It was 3:15 am. Inside the Bishkek airport, their breath could be seen in big white puffs; outside it was 11 degrees below zero. Their tired, huddled masses were in front of the airport visa office. The line was long. They inched forward.
The blogging girl was known to start conversation with virtual strangers. She was interested in people, you see. What had brought them to this place? Why were they there? She turned to the man in front of her, his hair clipped short, his hands in his pockets, his blue eyes missing nothing. He told her that he was in transit at the US military base nearby. In transit where? He looked at her and replied with one word: Afghanistan. Oh, she said. I see, she said. She was quiet then but he kept talking. Since September 11th, he had seen his children -- a 5 year old and a 7 year old -- for a total of 6 months. In the strange intimacy born of conversations with strangers in the middle of the night, she asked if he was scared... of going to Afghanistan. He shrugged, looked down, and shook his head in a way that said, I don't know. And then it was his turn at the counter with the visa man.
She smiled brightly at the couple behind her, both blond, both corn-fed, both wearing practical shoes. On holiday? she asked. They told her that they were in Bishkek to pick up their daughter, a process that involved a Christian adoption agency and a tiny Krygyz girl just over 16 months old. The soon-to-be-mother told her that they had not met the little girl before. They had been waiting for a Russian child when this baby had become available - a gift from God. They had bought clothing for her in two sizes because they just weren't sure.... of her size. The blogging girl would have asked more but the visa man was now waiting for her. She grasped the woman's hands suddenly in her own, whispering, Good luck. Then she moved forward and pushed her passport through the little window.
Image by Kristin Elsby of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan