Another day has passed in Bishkek with me in it. I've found an ATM so I can stop exchanging precious US dollars at a bad rate. And now that my cashflow has improved (I was down to 20 som, the price of a stick of gum) I can be happy about the tourist-y shirt I bought at a mall yesterday.
Today I've been hunting down Internet access. Sometimes they have it, sometimes they don't. You just have to prowl around ready to pounce. Once you've caught your prey, though, the rewards of civilization are fantastic. I'm blogging, checking my email, and being advertised to on Facebook by online dating services in Dutch.
Despite me conquering the Internet right now, last night the shower conquered me. As far as I understand the situation, Kyrgyzstan is suffering from a shortage of power and various cities are doing their part to help. Osh has cut the power citywide every third day. In Bishkek, they've stopped providing hot water (it was centralized under the Soviets, which is how they can limit it). This means that you have to heat your own water here.
The house I'm staying at has two large metal buckets you can fill with water and then heat up with these electrified metal tongs. When the water starts steaming, you take out the tongs and use the water to take a shower.
The only part I didn't understand was how exactly to remove the tongs. The bucket had a lid on it, which I thought I would remove. As soon as I touched it my whole arm was sent buzzing and became numb. This would be trickier than I thought. I used a plastic bowl to move the lid and thought I was safe, but when I touched the bucket again, I was electrocuted again. I soon found the power switch on the tongs, but even after I was pretty sure it was safe to touch, I still was hesitant to touch it. A shocking state of affairs here, I know, but I think I've learned how to do it.
I've also started learning Russian. My reactions are interesting after studying Chinese: it feels so blunt to have a word that means "no"; it's so self-centered to say "I" every sentence you're talking about yourself.
Some of the sounds give me problems (I quit Spanish because I can't roll my r's, but here they are again), but having an alphabet is so luxurious! The girl teaching me Russian helped me make a little text so I wouldn't feel like an idiot walking outside. Hello, I say. My name is Will. I'm an American. I just came to Kyrgyzstan. This is all I can say. I'm a third of the way through my goal of repeating this to 30 people today. Most have sociably replied with something in Russian, at which point I just nod, smile, and wave goodbye.
I'm gradually feeling more comfortable here, especially now that I don't have to fear for my life every time I want to take a shower.