29 October 2007

Blue, almost luminous

We haven’t had a hard freeze in Bishkek yet this fall; the marigolds and geraniums are still holding on and about half of the leaves have fallen from the trees, which includes a lot of chestnuts, especially in the downtown parks. The days have been sunny, almost luminous, for most of the last few weeks, which means it also gets cold at night, but not enough to turn on the municipal hot-water heating system, at least not yet. Near-freezing nights and cold radiators means the city electrical system, which has probably been steadily declining since Kyrgyzstan was saddled with independence from the Soviet Union, is further strained to produce supplemental heat for some households. Sometime there are blackouts—I haven’t gone more than a few hours myself—but more often there are low-grade brownouts. An energy-hogging microwave, for instance, takes three minutes to heat something that ordinarily takes less than a minute. The lights fade for a moment. And the step-down transformers that reduce 220 volts of electricity to 110 volts for this computer blows fuses—lots of them.

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