Craft Market and New Apartment!

30 09 2010

Sunday, Eve, Markus and I went to a beautiful crafts market that was set up downtown near Ala-Too Square. There were craftspeople from all over Kyrgyzstan selling their wares.

I scoped out some of the crafts for the new apartment and ended up buying an awesome new carpet for my bedroom in the new apartment…

…which we moved into this past weekend!  There’s not too much to say about, except it’s awesome!  We’re hosting a housewarming party tomorrow night.  Pictures of the revelry will surely follow.  Until then, here are some shots of the new flat.

Our living room

Our ginormous kitchen.

The bedroom part of my bedroom

The "salon" half of my bedroom...with new rug!

More pictures of both the market and the apartment can be found on my Facebook page.


Market: рынка (RUYN-kah)

Carpet: ковер (kah-VYOHR)

Doll: кукла (KOOK-lah)

Kitchen: кухня (KOOKH-nyah)

Living Room: гостиная (gah-stee-NAH-yah)



29 09 2010

There are some major pluses and minuses to having my Russian classes only four days a week…with Wednesdays off.

Major plus: having every Tuesday night be a mini-weekend.

Major minus: having every Wednesday morning feel like the morning after a mini-weekend.

Yesterday after finishing class, Dennis – my fellow Fulbrighter – and I gussied ourselves up and headed over to La Bella Italia for a welcoming reception for Christian Wright, the new press officer at the embassy.  I’d met Christian a few times before, and he seems like a great guy.  There was a fair amount of schmoozing, free red wine, and free Italian food.  A win all around.

Afterwards, we met up with some of the other young expats at a Korean restaurant far on the other side of town to celebrate my roommate Stuart’s 24th birthday.   About half of the group indulged on Korean barbecue while the other half quaffed a few Baltika 7s and participated in general revelry.  After the restaurant manager informed us that they were closing at around 11, we hopped into a few cabs and headed to Anton’s, an underground bar in the basement of a building near the London School.  Anton’s serves two things: beer and vodka.  We all sat around in the musty, smoky, ammoniacal haze, sang songs, debated international politics and the effect of irridentism, discussed the merits of boxers versus briefs (boxer briefs!) and had a really drunk Russian guy tell us all about how to achieve peace in Kyrgyzstan.

After closing Anton’s down, we had a nightcap at Michael Jackson’s (yes, there is a bar in Bishkek called Michael Jackson’s.  And yes, it is a shrine to the King of Pop), and then all of a sudden it was closing in on 5am.  My three flatmates and I were the last four standing, and we caught a cab back to our apartment and finally called it a night.  So far this morning (nay, afternoon now), only Aaro and I have emerged from slumber.

At some point this afternoon I have to start my homework.   But I think right now I’ll take a nap…


Reception: прием (PREE-yehm)

To socialize: общаться (ahb-SHCHAHT-syah)

Hangover: похмелье (pakh-MEL-yeh)

Nap: короткий сон (KOHR-aht-kee SOHN)

Paying it forward

27 09 2010

This weekend I had the pleasure of actually getting to serve as tour guide to a new teacher at the London School.  This was awesome for two reasons.

First, it showed me just how much of Bishkek I’ve gotten to know.  There are certainly plenty of undiscovered nooks and crannies still out there for me.  But when it comes to the primary needs of an average expat in Bishkek, I’ve got a good chunk of them down.  I took him on his first marshrutka ride, helped him get a cell phone at Zum (a Soviet era department store), showed him the major sites in and around Ala-Too Square and pointed out the watering holes near the London School.  He was super-appreciative, but I really enjoyed being able to pay it forward and help out someone the way Baylen helped me on my first day here.

Secondly, my Russian was baller that day!  I asked for directions, got the cell phone set up, paid for the marshrutka and even had a random conversation with a dude on the street…all in perfectly passable Russian.  Mind you, these were all pretty run of the mill conversations, but I was able to accomplish things in real life — not just in the classroom.  And it felt good.  It also felt good to have someone compliment me on my Russian skills, even if I know that I still have a long way to go.

In other good news from the weekend, there’s a new Australian butcher shop that opened downtown.  And they have real bacon.  Real. Bacon.  It’s expensive as hell, but I’m going to have to treat myself to it at some point.  I also swung by a small crafts bazar, of which I’ll be posting pictures soon.

And we moved into our new apartment!  I have pictures, but haven’t uploaded them yet, because we don’t have Internet at the apartment yet.  That should be sorted out in the next few days.  But we’re all settled in, and it’s such a wonderful place.  We’re having a housewarming party this Saturday.  If you’re one of my few Bishkekian readers, you are totally invited!

So, it was a busy and productive weekend.  And I promise to have pictures up and about very shortly.  But now I’m off to do homework!


weekend: выходные (vuy-KHOD-nuy-yay)

apartment: квартира (kvar-TEE-rah)

butcher: мясник (MYAS-nick)

bacon: бекон (byay-KOHN)

party: вечеринка (vyeh-cheh-REEN-kah)


26 09 2010

Please check out my friend Max’s blog.  He’s an English teacher here at the London School, where I’m taking Russian classes.  He was kind enough to link to one of my posts, so I figured I could return the favor.

Plus he has a hilarious picture of a horse taking a pee.  Seriously.

Surprise Vacay!

25 09 2010

So I just found out that the London School is overbooked for the first two weeks of October, and since I only requested to extend my studies last week, they can’t accommodate me until October 18.  So I have two weeks free!  What to do?!

I might decide to take a small trip somewhere, but I’m leaning towards taking this opportunity to try to start making some contacts and getting the ball rolling on my research project.  I’m heading to a reception for one of the new embassy staff on Tuesday, and I’ve been told there should be a number of education bigwigs there, so that should be a good start.  If nothing else, I’ll make a few calls and emails and maybe try to get in touch with my contact at AUCA to start laying the ground work for school visits and the like.

And, we’re moving into our new apartment next week!  I can’t wait to post pictures of this place, because it’s ridiculously awesome.  There are going to be four of us living there (all guys, all expats, all trying to learn Russian), and I’m super stoked to move in!

Break on through to the other side

24 09 2010

Today I felt like I had a nice breakthrough in my Russian classes.

Yesterday, I got about two thirds of the way through my grammar class, and my brain had just had it.  With about 20 minutes to go, my teacher looked at me and said, “There’s some more new information we could go over, but I think you’ve had enough? Yes?”  Reading class wasn’t too bad yesterday, and I had to skip my conversation class to attend my security briefing at the US Embassy.  I struggled through my homework and went to bed feeling a bit bummed out about my progress in Russian altogether.

And then today happened.  There was a particular grammar point yesterday that I just didn’t get.  So, before we started anything new, I asked if we could review that.  I got out of my seat and started writing sentences on the board to analyze, and eventually I got it.  And then we moved on to “который”, a Russian conjuction that basically functions as “what” or “that” (i.e., That is the person that stole my laptop.  Это человек, который украл мой ноутбук.)  It’s a grammatical function that I’m pretty familiar with, which made the rest of the lesson much easier.

Next came reading class.  My assignment from the previous class had been to make a list of the characteristics of two of the characters from the story.  I was a little lazy and a little sloppy and just used an online dictionary to translate some relatively obscure adjectives.  Which would have been fine if I’d cross-checked the definitions to make sure that I was on the right track.  Or if I’d bothered to write down the definitions of the words, so that I could at least explain to my teacher what I meant to say.  But I didn’t do that either.

So when I walked into class today with a list of adjectives that were clearly far beyond my vocabulary level, and then couldn’t even remember what any of them meant, I just started laughing.  And then I said that it was the dictionary’s fault.  Fortunately, my teacher had a great sense of humor about it and started laughing as well.  Particularly when the adjective for obtuse that I chose was the one that describes an obtuse angle.  Which didn’t make sense in Russian at all.  The best part was afterwards, after we’d both had a good laugh, I took my pen to the top of the page and gave myself a check-plus.  Which sent us both into giggle fits again.  Our later discussion about the differences between women and men– as prompted by the short story we read today, was quite the laugh fest as well.  I threw out just about every obnoxious stereotype I could come out with and started defending them, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  And the teacher got my humor, and we laughed the whole way through the rest of the lesson.

Conversation class was more serious, as we discussed Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming elections and the general states of democracy and various political systems.  Then we discussed globalization a bit.  So, there weren’t any major laughs to be had, but we had a good, pretty well-thought out discussion about all of our topics.

And throughout all three of today’s lessons, I felt more comfortable making sentences.  I was utilizing vocabulary and sentence structures that I certainly didn’t know two weeks ago.  The big pauses between sentences got shorter and shorter.  And overall I just felt much more at ease with the language than I did when I first got here.  That being said, I still have a really terrible vocabulary, and I still have miles to go on both learning new grammar and solidifying even some of the basic case endings, but the whole process seems significantly less daunting than it did three weeks ago when I got here.


vocabulary: словарь (slah-VAR) (also the word for dictionary)

election: выборы (VUY-bah-ruy)

democracy: демократия (deh-mah-KRAH-tee-yah)

joke: шутка (SHOOT-kah)

sarcasm: сарказм (sar-KAH-zum)

stereotype: стереотип (steh-reh-ah-TEEP)

Be afraid! Be very very afraid!

23 09 2010

So I had my security briefing at the American Embassy today.  Which consisted of a combination of perfectly reasonable common sense advice (don’t walk alone at night; don’t carry large amounts of money on your person), light fear-mongering (terrorists can strike ANYWHERE!), and mild xenophobia (avoid public transport; be wary of locals who are being friendly towards you).  I appreciate that they were doing their job, but there’s something about being told to avoid contact with locals as much as possible that just rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t know.

The rest of the staff that I met was quite lovely, and I was invited to a reception next week to welcome a new staff member.  So I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know the embassy staff, and hopefully being able to utilize their knowledge in making contacts for my research.  I think there’s just a different level of intent between a young(ish) guy who’s trying to understand and research aspects of Kyrgyz culture from the ground level and the average embassy employee.  Or maybe I’m being a travel snob.  Both are probably a little bit true.  Either way, I’ll be interested to see how my relationship with the embassy staff develops over the next year.


xenophobia: ксенофобии (ksen-ah-FOH-bee-ee)

embassy: Посольство (pah-SOHL-stvah)

terrorism: терроризмом (ter-ah-REEZ-mum)

passport: паспорт (PAHS-port)

ambassador: Посол (pah-SOHL)