Я жив. (I’m alive)

31 10 2010

This has been quite the busy week!


Started off on Sunday with a trip to Osh Bazaar, where I picked up an awesome Russian winter hat.  With my awesome new trench coat, I should totally blend in with the locals when winter really rolls in.


Sunday evening I went to a concert at the Bishkek Philharmonia which honored the premier komuz player, Nurak Abdrahmanov.  It was entirely in Kyrgyz, so I was lost most of the time, but the music was really great.  The komuz is a small stringed instrument, and it was incredible how much music could be drawn out of such a small instrument.  I really enjoyed it.



I spent the rest of the week easing back into Russian classes and (finally) finishing my grad school applications.  I sent off my final essay on Friday, and I should start hearing back as early as late December, although I anticipate that most of the decisions won’t be made until March.  So it’s going to be a bit of a wait.  But I have high hopes.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me.


Last night, the US embassy hosted a Halloween party at an empty office building just a block away from our apartment.  I pregamed at our place for a little while and then headed en masse to the party.  I dressed as God (a la the Joan Osborne song…) and served as DJ for most of the night.  It was quite the evening, and I think everyone had a blast.  Huzzah and Happy Halloween!


The shirt says "Just a Slob (like one of you)"

Winter is here

22 10 2010

After nearly uninterrupted gorgeous weather since my arrival in Bishkek in September, winter arrived this week in full force.  The temperature on Tuesday was in the mid- to high-60s, and Wednesday morning started off the same.  In the early afternoon, the sky darkened, and it began to rain.  The rain continued through the night, and, by the time I was sitting in my first class on Thursday, it had morphed into snow.  The ground was too warm for the snow to stick around, but it heralded the arrival of what will surely be a long Kyrgyz winter.  It’s been clearer since Thursday afternoon, but it’s significantly colder now — right at freezing when I left my house this morning for class.


I need to buy a coat.


In other news, I’m nearly done with grad school applications.  Me being me, I’ve added a few schools to the list, and I’m now sitting with 14 applications to programs around the eastern US.  The current candidates are (in no particular order) are:


George Washington University

Northwestern University

Indiana University Bloomington

University of Maryland College Park

Harvard University

University of Michigan

Michigan State University

New York University

Columbia University

UNC Greensboro

University of Pennsylvania

Penn State University

Vanderbilt University

University of Tennessee


I’ve got a few more transcripts to request and one fellowship application to fill out, and then I’m done!  I won’t start hearing back from schools until mid-January at the earliest, but I’ll be quite glad to have the whole process finished.  A huge thanks to those of you who helped out by either writing recommendations or editing my CV and/or statement of purpose.  Please, everyone, keep your fingers crossed for me over the next few months!

Grad school update

15 10 2010

As many of you know, in addition to learning Russian and working on my research, I’m also applying to grad school while I’m here in Kyrgyzstan.  My two weeks off from Russian classes have given me the time I needed to sort out what programs I’m going to apply to.  I’ve decided to pursue a Master’s in Higher Education Administration.  Eventually I hope to work at a university in an administrative capacity, preferably as an academic advisor.  I thought long and hard about this decision, and I’m confident that this is the right type of program for me.  After exhaustive research, I’ve narrowed down my choices to 9 schools, all of which I think would be great fits for me.  Here they are:

University of Maryland, College Park


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor




Northwestern University

George Washington University

University of Pennsylvania

I feel good about my chances, but please think good thoughts and keep your fingers crossed for me over the next few months.  I won’t start hearing back from schools until late January at the earliest, and I probably won’t know for sure where I’m going until March or April, but it’s a huge relief to finally be at the application stage instead of the research/preparation stage. 

Wish me luck!

Quick Update

12 10 2010

I’m exhausted, so this is going to be brief.  But I can’t go three days without blogging.  I start to twitch.

The elections went smoothly, although Ata-Jurt — the Bakiyev supporting nationalist party — somewhat unexpectedly got the most votes.  This is attributed to really high turnout in southern Kyrgyzstan, where Bakiyev remains popular.  Although the party, more than likely, will have difficulty creating a big enough coalition with the other parties to actually gain control iof parliament.  At least that’s what the pundits (as much as pundits exist in Kyrgyzstan) are saying.  It will be wildly interesting to see how it plays out over the next few months.

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, and we hosted a Thanksgiving feast at our place, featuring a half dozen Canucks and two turkeys, which we slaughtered ourselves!  Pictures coming soon of that adventure.

Before the feast yesterday, I had a really productive meeting with my contact at the American University of Central Asia.  She knew a lot of the key players in educational policy and multilingual education that I’ve had trouble tracking down.  And she’s super keen and willing to help, which I’m infinitely grateful for.  So that’s progress!

And last but not least, I spent just about the entirety of today narrowing down which graduate schools and programs I’m going to be applying to this fall.  I’ve got the list narrowed down to about 30(!) programs…so I have a long way to go.  But I really want to get my brain sorted around this and get my decisions made in the next week.  It’s exhausting, but hopefully it’ll result in some mad education for my future.

Whew…that’s about all I got right now.  I’ve got five more days before I start back to Russian classes.  Hopefully I’ll have graduate school plans sorted by then.  Later!

Tomorrow’s Elections

9 10 2010

So, tomorrow is the long-awaited parliamentary elections here in Kyrgyzstan.  I do not, of course, endorse any party or candidate, but I wanted to give you a bit of background on what we’re expecting tomorrow.

These elections were brought about as a result of the riots in April that overthrew then president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.  Subsequently, a constitutional referendum was passed this summer that restructured the government, transferring most governmental power from the president to the parliament, a move that many see as an attempt to curb corruption.  The referendum called for elections to be held this fall, and they are now upon us.

A total of twenty-nine parties are contending for seats in parliament, and the city has been awash with campaign posters on every surface.  My friend Eve has an awesome collection of pictures of the advertisements from around town.  From what I’ve gathered by talking to people, there are three parties who most people believe are the primary contenders: Ata-Meken (the main socialist party), Ata-Jurt (the party made up primarily of Bakiyev’s inner circle) and СДПК (or SDPK, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan).  The rest of the parties will, I’m guessing, serve as coalition builders for whichever of the three big parties gains the most control.

The big reason that all of this matters right now to me is that no one really knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.  As foreigners, we’ve been advised to stay at home tomorrow and stock up on supplies just in case things go poorly.  Anytime there is a large political event, there’s the potential for violence, but I’m hoping that things stay calm.  In the meantime, think good thoughts for me and for the country of Kyrgyzstan.  I’m off to buy some bottled water and canned goods.  For real.




Election: выборы (VUY-bah-ruy)

Parliament: парламент (pahr-LAH-myehnt)

Candidate: кандидат (kahn-dee-DAHT)

Corruption: коррупция (kah-ROOP-tsee-yah)

Riot: беспорядки (beh-spor-YAHD-kee)

Gastronomic Adventures!

7 10 2010

This week has been quite the culinary adventure for me.

First, on Tuesday, a couple of us went to Cafe Jalalabad, a restaurant downtown serving Central Asian cuisine.  I’m not sure what possessed me, but I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered beef tongue salad as my appetizer, followed by the much more normal sheep shashlik (basically meat on a metal skewer).  The tongue was actually really tasty, and I could have eaten more of it except for the fact that I’d ordered two shashliks.

Then the topic of kumys came up.  Kumys is fermented mare’s milk.  It’s only available readily during the warmer months, and we’re at the tail end of the kumys season in Kyrgyzstan.  And Cafe Jalalabad just so happened to have it on the menu.  And we just so happened to order a liter of it.  And it tasted…um…terrible.  It was kind of like drinking sour milk that exploded in your sinuses when you swallowed it the way that horseradish does.  I’m glad I tried it, and a couple of the people at the table didn’t hate it.  But I was not a fan.  However, I’ve been told that it’s best to get kumys fresh in a village during the summer.  So I’ll have to give it a go again during my travels around the country next summer.  I mean why not, right?

Oh, but we’re not done!  After having dinner at a Korean restaurant for Stuart’s birthday last week, the topic of what odd or unusual foods we’d consumed came up.  I had my usual list of things to offer: guinea pig (in Ecuador), alligator (in North Carolina), pigeon (in Egypt), crickets and beetles (in Cambodia), alpaca (in Bolivia) and yak (in Tibet).  A few of the people at the table had eaten dog, either in Korea or in Vietnam, and it was revealed that there was a restaurant in Bishkek that served canine.  I had passed up the opportunity to have dog in Vietnam, mostly because no one from our group would go with me.  And I’ve regretted it ever since.  So Cole, one of the teachers at the London School, and I mad a man-date to go eat some dog!

And it was awesome!  There were two options: dog soup and plate of dog meat.  Cole’s girlfriend and I ordered the dog meat, and Cole and Kevin (another teacher) ordered the dog soup.  The food came, and my first thought was that these must have been fairly scrawny dogs.  There wasn’t a ton of meat on the plate, and a little of it was still on the bone, but what was there was cooked in this delicious spicy sauce.  The meat itself didn’t really taste any different than any other red meat, and I would definitely do it again!  I tried Cole’s soup, which was significantly blander.  It was edible, but it honestly just didn’t have a whole lot of flavor at all…which wasn’t the dog’s fault.

So there we have it!  Cow tongue, fermented mare’s milk and dog, all in a 36 hour period.  The other major “weird” food that I’ve yet to try in Kyrgyzstan is horse sausage…but I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough!




Tongue: язык (yah-ZUYK)
Guinea Pig: морская свинка (MOHR-skah-yah SVEEN-kah)
Dog: собака (sah-BAH-kah)
Sheep: овец  (ah-VYETS)
Mare: кобыла (kah-BUY-lah)
Horseradish: хрен (KHREN)
Alligator: аллигатор (ah-lee-GAH-tor)
Pigeon: голубь (GOH-loob)
Cricket: сверчок (svair-CHOHK)
Beetle: жук (ZHOOK)


4 10 2010

Well, this weekend was smashing.

It started off on Friday night with our kick-ass housewarming party.  Throughout the night, we probably had about 50 people in and out of the flat.  We had a nice mix of locals, expats and travelers, and everyone was in great spirits.  Party damage was confined to a couple of broken glasses (mental note: next party, only plastic cups!).  The biggest hit of the party, among both locals and foreigners, was my Dirty Russian book, a book that teaches you all of the Russian that you don’t get taught in class.  It’s a bit raunchy, and was quite the crowd pleaser.  Around 1230am, most of the party moved on to a night club in town, but I was pooped, so I called it a night early.

Saturday was a quiet day at the apartment, cleaning up general party detritus and hearing tales of antics from the night before (most of which happened at the night club).  In the afternoon, a number of us decided to go bowling, an activity which apparently fulfilled a long ago made birthday promise to my roommate Aaro.  I tagged along and was pleased to find out that all of us suck at bowling.  Not a one of us broke 100, although Aaro came close in his second game.  The group was so bad that I, after coming in 4th out of 5 in the first game, came in 2nd out of 7 in the second.  We were a pretty pathetic group overall, but it was a lot of fun.

Sunday morning, I got up and finally made my long awaited journey to Dordoi Bazaar — Central Asia’s largest market.  The place is massive.  It’s made up of several kilometers’ worth of storage containers stacked in rows next to and on top of each other.  And from these containers are sold everything you could possibly want — from barrettes to jeans to samovars to refrigerators to spices to tuxedos and everything in between.  This was primarily a scouting mission, as I had heard tell of the overwhelming massiveness of Dordoi, and I didn’t want to go too crazy trying to buy things.  I did pick up some shot glasses to replace the ones that were broken on Friday, some silverware to up our supply (we previously only had enough for six) and some awesome slippers to wear in the house (we’re a shoes-at-the-door type of apartment).  The market was packed full of people, and I’m planning to head out there again later this week, as it should be significantly less crowded during the week.

A quick heads up: I may be a little quieter than usual over the next week or so.  We still don’t have Internet at the apartment, so I have to ration my time online.  And I’m really trying to make some contacts and get my research off the ground in the next couple of weeks.  So that’s going to have to be my focus for a little while.  And that’s only fair, as that’s what I’m being paid to do.  🙂  I do intend to have a post up about the upcoming elections and maybe one on public transportation this week.  Other than that, unless something big happens (or we finally get Internet sorted out at our flat), I’ll be quietish.


Bowling: боулинг (BOU-link)

Shot glasses: рюмки (RYOOM-kee)

Slippers: тапочки (tah-POCH-kee)

To research: исследовать (ee-SLED-ah-vaht)

Knife: нож (nohzh)

Fork: вилка (VEEL-kah)

Spoon: ложка (LOZH-kah)