Monday, May 02, 2005

A Summer Day Off in May

Today was a day off of work, since yesterday, a Sunday, was a national holiday, something like Labor Day. The first week of May is the most chock-full period of holidays in the year. Both Thursday and next Monday are also holidays.

It’s definitely summertime now and I put away all my winter clothes today. The temperature is in the 80s and 90s, all of the trees have bloomed, and outdoor cafes have sprouted up overnight.

I spent much of the day reading and writing. When I got sick of being in my room, I walked into town and found a spot at an outdoor café table, where I could enjoy the fresh air.

The place where we had our picnic yesterday was beautiful. It was at the end of a remote mountain valley, about two hours from Osh along rough, dirt roads. The mountains were covered with daffodil and crocus stalks. I could imagine the land exploding into color next month. Above us rose white, snowy peaks and a clear river ran white over rocks and through the valley.

We had enough time to enjoy an outdoor picnic with roasted lamb shashlik. Almost as soon as we finished eating, it started to rain and then to hail, little white balls falling from the sky and bouncing up from the ground. A geologist with us said that the mountains caused the rain, by forcing the air up where it was cool.

There were a couple of old rusted wagons in the national park and we were the only visitors that day. One had a large table where we could all gather. Another had eight narrow bunkbeds, for visitors who want to spend the night. There was also a traditional wooden Russian banya, where I was able to sweat while looking out the small window at the falling rain. It was amazing to open the door of the banya when exiting and walk out into a pristine mountain landscape.

While we weren’t able to do much hiking or outdoor activities, it was great to get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful Kyrgyz mountain scenery. Now that I know where this place is, I’m going to try to organize a weekend trip for some of our staff members. Kyrgyzstan has so much beautiful scenery to offer, but since the roads are bad and many of the nicest sights are remote, it can be hard (or at least expensive) to travel alone. My goal is to plan a couple of group trips this summer.

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