Saturday, January 17, 2009

Home at last!

Well, it was a long, but mildly uneventful trip home and now I'm here, bags are still full, wrapped up in my pj's (non-air force issue!!!!) and about to enjoy my condo again! :) Maybe go get some food (I hope I remember how to drive!) and just chill....

The rest of my trip went very well, slept most of the way from Germany to Baltimore and then got to meet up with two cousins and their friends when I got there! It was fun hanging out with them and since it was late, I just hung out with them and then took a cab back from where we were hanging out back to the airport early in the am. (4 am!)

Trip home from there was good, but wow was I out of it! Got home to my mom and sis waiting with their beautiful smiling faces! It was such a "warm fuzzy" feeling!

Well, I just got up from a 6 hour "nap" and probably heading there again soon! Take care all and can't wait to share more of my journeys with you all and show some of the fun stuff I bought while over there! Take care and thanks for following along!

All my best,
Paul "Mr. D"

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Journey home....

Well, I've reached the first leg on my trip home.....Adana, Turkey. It's amazing here mainly because we came in during the day. I had a window seat and was astonished by the intricate highway system they had here, the numerous enormous warehouses, buildings, apartment buildings, all surrounded by dirt roads and shanty type houses. Just the simple contrast accentuated by the large viaducts with tons of water flowing through it. It was amazing also the enormous mountain range (the Caucasus Mountains) blanketed with snow and leading down to the valleys of vast towns with loads of agricultural fields throughout the countryside.

This of course is amazing to me because on the way over here it was night time so I didn't see any of this. Flying into the air base was nice to see all of the surrounding towns, people going on with their daily lives and me, on my way home!

I'm looking forward to the next leg of the trip into Germany and sitting next to the window! Hopefully there will be no clouds so I can see a lot! I will check back in there! Almost home!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finishing up!

Alright everyone, this is it, my last entry here before I come home tomorrow! I can't wait!! I'll be staying the night in Baltimore (hopefully meeting up with my cousin then) and then headed back to KC Saturday morning! I'm very, very excited! It has been quite the journey and one I won't soon forget. I've learned a lot not only about my job, but also about a culture that not many people will ever know about.

I went on my off-base trip the other day and had a blast! We had a tour guide this time and he was amazing! I took a lot of notes (yeah, I'm a nerd like that), but also asked a lot of questions which people in my group thanked me for later because it helped them learn about things too. \

I learned a lot about the changeover from communism to democracy, holidays celebrated, traditions that still last through to today, family life, government, architecture, the Russian Language (which I plan to learn more of and teach my students some), currency, and a host of other small details about this amazing country. It was interesting just looking out the window on the bus and watching people go about their daily lives. The history museum was amazing and I learned a lot about a culture that has changed so much from where it started, where it changed, and where it is today. I plan to write a whole lot more about this, but might save it for a history lesson for my students and then post it for all to read!

So off I go, back home. I have plenty of trinkets of the former soviet union, traditional kyrgyz items, and plenty of stories and pics which I plan to post as soon as I get the film developed! Thank you all for reading along throughout my journey and hope you have all enjoyed it.

As for my kids, I can't wait to come home and teach you all about this culture, our own, and all the rest of the subjects we'll be learning about the rest of this year! I miss you all and can't wait to see your smiling faces again! ;) Take care and see you all very, very soon!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Well hello all! Not too much to report here, but just wanted to check in and hope that you are all doing well! To my kids: Hope you guys had a great christmas break and are back and studying harder than ever! ;) To my fellow staff: Hope your holidays were good and that you enjoyed the time off! To everyone else, well, I've talked to a lot of you, but for those I didn't, like before, hope your holiday and new year went well!

I have the day off today so I'm just running around base doing errands before I can go back home. Fun stuff though. Just got done hanging out with friends at the "meeting place" here on base where I was asked by the staff to call out Bingo! :) It was fun and I think I did a really good job! Must have been that charisma showing through! ;) Then we played poker (just for chips, no money) and had some fun with that.

So there isn't really an official date when I'm coming home, but it "should" be around the 17th of this month. That will be good as to give me a few days off before getting back to teaching! I'll need to recuperate after the long journey home so a good couple days of sleep should do me well! ;)

Well, that's about it from me. Going to go rent a couple of movies and relax on my day off then get lots of rest! Haven't been sick in a couple of weeks now so that's a positive! (knock on wood!).

Take care all and I can't wait to see you all very soon!

All my best,

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Off Base Extravaganza!

So, finally...after all sorts of crazy trips around the base to get permission to go off base, permission slips signed, itinerary planned, and a fiasco about where and when I can wear civilian clothes on base, I was able to get off base and go see the sights!!

It started off ironically by signing out and getting on the bus with the same driver that I had before and wrote about in the previous blog! That was a bit ironic considering all of the drivers around the base and such. There were 7 of us that went, I knew most of the people, but was fun to meet and hang out with a couple of new people!

We started out driving down the desolate highway full of huge billboards promoting products from tv shows, to cell phones, to local calling plans. Nope, didn't read them, just guessed because they were ironically all in Russian! :)

As we drove into Bishkek, the homes outside of town were extremely dilapidated and run-down, but ironically had clothes hanging out to dry in the sub-freezing snowy weather! I truly marveled at how people could live in such a place and be able to get on with their lives and such.

As we got to the town, and I'm upset that I didn't get a picture of it, the city sign was basically this huge monument! With Bishkek in Russian, there were all sorts of large sculptures intertwined with it and very beautiful and well crafted. Driving through town though was kind of fun. Granted all the signs were in Russian, but you could tell from pictures and items in the windows what was going on in each store/restaurant. It was pretty neat.

Our first stop was to the Art Museum. On the way there we passed by the Government building and the American School of Central Asia. Again, no pics of these, mainly because our driver (as mentioned in the previous blog) didn't speak english well so we couldn't really tell him to slow down or stop. We got through to him later though! :)

The art museum was fun and full of old ladies cleaning and following us all around! lol. Yep, like we were there to steal stuff! I really marveled at the artwork and complexity of tapestries (very big part of this culture), paintings and sculptures throughout. It was fun to see a whole different culture's artwork and what they considered to be treasured pieces of art. Nowhere was there any of the well known artists that we have come to know throughout history, but more the local artists of the region painting such things as "School Girl", respected leaders of the region, lots of sunsets and sun rises, lots of Jurta's (there version of a teepee used by the nomads of the region) and plenty of sculptures/busts of prominent leaders. Though some of the paintings were from the time of the soviet era, none really reflected such, except for a few that I noticed of farmers/herders in their daily lives with power lines and factories in the background. There were no pics allowed in the building but I did get one of the entrance to it so you'll all just have to take my word on this one! :)

Next we went to a mall, yep, a mall, first of two actually. We went to this mall which actually reminded me much of a small section of Oak Park Mall, seriously! It was very upscale (besides the metal detector that you have to walk through to get in) and lots and lots of designer stores, mainly items from Turkey. There is a lot of Turkish influence in this area of town actually.

Well, since we went to a mall that wasn't first on our itinerary, our "fearless leader" decided that it would be best if we went to the other one because we had to check in and such.....yeah, I'll keep my opinions to myself on this one. So right when we were about to order our food at their version of a food court, we went to the other mall on the list.

On the way we passed by a really awesome (tons of pics of this, btw) WWII memorial! It was huge with large statues and marble plaques (in russian again, sheesh) leading up to a statue of a woman with an arch and a third piece of it down the back with an eternal flame burning in the middle. We came to it again after the mall and took more pics and this time there was a wedding "ceremony" going on. It was fun! Trust me when I say that I love stuff about WWII and to see it from a russian angle was even more exhilirating for me! I'm definitely going to look up more about it when I have the chance and I recommend you all do to!

So the "other mall" we went to was basically a huge 5-story flea market full of whatever you can possibly think of! The first floor that you walk in to is ALL CELL PHONES!!! Boothes and Boothes of cell phones, it was a MAD HOUSE! The next floor had more souvenier stuff and some clothing "stores". The next floor had more electronics (tv's, radios, dvd's, cd's, etc.) and the next two floors above that reminded me of Sears! lol. It was fun though as I stopped by a booth with some fun Soviet souveniers and talked with the girl who worked there. Amazingly spoke pretty good english and told me and the guy I was with all about growing up Soviet and the different things they would do in comparison to what they did now:
-There was no religion, only praising to Lenin
- Songs, pledges, celebrations, were all geared towards Lenin and Communism.
- Throughout school they would wear different size Lenin pins on their uniforms to show what grade they were in.
- Everything was cheap as there was no competition because of goverment control.
- Problem though was that everything was so regulated, that there was no type of retirement system or social security, so the older generations of today still have to work at whatever they can find to survive.

She did go on to say that it would be absolutely miserable today if it were still controlled by the communists, in her opinion. Mainly, she said, the older generation were upset because of that last point and not really the fact that communism is gone, just their money!

So, after walking around that mall several times and after a great history lesson, we went back to the first mall.....yep, you heard me.....

That one was fun, though with my bald head, I received several stares and comments as I didn't see anyone with a "similar haircut" anywhere!!! Too cold I guess! lol. It was fun though being "amongst the people" and seeing the typical groups of young "mall rats" walking around and such. The food at the food court was pretty good, I had a shaurma, which is basically like a wrap with veggies and meat with a bit of cream sauce on it, wrapped in lavash bread. It was yummy!

After that and the little adventure in the grocery store on the first floor, which was fun, but basically the same as home with the difference being just a bunch of russian words instead, we ventured out of the mall and onto basically my favorite part of the trip. We went back towards base and before we got there, we went to a restaurant, which was of course in Russian, but the sign translated to "Uncle Tom's Cabin". We all ordered and I chose the Spicy Minced Mutton (yep, sheep) kebab which came with cabbage and pickled onions and a dollop of rice. I had some good turkish coffee too and some big bread appetizer that was huge and we all shared it. The place itself was awesome. Though smoky, it had a great atmosphere of families, friends, random people and fun scenery as we were sitting in an enclosed (and heated) patio overlooking a pond where people were ice skating and having picnics on the verandas located around the pond.

It was breathtaking! I couldn't keep my eyes off of the pond with the snow pouring down, kids laughing, families enjoying the skating, music rockin' from huge speakers where most people got onto the ice, and several workers working diligently to remove the fallen snow that continued to blanket the ice. So of course, after we all squared up the bill, I lead a couple of us out to the ice, rented some skates and got out to "show my stuff". It was a blast! Little kids all the way up to older generations out there skating, laughing and just having a great time. Wasn't able to skate for very long, but it was worth every minute I was out there. So after that I changed back into my shoes and we all got back on the bus and headed back to the base.

What a trip! I may or may not see about going on another one, but this one was definitely one for the books! I can't wait to get my film developed and will get the pics put on a disk so I can share with everyone once I get back home! Hope you enjoyed reading about "my day" as much as I enjoyed living it! Take care and see you all real soon!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snow, Snow, and culture!

So it's snowed a lot here these days, about another 3-4 inches and counting right now! It's pretty nice out there, but cold! Ah well, I'll make it!

Got a fun bit of culture the other day that really made me think. In preparing to go off base soon, I need to go to a few places around base. They have locals drive big shuttle vans around here which is pretty fun. Most of them speak decent english, but this gentleman I had the other day didn't really speak english besides hello, how are you, and thank you....Made for an interesting conversation.

After a few minutes of silence, he reached over to the seat next to him as I'm seated in the back and pulled out a handful of candy (it was sealed, no "strangers with candy" thing or anything here!). It was in Russian and I plan on bringing some back. I asked if he was Kyrgyz and he said he was Russian. Without prompting him, he taught me how to say hello, thank you, and you're welcome, in Russian, correcting my pronunciation along the way. It was quite fun and I now have learned those phrases in two different languages while here (Russian and Kyrgyz). I definitely plan on teaching that to the kids back home! Get ready guys!! ;)

Now to some of you, this may seem pretty trivial, but if you think of the implications of this, it's quite amazing. Here I am, an American, in military uniform, having a fun, insightful conversation with a man who's country I was grown up to know that they were the "bad guys". My dad, flew planes that tracked Russian Subs, his dad was in Korea and a stint in Vietnam. All of this against communism which was a part of this very diverse way of life growing up.

It was just simply amazing to me that politics, world views, and wars can all be looked past and here are two simple guys, having a great conversation, learning about each other's language and a little about each other's culture and customs. Regardless of anything that happens here, I'll have that moment in my head for quite sometime as an example of how people can get along, no matter what. I hope I helped you all get an insight about the implications of what the US being over here truly means.

I miss you all and truly can't wait to come home, but I am trying to learn and "soak up" all of the culture I can while over here! Thanks and have a great New Years!! See you all very soon!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hello all, well, even though it's moved on to Dec. 26th here, it's still Christmas back where you all are at! I hope this note finds you all having a wonderful Christmas and you are getting all the presents you wanted and spending wonderful times with family!

It was a nice Christmas here. They had a great meal in the chow hall, work was busy, but slow for me. Tons of care packages have come for all of us to share! People are so generous I love it!!! Tons of goodies, toys, and so on!

I am getting over yet another sickness now. Yep, just can't seem to stay healthy...I think my roomie and I are passing it back and forth to each other! lol. Seriously, we both have been sick this entire trip practically!

I've signed up to go on a historical tour around town in the next week or so! Still being approved, but should be able to! We'll be going to a historical museum, visit old soviet spots, visit new Kyrgyzstan squares after they gained their independence after the fall of the soviet union, lunch and maybe one other spot, we'll see! Anyway, it should be fun and lots of pics will be taken then!

I'm still looking into visiting a school while I'm here too...more on that later! Well, finally got to come to this area where it'll let me onto my blog (the free laptop rental place of course won't let me on this site, weird!). Take care all and again, Merry Christmas!