A New Life in Kyrgyzstan
My life here in Bishkek is slower than what i had in KL. This city is calm and quiet, the size of the city is small enough for me to cycle from end to end. The night sky is so clear at night, allowing me to see the empty sky painted with blinking stars and bright moon each night. The sun is shining strong each day, i still feel warm even though winter is just around the corner. Its pleasant at daytime, but i turned to an ice cream at night. People here are more serious and aggressive than the rest of asians, i guess its the weather and vodka that shaped their cold characteristic.
Even this country has gained its independence from USSR almost 20 years ago, Russian influence is still strong here. Cyrillic scriptures are everywhere, almost everybody in this city speaks Russian. Almost half of the people here are Russians, another half are the Kyrgyz, and some small percentage are Uighurs, Kazakhs, Tajiks and some other foreigners like students from India and Pakistan, and….. one… Malaysian… a man with bicycle :) According from a friend, this city was once called Frunze, then Pishbek, before the name changed permanently into Bishkek now.
So far i havent get any job yet. Its next to impossible to get a job here without knowing any Russian. The university that i applied only needs a lecturer on spring next year. And by that time, maybe im already on my bike, cycling away from Kyrgyzstan, away from the great Asia continent, into the great pyramid of Egypt. So what i did, i gathered local friends here, looking for teenagers who speak english and try to tell them what i wanna do. I plan to survive here by teaching computer animation privately, kinda great idea since the field is still kinda new here. Tried to impress them with my skills, so far i only got 1 student. Hes a kyrgyz man, who speaks excellent english since he used to study in Philipines before, and hes living with other kyrgyz girls who are all speak good english, since all of them studied abroad before. Also plan to do wedding photography here, now still searching for an opportunity to start the business. I need a jumpstart, i need to shoot at least 1 wedding for free, since i need the experience of photographing a kyrgyz wedding. Its a lot different than our Malay wedding, need to understand the flow first. Once i know the game, i can dive into it. Been making more and more friends here, telling everyone here that im a photographer and asking them to let me know if theres any weddings going on, im interested to photograph them. So far its still fruitless, but i wait, just like a wolf waits for the right time to attack his prey.
Its really hard to live here in this country. People here earn so little. On average, those guys who are working in the govt earn only around USD 100. I was talking to a man who are around late 40s, married with 3 kids. Hes working with the govt and earning only USD100. He told me, “How can i still live? Its corruption. We have to. Thats how we survive. But we are good people”. Then he smiled. I begin to understand, its necessary then. In other parts of the world, especially in rich countries, corruption feeds the greed, but here, corruption is the way to feed your family, your kids. Its a norm here. Kinda sad to see this. Met another local, a kyrgyz girl who are around my age. She told me, with her salary, everyday is reality. You can forget to live your dreams here. Dreams are impossible to achieve here. So people here started to forget their dreams, and live in reality. How can you survive with earning USD100, while your house rent is USD250. Forget to dream about having a car, even to travel to see the world. But there are always ways to survive, to keep breathing, and one of it is corruption. I believe thats what give them the ability to eat good food, wear good quality stylish clothes, and even enjoy the taste of vodka.
As for me, its the same thing. Since the people here earn so little. I cant even charge my student the same price im charging in KL. If back home Im charging 50 dollar per hour for teaching, here i charge as low as 50 dollar a month. Nobody here can afford me if i charge the same price back home. Earning so little here, i have to be really careful with spendings, since my flat rent is already at USD250. Plus i have to leave the country every 30 days since im on tourist visa, i have to get to the Kazakhstan border every month just to get the chop on my passport. Another 30 dollar for Kazakh visa each month. China or Uzbek visa might be cheaper, but the transport to get there is expensive, since its far away from Bishkek. Getting to the nearest Kazakhstan border, it can be reached only with bicycle. But im getting a student visa soon, found a place where i can learn russian and get a student visa. So i dont need to cross any border each month.
My mind couldnt stop thinking now. I think i can get a better chance in Kazakhstan. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan is far advanced in economy than their other “stans” neighbouring countries, thanks to their massive oil reserved in the Caspian sea. And i believe the Kazakhs can afford me. I might as well just go to Almaty, or even other oil cities along the Caspian sea to find jobs. But my heart feels heavy to leave this country. I already have something valuable here in Kyrgyzstan, something that i will never leave. But if im desperate enough, i have no other choice but to leave.
Eidhul Adha celebration here was massive. Woke up very early in the morning, i cycled to the centre of the city, letting the first ray of the sunrise to shine my face, and the cold but fresh morning wind to blow gently on me. I head to the main road at the centre of the city (Chui Prospektisi) for prayer. I was suprise to see so many people attended the prayer. Suprised because its a norm to see everyone here with a bottle of vodka, but when theres call for prayer, everyone rush for it. Almost the same as ours, the khutbah here is held in Kyrgyz language, others are the same. I can see the unity here, when theres call for prayer, everybody who believe in the One, from different races, Kyrgyz, Russians, Tartars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Indians, Pashtuns, Afghans, Arabs and one Malay, stand together, facing the same direction, to perform the prayer.
Thats all from me for now. Peace be on you and salam eidhul adha… from the clear blue northern sky…