Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Run in What Used to Be a Woods

Today my friend Sara and I went to visit a Western couple at their $2,000 a month house outside the city. The neighborhood, called by locals, Santa Barbara, was filled with giant mansions. A local man stepped out of a Mercedes in a full-length leather jacket, a pouty woman sitting next to him on the leather seats.

“This isn’t Kyrgyzstan,” Clara said, expressing a desire to see the rest of the country.

Her boyfriend and co-worker, Ulrich, is in charge of purchasing some cars for the organization he works for. He wants to import them himself. As a humanitarian organization, they could save $5,000 in customs charges. But due to the corruption, they might not get them at all if they don’t pay bribes. “I’ll probably end up having to pay half the $5,000 in bribes,” he said. His organization has a special accounting code for bribes.

We took a run through the neighborhood, to the nearby botanical garden. “This used to be the botanical garden,” Ulrich said. “But now, people come in with axes and cut down the trees to use for firewood. It’s just been left for the past 15 years, since the end of Communism.”

After the run, we relaxed in their personal sauna, complete with small pool, shower area, and changing room. It was a nice treatment for my incorrigible cold and I enjoyed the chance to spend time with such active, energetic people who are passionate about what they do.

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