25 November 2006

Making adjustments

Snapshot 4: I have less and less concerns about threats to my personal safety, like being mugged, despite some warnings from other foreign residents, whose well-meaning advice is often tainted by a pervasive sense of being amongst the unfamiliar and therefore dangerous “other.” An American friend rationalizes his paranoid view of Bishkek society by continually reminding me of the time he was mugged. What he generally fails to add is that the incident occurred when was sloppy drunk outside a bar at three in the morning—a time of day that is risky in any urban environment anywhere. I give more credence to the advice of locals, though their concerns seem to be heavily weighed toward cautious concern for the foreign visitor—a bias that is admittedly preferable to most others, but a bias nonetheless. What is clearly different, and what I found a little disconcerting initially, is that there is very little public lighting compared to the West. For example, there is none the entrances to my apartment building, so you pass people in the dark after the sun sets. In this poor nation, only the major thoroughfares have the level of lighting Westerners have grown accustomed to in almost any urban or suburban area. Once I made that adjustment and concentrated just on people’s behavior, I realized I had seen virtually nothing, save the occasional drunk, to justify any fear.

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