Friday, November 03, 2006

Protests and Thanks

November 2, 2006

Today the promised protests against the President took place. And they had another complaint to add to their list. President Bakiyev promised to present a new version of the Constitution to Parliament, this morning, then failed to do so. Bakiyev said he had no obligation to listen to the opposition groups and that they couldn’t pressure him to hurry with Constitutional reforms.

The day was pretty quiet. I was happy to see that most businesses were open and most people went about their daily activities as usual. We worked, but like many others, ended our day a few hours early, so that people could be sure to get home before dark and before any problems started.

The protesters organized meetings in five places around town at 1 p.m., then walked toward the central square. According to the Russian evening news, about 30,000 people gathered and they are planning to stay on the square – in yurts and in tents – until the President keeps his promises.

When I walked home shortly before five, I could see very few differences in the activities on the street. The market nearest my home had been closed all day, but the vendors on the street were there. The elderly woman I bought flowers from told me she hadn’t had any problems. I saw a pair of foreigners going out for a run, the children outside playing as always. But those not involved in the protests probably avoided going out in the evening.

My colleagues showed no interest at all in participating in the protests. They thought that even thought the President has not gained the faith of the people, it would cause more instability if he were to be removed.

“People have just start to get used to the new system and start working again,” our office manager, Kasiet, said.

They said the payment for people to join the protest was 500 som ($12.50). When people headed home after work, they jokingly asked if they were going to the square to earn some extra money.

For me, my most memorable moment of the day was the kiss my adopted babushka, Natalya Vasielievna, planted on my cheek. It had been months since I’d been to see Natalya and I stopped by to give her the paper I’d saved for her (which she uses in fires for her home and banya). I asked how she was preparing for the winter. She’d told me before that last year her inability to buy enough firewood meant she’d almost frozen to death.

When she told me she hoped to reconnect her gas, which she’d stopped using five years ago, I offered her $25 and asked if it would be enough to get it running again. I think it’s enough not only to restart it, but to pay for several months of heat.

A smile crossed her wrinkled face, and in a burst of emotion, she grasped my shoulders, hugged me and kissed my cheek.

It makes me feel good to know that one elderly woman won’t be cold this winter. But it’s also sad that people live in such poor conditions that $25 can make such a difference. If you’d like to help out an elderly person in Kyrgyzstan, you can adopt a grandmother or grandfather for $150 a year. I can vouch that Babushka Adoption is a reliable, quality charity and that their recipients truly need the assistance.


Alyclepal said...

Hi, I came across your blog last year, then just found it again. Your writing is powerful and informative. Thank you for sharing your experiences in this way. Lisa in SC

jj said...

Thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

Anonymous said...

Hi again, may I list you under blogs I read? I hope this'll post, I've been having trouble with blogspot. I really appreciate reading about your life in Central Asia. I have a blog too but nothing really important, just wool felting and knitting. Do you ever come across felt items? If so, could you take a picture or two (I'd be rabidly in your debt!!!) I hope to convince my husband that the country is safe enough for me to attend a felting seminar some day and I am trying to find ngo's that sell felt products to purchase my felts from in hopes of helping just a little bit. HAve a great day, Alyclepal
ps...the posts about the bride kidnapping really got me. I saw a tv piece on it recently. It's strange to think of someone staying in that situation cause they didn't want to hurt someone else's feelings, yet in the West we are so the opposite-it's all me, mine, I want...perhaps someday a happy medium will exist for folks!

jj said...

Sure, no problem with the link. If you'll send me your email address, I can send you some info regarding your other questions.

Anonymous said... Thank you:>