. The trip is winding down. We just have one more day to stroll the city, one more day to work, andthen we fly home. I spend a night in London on the way home, which will be an adventure, but I miss my Buddy and my bed - although not necessarily the smell of Buddy in my bed.

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