Our Fanciness Level Is Very a Lot Now!

We write fancy blog titles to prove it.

(We’re better from recent illness – thanks for all the well wishes.)

Nobody parties as often as diplomats. In the month we’ve been here, we’ve had: the snow leopard run, a “Diversity” cook-off and talent show, a Halloween party at the Embassy, the Marine Corps Ball, a piano concert hosted by the Italian embassy, and a half-dozen smaller invitationals.

Jen was dazzling, naturally. We took the bar up on their offer of a mocktail, and we were served concoctions of sugar and bubbles with long, striped kid-straws. It was a hoot!

How to buy a Smoking

The local term for “Tuxedo” is “Smoking.”

As in, “I drove this American here because he wants to buy a smoking. Do you have any smokings that will fit him?”

*appraising look*

“Nyet.” *Russian Russian SMOKING Russian*

“Ok, she says that all their smokings are too small for you, but there is another costume shop that might have a smoking for you.”

(Not to be confused with a “sssssssshmokin.” If you ask for that, you’ll get one of these.)

When I shared my shopping experience with embassy friends, they told me that in China, a tuxedo is called a “James Bond.”

James Bond, smoking in a smoking?

James Bond, wearing a James Bond?

The “costume shop” was surprisingly crowded. Have you ever been to an Old Navy after middle school gets out, and the place is overrun with 14-year-old girls amid haphazard piles of discarded, tried-on clothes?

You KNOW Old Navy gets WAY worse than this.

The Costume Shop was *exactly* like that, except the clothes were suits, and the girls were men. The cutthroat vibe was identical. There were 15 of us in the small shop trying on suits (I was the only one buying a smoking 🤵🏼‍♂️), and only 4 dressing rooms, so I took the first open one. It turned out that one of the boys and his entourage considered it theirs *even when it was empty,* which became clear when one of them threw open the curtain dramatically while I was changing and stood there with a facial expression as if I had just committed regicide, rather than dressing room theft. “Et tu, Cameron!?” What could I do except laugh amiably and pull my pants on while the entire store watched? My new friend was not amused… but I was! 😂

What would James Bond have done?

Well, James Bond perhaps would have been given any training at all in Russian language before being assigned here, but the MED bosses have enough faith in us medical providers to send us out into the world with no language training at all. Kyrgyzstan is *not* one of those countries where you try to speak their language and they immediately switch to English.

Isn’t this rack of tiny suits adorable? The entire store looked like this – row after row of suits, stacked 3 high. There were hundreds of variations.

By a monumental stroke of luck, the first and only smoking I tried on fit me perfectly. My driver/translator quickly negotiated down to half of the sale price, which was already half price… so for a bit shy of $200, I had a decent tux to wear to the Marine Corps Ball, and future balls and galas.

In fact, there’s a masquerade in the spring, and I’m already channeling my inner David-Bowie-from-labyrinth. I wonder if I can find a good mask and codpiece here… 🤔

I love this song. Fretless bass for the win!
The Bishkek Philharmonic Hall

I’m learning that diplomacy is all about relationships, and often these relationships are cultivated in concert halls, hotel ballrooms, restaurants, and mansions.

The high-level diplomatic staff here receive more invitations to events than they could possibly attend, so sometimes the invitations trickle down to the rest of us here. For example, the Italian Honorary Consulate hosted an Italian pianist/composer to perform in celebration of 30 years of Kyrgyz-Italian relations. Jen and I got to go, and we made a lovely evening of it.

At the World Premier of the new album of Italian Pianist Allesandro Martire

When we’re not hobnobbing, we’re doing what comes much more naturally to us: exploring!

This group built a truly impressive downhill track, and it’s rideable from home!
A horse on the hill behind our house, silhouetted by a cloudy sunset.
Pic taken from the saddle of my mountain bike…

– Love from Bishkek! ❤️

I was so torn about this song when it came out. And I still am. Is it pop? Is it hard rock? In any case, at its core is an important message: LET’S GET A PARTY GOIN.