Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Never Ending Journey *Pics added

So last Sunday and Monday, rather than celebrating Women’s Day, I was attempting to make it to Bishkek for the K16s ‘Project Design and Management’ Training. All of the Jalal Abad volunteers and I decided that we would drive up to Bishkek since everyone has said the drive through the Tien Shan Mountains is so beautiful. Plus, we wanted to save a little extra money!

The conference started on Tuesday, but Ian and I wanted to begin our trip a few days early so we could stop about half way to see Joe, our friend and fellow volunteer who lives in Toktogul. So early that morning we went to the bus station to catch a cab to Toktogul. This turned out to be a little bit more complicated than expected seeing as Toktogul is a small town about four hours away, not exactly the most traveled to spot. Eventually we worked out a deal with a driver who said he would drive us halfway to Toktogul and then arrange for another taxi to take us the rest of the way. As promised, our driver lined up the taxi that would take us to Toktogul. Unfortunately it was an empty taxi and because we did not want to buy out the other two seats in the taxi, we had to wait for it to fill up with passengers who were also on their way to Toktogul. After waiting for over an hour without any luck of finding additional passengers, a huge tour bus stopped at the bus station and we were able to work out a deal with them. It turned out that this was a lucky turn of events seeing as the bus was pretty empty so we got to stretch out and -the best part of all- we got to watch some Thai fighting movie dubbed in Russian on a small TV at the front of the bus!!! I really had no interest in the movie so I stared out the window the entire time snapping pictures of the amazing scenery. The drive was really beautiful, for a large portion of the trip we were driving along the Naryn River which is a brilliant blue and amongst some of the most intimidating mountains I have ever seen.

Even though we ended up getting stuck at the half way point for about two hours, we managed to get to Toktogul by mid-afternoon. Once in Toktogul, Joe gave us a tour of the town’s bazaar, park, the school he works at and the stadium. It’s a beautiful town that is completely surrounded by mountains and is on the edge of the country’s largest reservoir which feeds a hydroelectric plant that produces a large amounts of energy for Central Asia. That evening we had dinner with Joe’s host family where we learned from his host father that earlier in the day there had been a huge avalanche that was blocking the road to Bishkek. At that point there wasn’t anything we could do but hope it magically cleared up by morning. It didn’t.

The next morning Peace Corps instructed us to turn around and go back down to Osh where we could buy a plane ticket to Bishkek. Unfortunately we were not the only ones who were trying to get to Bishkek so by the time we were back in Jalal Abad all the tickets had been sold out until Thursday. We were all trapped in the south! But because we are all health wardens and had additional trainings on Friday, we were instructed to buy a plane ticket out of Osh and just get up there as soon as possible. Later we found out that Joe’s counterpart, who was also attending the training, out witted us all by taking a taxi to the avalanche, climbing over and catching a cab from the other side!!!

With nothing to do up wait for our flight we took advantage of our time and wandered around Osh city for the day. The weather was absolutely amazing, flowers were starting to bloom and the city was as beautiful as ever. On Thursday we finally made it to Bishkek and were able to attend one of the four days of training. By Sunday the avalanche had been cleared and I took a taxi back down to Jalal Abad. Unfortunately I slept most the way down and missed the remains of the avalanche; I was told it was pretty spectacular!

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