May 24, 2009
Preppin' for the Prez
A countrywide sports competition for teenagers who live in villages is taking place in Talas. Opening ceremonies were last evening and the games begin today. All week the word was the president of Kyrgyzstan would be here for the opening. So, in preparation, many classes at the technical college and the university were canceled for the week so the students could make the stadium sparkle. And it wasn't only the stadium. Seems like everybody was out sweeping and picking up litter (a HUGE problem in our city). Residents whitewashed walls and curbs and miracle of miracles, potholes were filled. Guess when the mayor thinks the president is coming to town, the money for road repair magically appears. It's a safe bet that without the sports games, they wouldn't have been.
The city is the cleanest I've ever seen it. I'm thinking the last time it was this clean was the last time the president was rumored to be visiting.
The opening ceremonies were pretty cool. Each of the seven oblasts paraded their athletes past the crowd just like in the Olympics with Talas getting the loudest welcome, naturally. There were singers and dancers dressed in traditional Kyrgyz costumes. The few speeches we had to endure were short. I was glad to see female athletes will be participating in volleyball. (This is such a male dominated culture that I would not have been surprised if there weren't any girls.) I hope to get out to see some events before Wednesday when the games end.
And the president? He sent his Minister of Sports instead. Big letdown. Really wanted to see him in person.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about politics in my emails, mostly because I figured if the Kyrgyz government really was reading them, I’d err on the side of caution. No sense calling the president a callous corrupt jerk, thereby ending my PC service with a comment everybody knew and most agreed with.
In the book I talk about the peoples' attitudes regarding their president and compare it to what I experienced in China.