03 August 2007

Back in Bishkek

My neighbor Sasha greeted me yesterday and gave me a couple of treasures he found in his daily wanderings in the neighborhood. The first was some sort of coupon with a picture of a Chinese high-rise hotel and the second was a brown, 1-ounce medicine bottle. Sasha, who is about my age, speaks to me in Russian despite the fact that I have told him several; times, in Russian, that I don’t speak the language.

I returned to Biskhek on Aug. 2 after being in the States for about two months. Sasha apparently didn’t notice my absence.

The Kyrgyz Republic is hosting a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental alliance of Russia, China and four of the Central Asian nations, later this month and the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiev is sprucing up those parts of the city where the summit will be held, including the approximately 15 miles of highway between Manas International Airport and Bishkek city center. The blatantly cosmetic work had drawn some barbs from those who feel the funds could be better spent to improve the utterly inadequate infrastructure and/or the pervasive poverty of this mountainous nation of 5 million people.

Meanwhile, Felix Kulov, the former prime minister under Bakiev and leader of a week of opposition demonstrations last April, was formally charged on Aug. 2 for inciting insurrection.

Stay tuned.

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