20 December 2007

Bombshell dropped on Bishkek boys' club

“I often order to go from here and while I’m waiting the waitresses invariably want to know if I am married,” explained Brian, a bright, ambitious young sociologist who hopes to pursue his doctorate at Yale next year.

About seven of us gathered at our favorite Chinese restaurant, the best place in Bishkek I’ve discovered for a variety of vegetable dishes, none of which has ever been overcooked. We were sending off another Yank returning to the States. This one wasn’t coming back.

“With me, I can tell they are wondering about whether to ask me about my children and grandchildren,” I said.

“Every time a woman talks to me,” said Harlan, 63, who walks with a stoop, “they ask me if I’m all right and whether I need some help.” Brian and I looked at each other and laughed loudly. Harlan beamed his appreciation.

“Hey why don’t they give us some good information about what’s available in Bishkek when we first moved here,” Harlan asked. Seated at the large round table, his gaze naturally was tilted about 45 degrees south of horizontal. When he spoke, he tilted his head up, as if it hurt to do so.

“You didn’t get that package of info from the Internal Faculty office with the fold-out map as part of your orientation?” I asked. “I think that’s about the best available information. I haven’t found any better after being here more than a year.”

“Yeah, but it didn’t have anything on escort services,” he said, unable to conceal his one-of-the-guy’s grin.

Brian’s face went blank.

“Harlan, you dog, you.”

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