24 May 2008

Things I won’t miss about Bishkek, part 1

Some very aggressive children panhandlers, including the young boy, maybe 7 or 8, who unzipped a compartment in my belt pack a few days ago in search of money after I refused him. With that type of persistence, he could do much better in sales.

The municipal heating and hot-water systems, which are centralized and do not allow individualized control. The heat, for example, was turned on last year in November, well after everyone I know thought it was necessary. The hot water system is shut down almost the entire month of May, apparently for maintenance purposes, so unless you have your own auxiliary hot-water heater, which I do, you have a month to adapt to showering and cleaning in cold water.

Electrical blackouts are not uncommon and in some parts of the city can last for two days or create regular service disruptions after, say, 6 p.m. for several days.

I won’t begin to suggest that drivers here are as bad as they are in Tehran or any one of several cities India, but traffic lanes are meaningless, horns are used to insult other drivers and pedestrians, many drivers (and pedestrians) engage in a staggeringly dangerous form of “chicken,” and there is no enforcement of traffic laws, except for regular pullovers designed to see if your documentation is order. I have never seen police in a moving vehicle pull over or pursue another driver.

The trash, the trash, the trash.