Kyrygzstan: My Dream!
Although it had been my dream for a long time, I always thought I needed to be completely prepared before pulling the trigger and traveling alone to Kyrgyzstan. I needed to read every book about it. I needed to learn how to speak Kyrgyz. I needed to know about every possible place to visit and how to visit it and how much it would cost. This expanded and settled into an obsession with the former Soviet Union. I made more barriers and blocks. In addition to knowing everything about Kyrgyzstan, I also needed to know everything about the Soviet Union before I would ever let myself to set foot there.
This was, of course, all on top of the fact that a flight ticket to Kyrgyzstan can be insanely expensive!
I am a big supporter of learning a lot about a place before going there, but I also think that this can easily become a pile of excuses that actually prevent one from making the trip. Sure I dove into speaking Russian (it’s easier if you are going to be crossing borders since Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh suddenly become a lot of languages to learn…), but I had the impression that I needed to be able to read the Brothers Karamazov in original Russian before I would be prepared to go.
One day, as I was browsing flights to faraway places for no particular reason, I found it: a flight to Bishkek for $150. Thank you, Pegasus Airlines!
But I wasn’t ready! I didn’t own proper mountain climbing gear! My backpack wasn’t big enough. I didn’t have good hiking shoes…
I would never be ready.
I bought the ticket. I could read every book ever written about Kyrgyzstan but that would still be nothing compared to actually going there!
Fast forward to the airport
I checked in at the airport and waited to go through the security line. A little Kyrgyz grandma caught my attention. She waved her ticket at me to show me she was also, well, traveling alone to Kyrgyzstan.
She was literally half my size, a pattern of glittering sequins accented her black hijab. I blasted her with questions in my newly learned Russian, but she motioned to me that she couldn’t speak Russian. I pointed her in the direction of our gate and wandered off the other way to find something to eat.
In the restaurant I noticed her walking by-that’s funny, our gate was in the other direction. I went to the bathroom and bumped into her again as I washed my hands. She gave me a worried look.
Oh, I get it, she can’t find the gate.
Her family must have dropped her off at the airport because she seemed uncomfortable to be traveling alone.
So the Kyrgyz grandma and I went to find our gate together. Her earnestness calmed me down; I was really nervous about traveling alone to Kyrgyzstan!
After some trouble we finally found our gate and soon after we loaded onto the bus to go to the airplane. The bus was overcrowded , but I made sure that grandma got a seat and I stood up next to her, trying not to clobber her with my backpack.
I felt a firm tug and suddenly I found myself, heavy backpack and all, sitting right in her lap!
Grandma didn’t seem to like the idea of me standing with a backpack while she sat down. I kindly said “nyet, nyet” with a smile, but she insisted. So, my solo journey to Kyrgyzstan started with me sitting on the lap of a sweet woman literally half my size.
Sure, the people around us shot me some weird glances, but I didn’t feel so alone anymore. This kind of absurdity actually made me really happy. If this how my experience traveling to Kyrgyzstan was going to begin, then what would happen once I actually arrive?
When we arrived in Bishkek, she dragged me to meet her children. Their warm greetings just fueled my energy, so we said a warm hello and goodbye and then went our separate ways.