I was with my family, an El Salvadorian couple, and another American on New Year’s Eve for dinner. We ate fajitas with guacamole (which is hard to come by in Karakol) that night. After dinner I was headed home with my family and my American friend when I decided to tour Karakol that night. With my wife’s consent, I dropped her and my son off and left with my friend to see what the town was up to before midnight. We went to the sports field first.
The sports field was turned into an ice skating rink a couple weeks into December. On Near Year’s Eve it seemed like half the town was there. We walked through the gates and paid 5 som to enter. We met a cyclone of kids, teenagers, and young adults skating. In the center of the rink was a large New Year Tree, basically a “Christmas tree”. It lit up the center field and there was music blasting from the entrance where vendors were renting ice skates.
We immediately met a man who was full of holiday cheer. He was curious where we were from. We told him what we tell everybody who is curious about Americans. We are not from Hollywood or New York. We chatted with him a bit, me translating for my friend, and we took some pictures. At the center in front of the tree we took around 10 pictures with this cheerful stranger. We finished our small talk and we walked around the tree while dozens of people skated around us in a swirl around the tree. We were to return to the ice skating rink at midnight, but we headed to the Center Tree of Karakol next.
We arrived at the Center Tree in front of the University. There was a large gathering of people there. I saw 8 different photo scenes where you could take pictures with “Father Frost,” similar to Santa Clause. We walked to the booths and saw families full of joy with their kids and babies. The air was frosty and the atmosphere was full of celebration. My friend took pictures of the holiday scene and even one with Winnie the Pooh near the brightly lit tree. I met a man who was a friend of “Winnie the Pooh” and he was eager to know where we were going after that night. He offered us a free night’s stay and dinner at his guest house in a town called “Balakchee.” He was not drunk, and he was sincere. He was the happiest man I have met in the town of Karakol. I saw more happy people on New Year’s Eve than I have ever seen before in this country. It was pleasant.
We stayed around for a few more moments and then we noticed that everyone was leaving. We left the tree and drove back to the skating rink to see what was going on there. We arrived to a mere handful of people who were also leaving. We drove around and the streets were deserted. All the activity that had been in the town was now silent and empty. Everybody had gone home for midnight. It was extremely eerie. We parked near the University and my friend and I greeted the New Year with some Roman Candles. I called my wife to wish her “Happy New Year “and then we called it a night.