Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Adventure in Bishkek Land
Today was the first day back from Almaty and the first day we begin working on the art projects for B’Art (Bishkek Art Center). With the new name in place, the first task was to change all existing signs around the complex. Shaarbek pointed out that B’Art had a resident sign painter and we should ask if he’d be interested in repainting all the signs. So, we went to his studio, knocked - almost banging on the door a few times- but there was no answer. Just as we were about to leave, the door opened. There were about 5 people in the small one-room studio drinking vodka at 11 AM. Shaarbek explained what we wanted to do and the sign painter agreed but he’d do it tomorrow. Though I wanted him to do it today – he looked a bit too intoxicated to paint any sign. But before we can leave, one on the men wanted to know if that was real hair on my head. I asked if he’s like to touch it to find out. At first he didn’t want to but curiosity got the best of him – instant comrade. But before I could sneak out they insisted I have a couple drinks with them. I tried to explain that it was a bit early, but they wouldn’t hear of it. So I negotiated one drink. They quickly poured me a shot of vodka and I downed it in one gulp. Impressed, they shook my hand, pat me on the back and let me go. As I was leaving, the sign painter offered me the one middle-aged woman in the room. I kindly declined and got the hell outta there.
With that straightened out – we broke off into groups. One group went with Ji to buy paint. The other went with me to the market to look for t-shirts. The large market had everything. You can buy bread inches away from underwear. All the designer knockoffs had a presence as well as local craft and souvenir. I hope I have the chance to go back and do some serious shopping.